Last week, it was announced Richard Sherman would sign with the San Francisco 49ers after being released by the Seattle Seahawks. The move means only half of the original “Legion of Boom” is still intact. The Seahawks once great defense has been severely weakened in the last couple years. Their perennial grip on the NFC West Title was released last season, with the Los Angeles Rams claiming the division. On top of that, Sherman doesn’t seem at all happy with the way things ended in Seattle. He recently said he believes the Seahawks “lost their way” and that “Carroll’s message grew old.”
Rewind to four seasons ago. The Seahawks were on top of the world. They demolished the Denver Broncos 43-8 in the Super Bowl, and sent Peyton Manning packing after the best statistical season by a quarterback in NFL history. NFL experts and fans alike were talking about a Seahawk dynasty to rival the Patriots. They didn’t see anyone stopping this team anytime soon, and raved about what could be the best defense since the 2000 Ravens, the 85’ Bears, or maybe ever.
What happened? How did things fall apart so quickly? There are several contributing factors, including salary cap issues, injuries to star players and the retirement of one of the NFL’s top running backs. But none of these issues measure up to the biggest reason for the Seahawk’s fall from dominance.
The year after their Super Bowl victory, it seemed as if the Seahawks were picking up right where they left off. They had once again secured the no. 1 seed in the NFC Play-offs. After routing the Panthers in the divisional round, the Seahawks overcame a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to come back and beat the Packers in the NFC championship game, setting up a date with Tom Brady’s Patriots in the Super Bowl.
After New England took a 28-24 lead with just over two minutes to go, Russell Wilson drove his team down the field, all the way to the one yard line. Everyone knows what happened next.
With first and goal from the 1-yard line, rather than hand the ball off to their All-Pro running back, Marshawn Lynch, Carroll and Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell decided to try and let Wilson throw the game-winning touchdown pass. The pass was intercepted by the Patriot’s Malcolm Butler, and the game was over.
After the game, fans, players and pundits were trying to make sense of the bizarre play call. Many dubbed it the worst call in Super Bowl history, maybe even NFL history. The frustration of the Seahawks players and fans was certainly understandable, but it would extend far beyond the offseason. Many will argue it’s still being felt today.
The following season it immediately felt as though something was off. The Seahawks got off to a relatively sluggish start, and although they still made the playoffs, it took a muffed chip-shot field goal by Blaire Walsh of the Vikings to get them past the opening round. The next season, they again lost in the divisional round. Last season, they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
It’s very possible Pete Carroll’s decision in that Super Bowl affected this team in a way from which they couldn’t quite recover. When Sherman said Carroll’s message “grew old”, maybe that’s why. Since that Super Bowl, it doesn’t seem like the players are playing their hearts out for him the way we’ve seen in previous seasons. Known as a player’s coach and a great motivator, it seems Carrol can no longer effectively motivate this team. Or perhaps, they simply can’t trust him anymore.
If you ask the players if this was true, most of them would issue canned denials. But there’s a difference between what they say and what they show. Since that night, they’ve shown they no longer bought in to Carroll’s philosophy, at least not completely, and that, more than anything, is what led to their downfall.