While speaking cryptically about the Seattle Seahawks’ issues on offense during an end-of-season conversation with reporters, wide receiver Doug Baldwin made one thing clear: He felt the players, not the coaches, were the ones at fault.
Baldwin restated that point Thursday on ESPN’s First Take. His appearance on the show marked the first public comments by a Seahawks player since the team announced the firings of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and offensive-line coach Tom Cable on Wednesday amid reports that defensive coordinator Kris Richard isn’t expected to return, either.
Baldwin declined to comment about the firings of either Bevell or Cable but spoke highly of both, as he often has. Baldwin was a rookie in 2011 when Bevell and Cable joined Seattle’s staff. He vehemently defended Bevell on several occasions over the years amid outside criticism of his playcalling, and also had forged a close personal relationship with Cable.
“They were great human beings in the time that I got to know them. They were great people,” Baldwin said. “I really enjoyed my time with them and got to know them as human beings, as men, and they really helped me, myself, and Russell Wilson obviously in our development, so they’re part of that, as well. You take a third-round quarterback who a lot in the media said was too short to play the position, a receiver who they said was too short to play the position -- undrafted, at that -- and we went out there and played some spectacular football for a stretch.
“So I give a lot of credit to Darrell Bevell and to Tom Cable for their work, their development of players that they had that was available to them. They did an extraordinary job, and I do think as Bevell was our offensive coordinator, we broke every record that the Seahawks had offensively, so there’s a lot to be said for that.”
Indeed, the past seven seasons have seen some of the most prolific offenses in franchise history. The Seahawks set club records for total offense in 2015, rushing yards in 2014 and passing yards in 2016. Four of the eight highest-scoring seasons came during that stretch, as well.
But Seattle was plagued by several issues on that side of the ball in 2017, including slow starts and an ineffective run game that didn’t get more than 250 yards from any one tailback. Wilson became only the fifth quarterback since 1970 to lead his team in rushing, doing so with 586 yards, while also scoring three of the team’s four rushing touchdowns.
Baldwin led the team in receptions with 75, caught eight touchdown passes and finished just short of his third straight 1,000-yard season. He said additional weapons on offense would be a luxury and not something the Seahawks necessarily need, mentioning tight end Jimmy Graham and receivers Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett, calling them “game-changing players.” Graham and Richardson, however, are unrestricted free agents who aren’t assured of returning.
“We’re pretty efficient when we execute,” Baldwin said. “I think that’s what it comes down to. I know we can say, ‘You need this, you need that,’ ‘The offensive line this, the offensive line that.’ But if you watch the tape and you know football and you know the ins and outs of our offense, you’d know it’s really not the coaching, it’s really not anything other than us just not executing. We’ve had a number of opportunities this year to win games. It comes down to a kick or converting a first down, and the ball just hasn’t bounced our way this year, and I know, personally, in 2013, the ball bounced our way several times, which afforded us an opportunity to go play in the Super Bowl. So again, there’s a lot of factors that go into it; it’s not clear-cut, it’s not black and white, it’s just the nature of the game.”
The Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII after the 2013 season, then nearly repeated the following year. They didn’t advance past the divisional round in either of their two trips to the playoffs after that and missed out on the postseason in 2017 with a 9-7 record. That snapped a string of five straight seasons with a playoff appearance and at least 10 victories.
In response to a question about the one area of the team he’d like to see strengthened heading into next season, Baldwin again put the onus on the existing players, saying they need to recommit themselves.
“There’s a lot of things, but I think it all trickles down from us as building our culture and our environment in the locker room and in this building, obviously, this facility,” he said. “It starts with the top. [Coach Pete Carroll] has done a tremendous job in the past of preaching his philosophy and what he wants in the culture and the environment, and us as players, we’ve just got to go back to that, we’ve got to go back to the basics and really buy in again, because the formula is there; obviously, it’s there. We’ve been a very successful team the past six years, the past seven years. We’ve been to the playoffs consecutively, so the formula is still there. It’s just going back to the basics.
“I know a lot of people want to blow this up, make it bigger than what it is, but we’re not going to panic as players. We know the formula, we know what we have ahead of us, and we’re just going to go out there and do it.”