The Seahawks had a relatively quiet offseason, except of course reports of Richard Sherman on the trade block. Is there a real locker room division between offense and defense, or are sportswriters just getting bored?
The Seahawks didn’t make a big free agency move this offseason. They signed Eddie Lacy from the Packers on a one-year deal, and signed offensive line project Luke Joeckel to a one-year deal. They didn’t draft a player in the first round of the NFL Draft. And, most importantly, they didn’t deal likely future Hall of Famer Richard Sherman after all, despite reports that Sherm was disgruntled and looking for a way out of Seattle.
Then Seth Wickersham’s article appeared on ESPN.com, and everyone lost their minds. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but both Sherman and the always-outspoken Michael Bennett came out denying there was friction between the defense and Russell Wilson, as claimed by Wickersham.
For those of you who didn’t read the article (I highly recommend it), Wickersham describes a rift in the Seahawks locker room stemming from the perception that Pete Carroll and his coaching staff coddled Wilson and took the defense for granted. Sherman was particularly miffed when Wilson appeared to not take much blame for The Play That Will Not Be Named in Super Bowl 49. While he and his defensive teammates were pushed hard and constantly dissected by the coaching staff, Wilson was endlessly defended and praised.
The Play That Will Not Be Named in the Game That Will Not Be Named (except for above) became a wedge that intensified the rift between one of the best defenses ever assembled in the NFL and Wilson, the Golden Child.
Wickersham claimed that last season’s various blowups by Sherman were the results of this locker room tension.
In the aftermath of this article, Bennett tweeted this:
And, more hilariously, as Bennett is wont to do, this:
Sherman discounted some of the conclusions made by Wickersham and his use of anonymous sources.
Then Wickersham himself told ProFootballTalk Live that he got several texts from players telling him he was absolutely right:
"I’ve been doing this for a long time. I mean, he [Michael Bennett] knows what’s going on. I got so many texts from players and people in the Seahawks building yesterday telling me how I nailed it…Here’s a defense, in an era of offense, keeping them in these games, thinking that they’re going to make everybody forget the Steel Curtain, and the offense is putting three points up on the board and he’s [Russell Wilson] being treated in the building like he’s their Aaron Rodgers. That to me I think is the biggest deal. Those defensive players are smart, they’ve played against the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and they know the difference between very, very good and future Hall of Fame."
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Wickersham’s logic makes sense. The Seahawks’ formula for victory in any given game in the Pete Carroll era has been to overwhelm teams on defense and get what they can from the offense. The offense was particularly inconsistent last year (to be fair, the defense was also inconsistent, especially after Earl Thomas got injured), letting the team down in games like the 6-6 debacle against Arizona. And much of the offensive success the Seahawks enjoyed in recent seasons was because of their potent running attack led by Marshawn Lynch, not Wilson.
The Seahawks have a different team culture than most teams. Carroll encourages his players to be themselves. If they want to take political stands, he doesn’t stand in their way. If they feel they need to air their grievances, he lets them. Carroll lets the veterans of the team teach the rookies and set examples for them. This coaching style invites drama, leading to a constant Seahawks circus.
But that drama hasn’t had a negative effect on the field, yet. Carroll’s crew has won at least one playoff game in each of the last five postseasons. In the NFL, that’s almost impossible. I don’t doubt that there’s probably discord in the Seahawks’ passionate, outspoken locker room at times, but so far, it hasn’t affected their performance. This is who this team is: proud, emotional, outspoken, and as intense on the practice field against their own players as they are on game day against their opponents. The circus rolls on.