RENTON — Pete Carroll, usually the most laid-back man ever to wear khakis, is capable of agitation. He proved it Monday when a reporter wanted to know about the “gaps” and “holes” that the 5-1 Seahawks have.
“Gaps in holes?” Carroll asked sarcastically. “Well, I’m not sure what you’re expecting there.”
The coach went on to explain that, believe it or not, there’s another professional team playing against the Seahawks every week, and “they’re trying real hard, too.” In his own rapid-fire way, Carroll combated the misconception that teams travel a linear path to greatness, that every game is a progress report in which the Seahawks must stay on some mythical schedule. The Seahawks are far from a finished product, but in Carroll’s view, the current inadequacies are just part of a long, difficult process. The Super Bowl is in February, not October, for a reason.
“It’s nice to learn while you’re winning, and I think that’s where we are,” Carroll said. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to reach the levels that we saw late last year, where we were scoring points at a huge rate and all that. That was an enormous run that we had. But that’s good to expect that, and I’d like to see that, too. So, if you got any thoughts about that, we could visit on the side here later. But we’re working on it.”
It was a spirited verbal takedown in defense of his team, but the passion behind Carroll’s argument spoke more to the fact that the coach is a little concerned about the unrealistic nature of high expectations. This is the other side of hype.
The Seahawks are tied with New Orleans for the best record in the NFC, but they’re leaving something to be desired. They’re constantly being evaluated on a Super Bowl level, and while they’re chasing the championship, there will always be more that they must prove. The defense can always give up fewer yards and points. The offense can always be more explosive.
There’s nothing wrong with this kind of pressure — it can actually elevate performance instead of being a burden — as long as the Seahawks take it in stride. But that’s tough. It’s quite annoying to work your tail off and then have to answer critics who say, “Meh, not good enough.”
But while Carroll and the Seahawks would like you to give them a break, they’re also dissatisfied in private. They don’t want to have to answer publicly for their flaws, but they know much work remains.
Six games aren’t even half of the 16-game season, but it’s still long enough for patterns to develop. There are two clear problems the Seahawks must fix the next 10 games: Consistency in the passing game, which starts with better offensive line play, and more complete performances that show the Seahawks can separate from opponents and be an overpowering team.
Beyond that, the Seahawks, who have had bad luck with injuries, just need to get healthy and stay healthy, which will contribute to better overall performances.
“I think we’re just going to continue to get stronger,” wide receiver Golden Tate said. “It hasn’t been pretty. But I think we’re a good enough team to where we can overcome. We’re not satisfied by any means. Our motto this year is, â€˜What’s next?’
“We’re excited. I can’t wait to go back out there and play some more football.”
There’s statistical evidence to suggest the Seahawks will play at a much higher level eventually. They rank second in the NFL in total defense and No. 10 in total offense. Only one other team, the Houston Texans, rank in the top 10 in both categories. They have also outscored their six opponents by 63 points this season, a point-differential that trails only the two remaining undefeated teams, Denver (plus-107) and Kansas City (plus-87).
A year ago, the Seahawks started the season 4-4 and couldn’t separate from anyone. By year’s end, they were blowing out opponents. So far this season, they’ve had two convincing victories (29-3 over San Francisco, 45-17 over Jacksonville), and the other four games have been decided by a touchdown or less. It’s pretty normal for a defensive-minded team with a developing offense.
I’m growing more concerned about the Seahawks’ flaws, particularly their pass-protection issues, because of the pattern of mediocre-to-poor performance. Even with injuries, they need to start operating better. But there’s still time and reason to believe they’ll improve (like the return of All-Pro left tackle Russell Okung).
The Seahawks are a football team being judged like a Broadway show. They’re 5-1. They haven’t been aesthetically pleasing in four of those games, but they need W’s, not style points. The Seahawks have created some restlessness, but they’ve also earned patience.
For now, let’s take a rain check on Carroll’s invitation to visit off to the side.