Approaching the draft, who exactly are the Seattle Seahawks?

Jan 1, 2017; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll reacts during the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levis Stadium Seahawks defeated the 49ers 25-23. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2017; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll reacts during the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levis Stadium Seahawks defeated the 49ers 25-23. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports /

With the possibility of Marshawn Lynch returning to the NFL, albeit in silver and black for a team poised to leave Lynch’s hometown (for a city the NFL vowed to never deal with, but… you know, you shouldn’t ever underestimate human greed and the powerful weight of money), paired with the team acknowledging the chance that Richard Sherman’s talents could be traded away either before or during the draft, who exactly are the Seattle Seahawks going into the 2017-18 season?

There are obvious answers, of course—a roster of skilled players divided up by position, arranged on a depth chart, coached by various talented and experienced professionals, most notably Pete Carroll; one of two Seattle teams to bring home a national championship in the last few years, along with their CenturyLink roommates the Sounders; a “second half team,” according to my friend Cole every time the team disappears into the locker room at halftime behind on the scoreboard; the cause of myriad combinations of joy, pride, frustration, bewilderment, euphoria, and a range of different screams, many of them loud, especially when the team plays at home, which has garnered CenturyLink a formidable reputation for treating visiting teams rather poorly.

Yes, but who are they?

For years, the team was best known for the frightening work of Marshawn Lynch (whose return inspired this strange avalanche of thought), and an offensive line designed to give Beastmode enough space to do what he does best—run, with devastating (and occasionally seismic) effect. There was the emergence of Russell Wilson (who I remember watching as an NC State quarterback, before his transfer to Wisconsin, and thinking, “This kid has everything to be the next Drew Brees”), the 3rd round draft pick (seriously, let that sink in) who was chosen over every other Seahawks quarterback to start in his rookie year, even over Matt Flynn who had admirably stepped into Aaron Rodgers’ shoes in Green Bay when called upon to do so, and hadn’t been a cheap pickup.

And few Patriots fans have forgotten the moment many football fans came to be aware of the immense talent of Richard Sherman, summed up by the “U mad bro?” meme. (Sadly, sources have let me know—under condition of anonymity—that Tom Brady hasn’t an ounce of anger in his system having recently ruined Dan Quinn’s life a second time.) Nor have 49ers fans entirely recovered from what happened in the waning seconds of that NFC Championship Game in January 2014, or the near-poetically confusing, confounding, and wonderful rant. “Don’t you ever talk about me!” (Full disclosure: my father was born and raised in the Bay Area.)

If Lynch returns and joins a soon-to-be-departing Oakland Raiders, and if Sherman’s talents bring in a first round draft pick or equally lucrative trade over the next few months, to whom is the torch passed as Heart and Soul of the Seattle Seahawks?

The obvious choice is Russell Wilson, but unless that offensive line starts to resemble, well, an offensive line, there is only so much even a man of his immense talents can do. The arrival of the inconsistent Luke Joeckel (who supplants an improving Fant on the depth chart, and, given his reputation, perhaps only for a few games) may help… or may be an expensive, short-lived mistake. And, to be honest, there is a certain edge that Wilson lacks, especially in comparison to “I’m only here so I don’t get fined” and “When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get!” (Oh man, I just realized Lynch and Crabtree could be teammates. Awkward.)

What about on defense, an astute and intelligent individual has called out. Well, yes. Earl Thomas’ absence was felt, which speaks volumes to his importance to the team. That said, while many of us doubted it at the time, Earl also said he was contemplating retirement after that injury. (And who can blame him? The game of football is not kind to the people who make us love it.) But still… it was a telling moment, speaking not only to the singular talent that Thomas is, capable of filling a role that few player ever could, and allowing the team to do things on defense few other teams could dream of doing, but also of a the end of the Legion of Boom era.

While I would 100% be on the Earl Thomas III as heart and soul of Seattle bandwagon, there is a seriousness to the man, and to the headspace he entered after being injured, that makes him more of an Obi-Wan Kenobi than a Luke Skywalker.

Kam Chancellor may be one of the most fearsome players to play on an NFL defense, but… well, the man refused to play in a few games during a contract dispute, and that hasn’t been lost on me. I’m all for getting paid what you deserve, but that’s not a heart and soul move.

What about some of the new blood? Eddie Lacy, who single-handedly won me a fantasy football championship not so long ago, and whose far from kind nickname, Feastmode, only seems set to remind us of the glory days of Marshawn Lynch in the short term, may well have a career renaissance in Seattle—but the man probably hasn’t set foot in Pike Place Market yet, so I for one am against giving him the keys to the city. Not yet, at least. I need a Feastquake first.

And also, I’m a huge Thomas Rawls fan, and wish we’d stuck with some of the talent the team developed: Prosise, Collins, and so on. Yes, injuries have not been kind to Seattle’s backs, but I’m not sure I’d “reward” Rawls by knocking him down to #2 on the depth chart, not after the work he has done these last few years. With the weird, wayward trajectory of Christine Michaels last year, who more than performed when asked to by the Seahawks, I’m not entirely convinced those calling the shots with running- and fullbacks in Seattle are making the wisest moves. I’d love to be proven wrong, but there are questionable moves and question marks there.

I hear some calls for Pete Carroll from the back of the room, and yes—why not Pete? Many coaches have been the heart and soul of their team. But… well, that pass-turned-interception (that I still have flashbacks to), for one, and last year’s offensive line are certainly marks against him. I greatly admire the man (and, remember, my father was raised in the Bay Area, and my uncle and grandfather attended Stanford, so this admiration was hard won), but success breeds a desire for more success, and the way the NFL is currently set up creates “windows” for championships, and it’s not uncommon to see some sportswriter or another talk of how the window is/could be closing for Seattle, which only shines a brighter light on Pete. It’s hard to be the heart and soul when you also have to be the brains.

Approaching the draft, however, the Seahawks have the feel of a team that, while talented, is adrift. Dion Jordan has been asked to step into Bruce Irvin’s shoes, as Bradley McDougland could be asked to handle some of Earl Thomas’ workload while he continues to fight his way back. Breakout stars like wide receiver Richardson haven’t had a chance to solidify their reputation after playoff heroics, nor has Lockett had a chance to show he’s every bit the steal we believe him to be.

Players like Jabril Peppers, who the Seattle Times have the team drafting in the 1st round, or hometown hero Sidney Jones (2nd round, 58th pick—also a Seattle Times prediction), may help restore some energy and verve to a team that seemed just about to become a new dynasty only three years ago. (Peppers, like Sherman, was coached by Jim Harbaugh. You can hate the 49ers, though I think much of that “rivalry” slipped away over the last few years, but you can’t deny the coaching talents of that strange, khaki-loving man.)

As much as the team needs to replenish and acquire talent, they also need to find someone to rally around—because as Tina Belcher argued recently on Bob’s Burgers, we need more than a robot president; we need some heart.