SEATTLE -- Long-term plans are a tough sell for sports fans shelling out thousands to buy tickets right now.
The Seattle Seahawks, owners of the NFL's third-youngest roster entering Week 12, have sought to tide over their faithful with a hard-hitting defense and physical running game. They were doing a decent job of it, too, until a fourth-quarter implosion Sunday reminded them how far away they remain in the process.
"The lessons are hard, really hard," coach Pete Carroll said.
Losing 23-17 at home to Rex Grossman, Roy Helu and a Washington Redskins team riding a six-game losing streak made this one of the least satisfying performances of the season for 4-7 Seattle. The defense gave up 400-plus yards for the fifth time in eight games outside the NFC West, and the overall play was sloppy.
Pregame coin-toss tiff: Seattle seemed off its game right from the start. Smack talk during the coin toss led Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson to lose his cool. What should have been a mundane pregame ritual turned into a shouting match, for which Robinson later apologized.
Inattentiveness: The Seahawks, locked in a 7-7 tie early in the third quarter, had to burn a timeout after only nine players ran onto the field for a field-goal try. Tight ends Anthony McCoy and Zach Miller mistakenly thought the Seahawks were punting, so they stayed on the sideline. Kicker Steven Hauschka, sufficiently iced, missed wide right from 51 yards.
Excessive celebration: Golden Tate went to the ground while celebrating a 15-yard scoring reception, leading Carroll to say Tate, a disappointment to this point in his career, hadn't found the end zone often enough to know how to act. A youthful indiscretion? Sure. But also an undisciplined one. Carroll might call it hormonal.
Thirteen accepted and declined penalties: That would be three for cornerback Brandon Browner, the league leader in penalties this season. There were three more against right tackle Breno Giacomini, including one for a chop block that also cut down teammate Russell Okung and left Okung limping around the field. Tate and K.J. Wright had two apiece. Ten of the penalties were pinned on players with limited NFL experience.
Biting on play-action fakes: Grossman entered the game ranked eighth in total QB rating for play-action passing. He had averaged 9.9 yards per attempt on these throws, taking only two sacks in 60 dropbacks. The Seahawks fell victim to his play fakes early, one reason they allowed 172 yards in the first quarter alone.
The final five games of the season should help us figure out to what degree such issues reflect youthful aggression. Carroll's occasional lapses in game management -- lapses even Carroll anticipated -- suggest coaching is also playing a role. There is room for improvement all the way around.
Watching Grossman ultimately outplay Seattle's Tarvaris Jackson brought to mind strong comparisons between the Seahawks and Redskins, teams with older coaches, journeyman quarterbacks and, in some ways, similar approaches.
Carroll, like Washington's Mike Shanahan, took his current job in 2010. Neither man has drafted a quarterback. Both have used top-six draft choices for left tackles. Both have used top-15 choices to bolster their defenses. Both have sought to build their offenses around zone running schemes. And both will presumably be looking for QBs in the 2012 draft.
Which brings us to draft order, a primary concern for those Seattle fans fearful the team might finish just strong enough to miss selecting one of the top college prospects.
The Redskins would pick seventh and the Seahawks would pick 11th or 12th if the current draft order held.
Jeremy Mills of ESPN Stats & Information passed along the order through the top 11, noting that a Pittsburgh victory over Kansas City in the late game Sunday would drop the Rams to third and the Seahawks to 12th. The order for NFC West teams would remain unchanged if the Chiefs won. Pending the Chiefs-Steelers outcome, the order reads this way:
1. Indianapolis: Peyton Manning's age and injury situation would compel the Colts to strongly consider drafting a QB.
2. St. Louis: The Rams' current leadership loves Sam Bradford. Question is, will the Rams' current leadership survive the season?
3. Minnesota: The Vikings selected Christian Ponder with the 12th overall choice in 2011.
4. Jacksonville: Blaine Gabbert is just getting started.
5. Carolina: Suffice to say, the Panthers are pleased with Cam Newton.
6. Miami: The Dolphins have needed a franchise quarterback for years.
7. Washington: Shanahan has young pass rushers and a young left tackle. He needs a quarterback.
8. Arizona: The Cardinals made a huge financial commitment to Kevin Kolb.
9. Philadelphia: Michael Vick's contract and presence would steer the Eagles toward other positions.
10. Cleveland: Colt McCoy hasn't done enough to deter the Browns from considering a QB early.
11. Seattle: The Seahawks haven't drafted a QB since using a 2009 sixth-rounder for Mike Teel.
There was some thought entering Sunday that Seattle, having won two in a row, could extend that streak to five by winning three consecutive home games against teams with losing records.
Watching Grossman complete 16 of his first 19 passes on his way to a 314-yard passing performance -- the fourth-highest total for his career-- changed perceptions. So did watching Helu rush for a career-high 108 yards and the first rushing touchdown against Seattle since Week 4. Seattle, after building a 17-7 lead with 10 minutes remaining, surrendered Helu's 28-yard touchdown run on third-and-3 and Grossman's 50-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Armstrong on third-and-19. Elapsed time: less than four minutes.
It's now easier to envision this team suffering through more of the hard lessons Carroll lamented Sunday night.
There were also positive signs for the Seahawks. They got another 100-yard game from Marshawn Lynch. Both starting corners, Browner and Richard Sherman, picked off passes. Leon Washington changed field position with 51- and 35-yard kickoff returns.
But the Seahawks still lost at home to Rex Grossman. That's harsh on the eyes, even when one of them remains focused on the horizon.