A coach doesn’t last into his fourth decade of football without taking a few losses squarely on the chin.
But it had been nine years since Pete Carroll lost two games in a row, and in the span of eight days he suffered two of the four largest defeats in his head-coaching career. That’s quite a combination punch to absorb for not only the team but the coach.
“How am I taking it?” Carroll asked rhetorically. “I’m OK about taking it. I’m just anxious about fixing it, and helping everybody see what we can do better and move in the right direction.”
Reinforcements would help. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and left tackle Russell Okung may be back, Seattle’s starters at what are considered the two most important positions on offense. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane also may return to a defense that has fallen from No. 2 in rush defense to No. 19 in the span of three games.
But it’s not just personnel. There’s a personal consideration, too. This team bears the scar tissue from the last two years of lopsided losses. And the coach, who won seven consecutive Pac-10 titles in nine years at USC, is now finding the bright side of being .500.
“With the hits that we’ve taken in the last couple weeks — we’re fortunate to be where we are right now,” Carroll said. “That’s really important to notice and to recognize. We have a chance to keep going here with our division, which is the goal of our program, is to win this division. That’s there for us.”
Seattle is 4-4 even though it ranks No. 30 in yards gained and No. 27 in yards allowed. The margins of the last two losses were jarring, but this is a team that lost its last four games in 2009 by a combined scored of 123-37.
And with eight games left, there’s still time to correct this before it becomes a death spiral.
“We can still do the things that we want to do this season,” tight end John Carlson said. “That feeling, it permeates the locker room. It’s not just coming from the top. I think we all believe that. We’re very disappointed in the last two weeks and the way things have gone, but bottom line is we’re 4-4 right now.”
And that’s better than most people would have expected when the season started, but when Seattle started 4-2, it spurred optimism that the team turned a corner.
That came crashing down these past two weeks with two lopsided losses in which Seattle failed to score in the first three quarters.
“We have to just kind of break out of this funk,” Carlson said. “It doesn’t feel good. It’s not fun. It’s disappointing. It’s embarrassing. But we’re not going to give up. I think the attitude is positive.”
Carroll has specifically avoided the word rebuilding, but that is a reality considering more than half of Seattle’s 53-man roster has been acquired since he took over.
And while the past two losses have confirmed the Seahawks have a long way to go, Carroll said that suffering back-to-back losses for the first time in nine years hasn’t obscured the reality that his team still has a share of first place in the NFC West heading to Arizona on Sunday.
“We have a huge opportunity,” Carroll said. “I don’t lose sight of that. That keeps me on as well as just helping guys and getting work done. But it’s hard. It’s challenging.”