When the dust of an underwhelming offseason had settled for the Seattle Seahawks, the nation watched on, taking a very hard stance toward what appeared to be the deepest spring cleaning, one even your mother couldn’t hold a candle to. A house-cleaning analogy seemed fitting on the surface, but much like the chore itself, it requires one to go beyond the superficial layer to thoroughly accomplish the main objective. Perhaps what makes this a poor illustration is that typically, when you clean house, the appearance improves. Its smell improves. You feel organized. Your internal sense of stress decreases.
Oddly, during the offseason months of 2018, none of these symptomatic effects appeared to be present. Collectively, the locals had their leaf blowers powered full-tilt pointing at Tom Cable. Yet, some national pundits were only raking the surface, still referring to Cable as an offensive line guru, and/or at the very least, a good hire for Gruden’s Raiders.
Aside from that, there were mostly congruent sentiments on the outlook of a Seattle franchise that appeared to have “lost its way.” Moving on from decorated contributors like Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett felt dirty. Most found the Solari and Schottenheimer hires to reek of lateral movement, much like that pile of laundry cornering your room. The free-agent acquisitions of Fluker, Brown, Dickson, and Mingo felt like the procrastinated shuffling of furniture to cover up holes you should’ve patched before inviting the family over. Compound this with a failure to net compensatory picks and over-drafting a running back in the first round.
Maybe the cleaning analogy should’ve been dubbed a demolition instead.
What was uncovered after Seattle’s Week 2 loss in Chicago appeared to be the impact of that demolition. Imagine driving by the old house you grew up in, only to find it no longer standing. As you scan segments of the property that remain intact, you recall great memories of the past, though you’re also saddened at the sight of blank foundation as you drive away.
A sense of maturation begins to set in. You know that if the foundation was sound, a new memory-maker would be built atop it, for future generations.
Pete Carroll’s philosophy is that foundation.
Instead of letting the great memories of the past be memories, we cling to the idea that we need to preserve what’s left of them. The new memory-maker? Seattle’s current team being built before our very eyes.
See, a house can be identified as four walls, a floor, a ceiling, etc, etc. What makes a house a home though, is the family bond. That bond corresponds to the brotherhood of this team, which has been constantly in flux since Malcom Butler’s interception — some would argue even before then. Pete Carroll, years later, would eventually conclude that, to preserve the fundamental principle of what makes a house a home, one must let go. Like that parent realizing they’d raised their offspring to the best of their ability; that it was time for them go out on their own; he would let go.
Perhaps it’s another bad analogy, but this always comes to mind when I listen to the tone of Pete Carroll talk about the past, specifically regarding players who were difficult to manage such as Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman.
The NFL is no doubt a week-to-week league, but with the “home” back in order, Carroll (along with GM John Schneider) has produced a playoff contender after only one season of absence. And they’ve done it with the same exact core principles the duo has always exuded.
All the brotherhood ambiance present in the early LOB era is again to be found in this current roster. Before the celebrities were created, they were unknowns. Before the legends were etched, they were nobodies. Castoffs from other teams. Rookie draft classes stepped in and started immediately. All the confidence and swagger is there, without any of the arrogance and haughtiness.
The line that separates those distinctions is founded in Rule 1: Protect the Team. Play for each other. Carry yourself in a manner that doesn’t take away from your teammates. This requires a selfless attitude, which eventually can be lost after individuals earn their stripes. Players will become paid and respected. Some will become household names. The message will get stale. The unfortunate side of business at this level will hurt the feelings of some individuals. The pursuit of success and the love of the game will dissipate. The chip on your shoulder that was organically present early on must now be manufactured; must be forced there to maintain motivation.
Then, the cycle of having to retool will likely happen again. This is the biggest difference in “Win Forever at USC” versus “Win Forever in the NFL.” Before, Pete could just reload every recruiting class once the initial build of his Trojan empire was complete. That’s not to trivialize his collegiate accomplishments! Of course, his dynasty still took hard work to maintain and we know Pete was fired multiple times before he realized he lacked vision, prior to USC.
In the NFL, that cycle is much harder to manage, but Pete has seemingly learned a valuable lesson in this transition: knowing when to move on, as opposed to players moving on from you. Even if that player goes on to have productive years ahead of him like Bill Belichick’s Chandler Jones, or Carroll’s Michael Bennett, the absolute most important thing is the culture of the program remaining steadfast.
Carroll has likened his vision to train tracks. Without a guideline or foresight, it’s hard to tell when you’re getting off track. Some have suggested Pete’s style is less effective on established veterans. Or better suited for college. Does it require young, impressionable, and “poor” athletes? Maybe to a degree, if money and fame are the motivators. But that isn’t 100 percent true for stars like Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, Seahawks who still drink Pete’s ‘Kool-Aid’; who still continue to self-motivate and progress. There’s a responsibility the players have to the program, beyond Pete keeping his message fresh.
For some who don’t follow the Seahawks closely, it may surprise you that Pete Carroll has never been awarded Coach of The Year. Despite constructing one of the best defensive units ever that showcased the greatest secondary of all time, winning multiple division titles, conference titles, and bringing the city of Seattle its first Super Bowl, the award has evaded the winningest coach in franchise history. Though certainly worthy of the title then, why should he be considered for it now?
Some believe that this 2018 campaign is Pete’s most impressive, based on a “doing more with less” theory. If we account for an early-season injury to Earl Thomas, the Seahawks are on their way to the playoffs regardless of supplanting seven Pro Bowl to Hall of Fame-caliber athletes. Some were released, some walked in free agency, and some were forced into retirement due to health reasons.
Most teams do not have that many players to tout, let alone replace without missing a beat.
The scrutiny Pete has undergone for previous lackluster draft classes now begs the question: with back-to-back successful classes, did he and John ever actually decline in evaluating talent? Or, was it more the lack of starting opportunity that led to players flaming out or having to find homes elsewhere? (A topic to discuss separately no doubt.) As it applies to a Coach of The Year argument though?
Circle back again to how they built a contender the same way they did before; not just by playing rookies and sophomores early, but by truly instilling the belief that they belong. The names are too numerous to list, though Jacob Martin and Tre Flowers come to mind. The recurring theme is extracting tremendous value from late-round picks, or even undrafted talents like Poona Ford and Jordan Simmons. I’m not saying Flowers equates to Sherman, or Poona to Mebane, but I’m certainly not going to say they can’t elevate to stardom either. The league undoubtedly missed its first window to bestow accolades upon Carroll. If Seattle makes a deep postseason run after purging a near-dynastic roster, it would potentially be his most impressive season, with or without a Super Bowl trophy.
If the saddened person driving away from the remains of their old home represents fans dwelling on the previous era, then today we more closely resemble a driver who sees the house in development on their way to work every day. You know that home that’s been sitting for months, framed, but with seemingly no progress being made? Then, suddenly, one day coming home, you pass by it as you always do, only you’re caught off guard because you notice completed exterior walls. Window panels are installed. A crew is working diligently to enclose the roof. “So that’s what it’s supposed to look like,” you murmur to yourself.
Don’t look now, but Pete Carroll is enclosing that roof.
And though the house is not fully furnished, the makings of future memories are upon us, as this team heads to Dallas for Wild Card Weekend.
It took many months, but this house is closer to complete than most anticipated. The SOLD signage out front next to the mailbox represents the players buying in. The family bond they protect is what will make this house a home for the next generation of Seattle Seahawks.