Pete Carroll. Geno Smith. Should-be Defensive Rookie of the Year TARIQ WOOLEN. These guys banded together and led the Seattle Seahawks to one of the most improbable NFL playoff berths ever.
Remember that prior to the 2022 season, the Seahawks were widely viewed as the worst team in the NFL. At the very bottom of most power rankings. This year was supposed to be a tank job where they wind up with at least one high first-round pick to get their franchise back on track in the wake of the Russell Wilson trade.
Except it worked out better than anyone in the Emerald City could've possibly fathomed.
It was actually Wilson's new Broncos team that had the year from hell. Meanwhile, Seattle overcame a 1-5 stretch around its bye week that featured four one-possession losses, and won their final two to squeak into the postseason thanks to Detroit's triumph over Green Bay at Lambeau Field on Sunday night.
I totally get why the Seahawks are lost in the larger NFL discussion right now. Aaron Rodgers' future is at the forefront of any and all speculation, the Lions playing spoiler has everyone's hopes high for them in 2023, coaching news is a huge topic, and other than the Dolphins who may have to start a third-string QB, Seattle is easily the biggest underdog on Wild Card Weekend. Easy to write them off.
Just yesterday, though, was the anniversary of THIS:
Marshawn Lynch's Beastquake run shocked the football world as the NFC West champion Seahawks with their losing regular-season record knocked off Drew Brees, Sean Payton and the mighty New Orleans Saints. Although Seattle proceeded to miss the playoffs the next year, they quickly ascended to perpetual championship contender thereafter.
Point being, Carroll knows what to do in these situations. All the pressure is on the heavily favored 49ers this Saturday. They've beaten the 'Hawks twice already. Everyone expects them to go on a deep playoff run. However, they're starting a seventh-round rookie in Brock Purdy at quarterback. Purdy has been excellent so far, yet the playoffs are a whole different animal.
So while Payton is just getting back into coaching and Seattle's division rival Rams has a 36-year-old coach in Sean McVay who might walk away, Pete Carroll just keeps chugging along at 71 years young. Carroll is preparing to duke it out with Kyle Shanahan, who was the "it" hotshot young head coach before McVay exploded onto the scene in LA. Unbelievable.
PETE DOESN'T RUN FROM THE GRIND! I'm kidding a little — I know McVay has had a rough year for non-football reasons as well. I hope he ain't done because holy hell, what a start he's had to his coaching career.
Back to the 'Hawks. I blogged about them on my birthday this past year, explaining my unique history with them, calling their Super Bowl victory a year too early, and why I thought they were actually in great shape:
NEVER imagined they would jell this quickly. Also thought they'd be in a total rebuild with their Geno Smith-Drew Lock quarterback situation. Even beyond that, you can seldom count on rookies to fill voids at key positions. It seems Carroll and John Schneider have another downright legendary draft class on their hands if the early returns are any indication, just like what happened in 2012.
Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas stepped in immediately at left and right tackle respectively. Tailback Kenneth Walker III has flashed the potential to be a legit workhorse tailback. Coby Bryant filled the key role of nickel cornerback and forced four fumbles.
But the crown jewel of the Seahawks' 2022 draft haul is fifth-rounder Tariq Woolen. Jets fans, don't attack me for saying he deserves DROY over Sauce Gardner. They're cordial with each other and have mutual respect. I love Sauce. I know Woolen won't get the hardware.
I really wanted my beloved Bengals to draft Woolen in the first or second round, so to see him become basically a 2.0 freaky athletic version of Richard Sherman is pretty mind-boggling.
You have to credit the Seahawks' personnel department for just crushing it on so many draft picks. Credit the players, too, for putting in the work to provide such immediate returns. Just don't forget Carroll and the coaching staff. Many viewed the elder coach as someone who the game had passed by. Antiquated schemes. Too stubborn. Refused to evolve. All those perceptions were turned on their heads in the span of about four months.
All of a sudden, the Seahawks should be a hot free-agent destination, and Geno Smith has become one of the more compelling players on the open market. Just some notes on how mind-blowing Smith's rise from journeyman backup to upper-echelon QB:
- Led the NFL in completion percentage (69.8%)
- Ranked 4th in TD passes (30)
- 5th in passer rating (100.9)
- 8th in passing yards (4,282)
- 8th among QBs in rushing yards (366) on 5.4 YPC
Did Geno play his best game in Week 18? No, it might've been his worst of the season. But maybe, hopefully, he got all those bad throws out of his system on Sunday to stun the 49ers. We shall see what this man is truly made of against the NFL's No. 1 defense on the sport's grander stage.
Whatever happens, Seattle is in outstanding shape for the future and is already back to the playoffs. What a badass story. They're playing with house money at this point, which should scare the 49ers and any opponent they might come up against if they somehow escape San Francisco with a win.