The Elephant in the Locker Room: Was it the Play Calling?


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By Greg Wright

“Darrell Bevell has been about as creative as a rock for years now. He needs to go, especially since players like Russell Wilson are getting older and cannot extend plays like they used to. His poor offensive coordinating is showing now more than ever. Hellen Keller with no headset could do better.”

“I’m reasonably certain that if we took the Seahawks playbook, and broke it up into a combination of sets and plays for various situations (1st and 10, 2nd and long, 2nd and short, 3rd and long, 3rd and short, etcetera), Pete could just pull out the appropriate deck for the situation, roll a dice to select the play, and still be more effective than Bevell. At least there’d be some element of surprise involved for the opposing team.”

“Bevell believes that he is not accountable for any of our losses. Not only is his playcalling terrible, he is full of himself.”

“We don’t demand inspired, ingenious play calling. We just demand that it not be utterly ridiculous, and follow some simple logic. Just like any one of us has to do in our professions.”

The years-long Fire Darrell Bevell campaign was fun (of a sort) while it lasted, wasn’t it? I’m afraid I never got on the bandwagon, myself. While I was never exactly thrilled with Bevell as a play-caller, I always felt the situation was more complicated than merely play-calling.

In particular, I would point the finger not at the play caller himself, but at the West Coast Offense dictum of scripting the first 17 offensive plays of the game. It’s a strategy that’s fine if you are actually controlling the tempo of the game; but if you are not, and are consistently not, you are just digging yourself a deeper hole.

The problem gets worse if you’ve been scripting plays for, say, five seasons. Opposing coaches have five years worth of film to study and, um, learn the script so well it’s as if it’s their own script. Now, again, that might not matter if you have gotten so good at your own system that you can force your offensive will on opponents even when they know what’s coming; but that pretty clearly stopped being the case as long ago as 2014.

The first two weeks of this season, however, sure looked like it was going to be more of the same from new Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer: same predictability; same lack of execution; same questionable personnel and performance on the offensive line; same general offensive ineptitude.

Six weeks into the season, results are looking more favorable. The running game is on fire, producing individual 100-plus yard performances and yards-per-carry averages upwards of 5. Clock-controlling, punishing drives that wear down opposing defenses… and keep the ball away from opposing offenses. Big-play opportunities down-field for Wilson and the receiving corps.

What’s different?

Yes, the OC has changed. But honestly, I think the biggest changes are a.) personnel, and b.) execution. A year ago, the offensive line did not have Brown, Sweezy, or Fluker. A year ago, Jimmy Graham was out there missing block after block. A year ago–heck, even in the disarray of the first two weeks of this season–nobody really looked like they knew what they were doing.

Pete Carroll’s overall football philosophy took Seattle from So What? to back-to-back Superbowls in just five years.

And then the wheels kind of fell off.

Well, it’s looking like the wheels are back on–and it’s not because the play calling particularly changed. Or the system. It’s because the system is working again, with the right people in the right positions. Enjoy it while it’s working!

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. 



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