The Seahawks had a lot of reasons to celebrate this past week.
On Sunday, they annihilated the hottest team in the NFL, the Giants, to improve to 5-3, first place in the NFC West.
With the win, coach Pete Carroll tied his mentor, Bud Grant, with his 168th NFL victory, 18th most in league history.
And on Wednesday, the Seahawks cleaned up with the NFL’s awards for October. Quarterback Geno Smith was named NFC offensive player of the month, while running back Kenneth Walker and cornerback Tariq Woolen were named the NFL’s offensive and defensive rookie of the month, respectively. It was the first time that rookies from the same team won those awards in the same month.
“It’s amazing to see,” eight-year veteran receiver Tyler Lockett said by telephone after Thursday’s practice. “We have had so many guys that are deserving and have had a chance to win. We’re starting to come along on all sides of the ball, and it’s really a beautiful thing to see.”
Lockett is used to being in the thick of the NFC playoff race, but Seattle’s success this year is sweeter than usual. Because few inside or outside of the NFL saw this coming.
The Seahawks finished 7-10 in 2021, their first losing season in a decade. Their offseason was highlighted by major subtractions — releasing defensive captain Bobby Wagner and trading franchise quarterback Russell Wilson. Their big plan to replace Wilson seemed like the worst quarterback competition of the decade — Geno Smith vs. Drew Lock. They ended the preseason with the third-worst Super Bowl odds in the NFL, tied with the Lions and Bears. Carroll was listed near the top of most “next coach fired” lists.
Instead, the Seahawks are No. 3 in the NFC and one of the best stories of the season.
“I mean, of course this year is special, because everybody counted us out,” Lockett said. “And honestly, that’s the best way to go, if you ask me, is when everyone is counting you out. It’s hard to play with expectations. We already know we’re going to make mistakes, but it’s not like we’ve got to beat ourselves up. We’re learning how to play through the mistakes rather than point the finger.”
The Seahawks have won shootouts (48-45 over the Lions and 37-23 over the Chargers) and defensive battles (17-16 over the Broncos and 19-9 over the Cardinals). And each win in their current three-game streak has been decisive — a 10-point win over the Cardinals, a 14-point win at the Chargers, and a 14-point win over the Giants to wreck their six-game win streak.
The Seahawks had early hiccups in losses to the 49ers, Falcons, and Saints, but are now hitting their stride.
“I hate that we were crappy early in the year and we weren’t doing stuff right,” Carroll said this past week. “But we held on to it and we felt like we knew where we could go, and we’re getting going.”
The Seahawks have so many great story lines, but none better than Smith. A bust with the Jets, Smith hasn’t been a regular starting quarterback since the 2014 season, bouncing between four teams and sitting on the bench behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Wilson.
Smith has been with the Seahawks since 2019, and he acquitted himself well in a three-game stint last year, but even the Seahawks didn’t really know what they had. They traded for Lock in the Wilson deal, and entered training camp with an open competition.
But Smith grabbed control of the job early and has been remarkable. A 57.9 percent passer in two seasons with the Jets, Smith now leads the NFL at 72.7 percent. He is fourth among all quarterbacks with a 107.2 passer rating, thanks to 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Smith went 4-1 as a starter in October and is in the short conversation for midseason MVP.
“I think the only thing we saw that was different was just opportunity,” said Lockett, who leads the Seahawks with 46 catches for 531 yards and three touchdowns. “Imagine how much knowledge and wisdom he learned just from being behind so many great quarterbacks. Now it’s time for you to be able to show that it’s paid off.”
Another great story line is the emergence of pass rusher Uchenna Nwosu, who signed a surprising two-year, $20 million contract in free agency. His career high in four seasons with the Chargers was just five sacks, but Nwosu has thrived in Seattle, already logging five to go with three batted passes, two forced fumbles, and 12 quarterback hits.
The Seahawks’ rookie class also has been fantastic. Tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas have each started eight games. Linebacker Boye Mafe and cornerback Coby Bryant have been productive rotational players.
And Walker and Woolen have been home runs. Walker, drafted 41st overall, has rushed for 432 yards and five touchdowns in his last five games. Woolen, drafted in the fifth round, ranks second in the NFL with four interceptions, including a pick-6. Woolen has four of the Seahawks’ five interceptions, and also two fumble recoveries.
Finally, there’s Carroll, who is overseeing an unexpectedly quick turnaround. The oldest NFL head coach at 71 and in his 13th year in Seattle, Carroll is proving that his methods aren’t getting stale.
“A lot of coaches don’t get as many chances as I’ve had,” Carroll said last Sunday. “This is a very special opportunity right now.”
The Seahawks’ hot start won’t mean much if they stumble in games at Arizona and Tampa Bay before hitting their bye week. And the gambling world still isn’t quite buying the Seahawks, currently giving them the 16th-best Super Bowl odds.
But Carroll acknowledged that he’s loving his underdog team.
“I like this challenge. I like this whole thing,” he said. “All the people that doubt, like you’re losing it — ‘We run the ball too much, you don’t understand football, and you can’t stay up with the new game,’ and all that kind of stuff — that’s a bunch of crap, I’m telling you. Look, we’re doing fine. We’re all right. I don’t mind proving it day in and day out.”
Time running out for the Snyders?
It was less than three weeks ago that Dan Snyder dug in his heels and told the world he wouldn’t be selling the Commanders.
“We are confident that, when he has an opportunity to see the actual evidence in this case, Mr. [Jim] Irsay will conclude that there is no reason for the Snyders to consider selling the franchise,” the team said in a statement. “And they won’t.”
Except now they might. In a shocking announcement Wednesday, Snyder confirmed a report from Forbes that he has retained Bank of America Securities to “consider potential transactions,” a.k.a. selling the team.
Snyder’s statement was vague about whether he intends to sell the entire team or a minority share. In 2021, he bought out his minority partners for the remaining 40.5 percent share, but the NFL had to grant Snyder a waiver of its debt limit in order to make it happen.
But the walls may actually be closing in on Snyder this time. Irsay, the Colts owner, has gone on a public crusade to encourage his fellow owners to consider voting Snyder out of the league (it would require 24 of the 31 other owners). ESPN reported last month that Snyder “lost” a supporter in Jerry Jones, and Sports Business Journal reported this past week that several owners have privately told commissioner Roger Goodell that Snyder needs to go.
And perhaps not coincidentally, on the same day that Snyder announced he may sell the team, ESPN reported that the US attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia has opened a criminal investigation over allegations of deceptive business practices, including misreporting ticket revenue. Snyder could be the NFL’s Al Capone, going down not for his main crime — creating a disgusting workplace culture of sexual harassment and misogyny — but for cooking the books.
Commander fans would throw a parade down Constitution Avenue if Snyder sold the team after 24 years of disastrous ownership. Snyder almost certainly would receive a record price, surpassing the $4.6 billion spent on the Broncos this past summer.
Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos confirmed to his newspaper that he is interested. The NFL surely is enticed by billionaires who can just cut a check, but the league also is desirous of improving its minority record among ownership, which could give a leg up to an investment group run by Black entertainment moguls Byron Allen or Jay-Z.
Britt Reid gets off lightly once again
Britt Reid, the son of Chiefs coach Andy Reid, was sentenced on Tuesday after being found guilty of one count of felony driving while intoxicated with serious bodily injury. And everyone from local prosecutors to the NFL is doing its best to sweep the episode under the rug.
Reid, 37, put a 5-year-old girl in a coma in February 2021 when he slammed his pickup truck, which had reached 84 miles per hour, into two cars parked on an offramp on I-435. The girl, Ariel Young, was in a coma for 11 days, in the hospital for two months, and still deals works daily with a speech pathologist and physical therapist. The Chiefs reached a private settlement with her family.
Reid was previously arrested twice in his 20s and spent five months in jail for road rage and drug incidents. This time, he faced a maximum of seven years in jail but had the gall to ask for probation. Prosecutors for some reason only sought four years, and the judge gave him three. No one will explain why.
“Given the damage Reid did to the family and his prior criminal record, this defendant did not deserve a deal,” the Youngs’ attorney, Tom Porto, told the New York Times. “The prosecutor should have gone to trial or had him plead to the maximum seven years.”
And the NFL appears to want to bury this story instead of punishing Andy Reid or the Chiefs. Britt Reid admitted in his statement to police that he consumed Adderall and multiple alcoholic drinks at the team’s facility before the crash. It should be a clear-cut violation of the personal conduct policy. But an NFL spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment after Reid’s sentencing.
It’s a shameful ending to a heart-wrenching episode. Reid gets off lightly again because his father is famous.
Heinicke coming full circle
Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke will get a start against Minnesota on Sunday, about six years after he could’ve been starting for the Vikings.
Heinicke was an undrafted rookie for the Vikings in 2015, and had a chance to win the backup job in 2016. But that chance never came because Heinicke severed a tendon in his foot before training camp while trying to kick out a window. Heinicke could have gotten his big chance in 2016 when Teddy Bridgewater suffered a knee injury in camp, but Heinicke was done for the season, and the Vikings traded for Sam Bradford instead.
“That was one of the dumbest mistakes I’ve ever made,” Heinicke said of kicking the window. “I feel like maybe if that didn’t happen and then Teddy blows out his knee, I might’ve got a chance that year and maybe not have traded for Sam Bradford. Who knows?”
The Vikings released Heinicke after 2016, and he bounced between the Patriots, Texans, Panthers, and the XFL before finally sticking with the Commanders late in 2020. Heinicke went 7-8 as a starter last year and is 2-0 this year.
The Eagles are 8-0 after beating the Texans on Thursday night, but is a regression coming soon? They have an NFL-high 18 takeaways and an NFL-low three giveaways for a remarkable plus-15 turnover margin. For context, Baltimore, Dallas, and Minnesota are tied for second at plus-6. The Eagles will be hard pressed to maintain this pace, especially on offense. They have fumbled seven times but didn’t lose any until Jalen Hurts did so on Thursday … Tyreek Hill isn’t just lapping the field in receiving yards, his 961 are 197 more than anyone else in the league. But Hill also leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 986, a remarkable feat considering that the next eight players in the rankings are running backs. Hill is averaging 120.1 receiving yards per game, second only to Calvin Johnson (122.8 in 2012) since the 1970 merger (excluding strike seasons) … Browns GM Andrew Berry confirmed that Deshaun Watson will take over as starting quarterback Week 13 at Houston after his suspension ends. If Watson starts all six remaining games, he’ll make $7,561,250 per start for a total of $45,367,500, since the Browns crafted his contract that would minimize the financial damage of a suspension. Not bad work if you can get it … Eagles defensive end Robert Quinn and Bills safety Dean Marlowe, both acquired at the trade deadline, could each play in 18 games since they missed their teams’ bye weeks. Quinn played just seven snaps for the Eagles on Thursday night … Josh McDaniels had the Raiders staying in Sarasota, Fla., and practicing at nearby IMG Academy this past week between games at New Orleans and Jacksonville. It probably wasn’t much of a vacation after last week’s 24-0 loss … The Dolphins must really believe in Bradley Chubb, because they sure did give up a lot — a first-round pick, then a five-year, $119 million contract with $63 million guaranteed — for a guy who has missed 24 games over the last three seasons … Tom Brady needs 164 passing yards on Sunday against the Rams to give him 100,000 for his career, including postseason … A rarity on Sunday — a 1 p.m. kickoff for Patriots-Colts. Seventeen of the last 21 matchups have come in the late afternoon or night, including the last seven. The last 1 p.m. kickoffs — 2011 (with Dan Orlovsky at quarterback for the Colts), 2003, and both in 2001 … Saints receiver Michael Thomas signed a five-year, $97 million contract before the 2019 season, and he set an NFL record that year with 149 catches for 1,725 yards. But his career has been marred by injuries since, missing nine games in 2020 with an ankle injury, the 2021 season with an ankle injury, and now he will miss 14 games this year as he awaits toe surgery. The Saints have paid him $39 million for 10 games for 2020-22 … RIP Ray Guy, the only punter inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (2014), thanks in part to a campaign from Bill Belichick. A six-time All-Pro who redefined the position, Guy was also an accomplished pitcher, throwing one of six no-hitters in University of Southern Mississippi history.
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.