Carroll: Blame me, not OC, for WC run struggles

RENTON, Wash. — Pete Carroll doesn’t think the Seattle Seahawks‘ commitment to the run game diminishes the importance of quarterback Russell Wilson.

And he doesn’t fault offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for sticking with it even though the Seahawks couldn’t run the ball in their 24-22 wild-card loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday.

“First off, for somebody to look at this game and say somebody didn’t do this or didn’t do that, and try to hold that against them or whatever, is really unfair,” Carroll said Monday at his end-of-season news conference. “Hold it against me; I’m the guy that’s in charge of this thing.”

Schottenheimer’s play-calling came under fire after the Seahawks persistently ran the ball against Dallas even though their top-ranked rushing attack finished with only 73 yards on 24 attempts, their lowest output since Week 2 and only the second time since then they were held under 110 yards. Of Wilson’s 27 passing attempts, 11 came on Seattle’s final three drives.

In defending Schottenheimer, Carroll said the play-calling was in keeping with the successful approach the Seahawks have taken all year. Their 534 rushing attempts during the regular season were second-most in the NFL, whereas their 427 passing attempts were last.

That approach has led some to wonder if it makes sense to pay Wilson top dollar to run an offense that asks him to hand off more than throw. The question has been raised anew with Wilson set to enter the final year of his contract, which puts him in line for an extension that would easily top $30 million on average given his play and the way the quarterback market is trending.

Carroll shot down the idea that Wilson is any less important to Seattle’s offense because of the way it’s structured.

“I don’t think they understand,” Carroll said on 710 ESPN Seattle. “Whoever is saying that, they don’t get it. Russell is a great player. He’s a fantastic player. He just had an incredible season. How many guys could throw that many touchdown passes in that many attempts? Be that efficient, that clean? He’s one of a kind. He’s an incredible football player, and so, that is at hand. We’ll be talking about all that [contract] stuff this offseason.”

Wilson’s 427 attempts were his fewest since 2013, his second season. Yet he edged his previous career bests with 35 touchdown passes and a 110.9 rating while tying his career low of seven interceptions. Only Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes finished with a better passer rating than Wilson.

“To say that to run the football means that you don’t have to have a good quarterback or that you’re just running the ball, we are so enamored with these other numbers that everybody wants to cheerlead about,” Carroll told 710 ESPN Seattle. “Let’s win football games, let’s play good winning style and show the consistency and show the ability to play great ball all the way across the board — offense, defense, teams, the whole thing that it takes to play a great season and get a great championship run going. That management of that, that instrumental part of the quarterback position is just as important on our team as it is on any other team. I don’t think it should be diminished because of the rushing numbers.”

Wilson’s current average of $21.9 million made him the second-highest-paid quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers when he signed his extension in the summer of 2015. Wilson now ranks 11th behind Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr, Brees, Andrew Luck, Alex Smith and Joe Flacco.

Carroll said he and Wilson spoke on Sunday about the quarterback’s future and that an extension this offseason is “very much in our plans.”

“To be the franchise quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks is a special thing, so we’ll see where that goes,” Wilson said Sunday. “I don’t like talking about my contract or anything like that, but I think good things will happen.”

Wilson quickly answered in the affirmative when asked if he’d be willing to play out the final year of his contract, which would put him in position to go year-to-year on the franchise tag. Wilson said the same thing after signing his current extension about possibly playing out his rookie deal. He’s set to make $17 million in 2019 salary.

“Oh yeah, if that’s what I’ve got to do,” he said. “It’s business and everything. I know essentially after the season, I could potentially be a free agent, that kind of thing. I don’t think that way. I see myself being in Seattle. I love Seattle, and it’s a special place for me.”

Wilson acknowledged that the Seahawks could have switched gears and thrown the ball more against Dallas, though his answer didn’t come off as criticism of the play-calling. He completed 18 of 27 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown.

Carroll noted that Wilson’s rushing touchdown — which put the Seahawks ahead 14-10 in the third quarter — capped a nine-play, 44-yard drive on which Seattle ran eight times.

He made that point in defense of Schottenheimer’s play-calling and also noted on his radio show that the Seahawks scored the second-most points in franchise history (428) in Schottenheimer’s first season running the offense.

“So to try and blame Schotty with the play-calling or something, I understand that reaction, but it isn’t warranted,” Carroll said. “We had a hell of a season. We did a bunch of good stuff, and we’re just getting started. That’s what it feels like.”

Carroll reiterated in his news conference and on his radio show that he expects defensive end Frank Clark to be back with Seattle in 2019 after Clark led the team with 14 sacks and added another against Dallas. That’s another indication that the Seahawks will use the franchise tag on Clark if they can’t work out a multiyear deal.

Clark’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, told ESPN in October that Clark is willing to wait for the right deal, even if it means playing on the franchise tag first. Carroll said the Seahawks and Clark’s representatives have been negotiating in earnest for a while.

“He had a great year,” Carroll told 710 ESPN Seattle. “I’ve said to you tons of times, not only did he have a great year on the field, he had a terrific year developing off the field and has become really a complete factor on this team and a leader and all that. So we’re hoping — we plan on Frank being with us. We don’t want to lose him, and so we’ve got to figure out how to do it.”

Clark is one of 14 Seahawks who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. That group also includes linebackers K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks, free safety Earl Thomas and guards D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy.

Carroll volunteered on his radio show that the Seahawks want Kendricks back, though Kendricks is scheduled to be sentenced later this month on insider trading charges, which could impact his availability.

Carroll said he hasn’t spoken recently with Thomas, who has not regularly been with the team since his tumultuous season ended in Week 4 because of a broken left leg. Thomas, who had held out all offseason in protest of his contract situation, flipped off the Seahawks’ sideline as he was being taken off the field on a cart.

Carroll gave a lukewarm response when asked if he’d like to see Thomas back in Seattle.

“Uh, we’ll see what happens,” he said. “I don’t know what — yeah, I’d love it. Earl’s a great player. I don’t know what that means for a contract and all that stuff, but it’s one of the issues. We’ve got a bunch of them.”

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