Destroying Narratives, Resurrecting Legends

Peter Clay Carroll, the anthropomorphic photon who a decade ago grinned his way into a gig at the helm of the Seattle Seahawks, has established himself as one of the NFL’s preeminent figures. His resume and alumni at both the collegiate and professional levels scream excellence. By way of constructing the greatest defense of this gridiron epoch, he helped revolutionize roster construction and defensive back evaluation. Simply put, Carroll is one of the greatest coaches that football has ever seen.

He also happens to be a stubborn oaf. As football hurdles into the modern age, tropes of a bygone era have persisted within Carroll’s blueprint. While a stifling defense and malicious run game once augured dominance, they now complement an explosive offense. (This is not an absolute, of course, as the Broncos and 49ers both wakeboarded the watterlogged corpses of their respective quarterbacks to Super Bowls recently in strikingly similar fashion, albeit with different results.) And while their efforts do not lessen the benefits of possessing one or the other (or both!), it does indicate that there are often multiple vehicles to contention.

Through all this, Carroll’s youthful buoyancy adds credence to the belief in his archaic values’ efficacy. Happening upon a generational signalcaller to execute his vision surely was a stroke of luck, but does not diminish that which has been accomplished during his tenure in Seattle. Russell Wilson is Carroll’s on-field analog. They have both obsessed over protecting the football and avoiding turnovers, often to the detriment of the drive at hand. They both invest endless resources into maintaining above all else their “championship mindsets,” erecting brilliant facades to encircle their brains and repel that pesky miasma of doubt trying oh so hard to make its way in. Most thrillingly annoyingly, they both lust after the heart palpitations associated with down-to-the-wire contests.

And every once in a while, they both like to act like complete and utter fucking psychopaths.

Let me explain. One of the prevailing tenets outlined within the “How To Not Be A Shitty Coach” pocketbook (something I implore Adam Gase to flip through before he is inevitably fired and then hired by another poor AFC organization) is to practice a calculated aggressiveness in high-leverage moments. Conservatism is often a staple amongst the decrepit halfwits tasked with leading NFL franchises and the Carroll-Wilson tandem has meshed in perfect fashion when bucking this trend in the past.

But over the last few seasons, the two have diverged. Wilson — who has developed into a pigskin pharaoh generous enough to grace our virgin eyes with his radiance — decided, for whatever reason, that he wants to win games by more than two points, something that I was nearly certain had been outlawed long ago. Areas that portend such an outcome, namely a proactive approach rather than the previously-lauded reactive method of Winning Games In The Fourth Quarter, were not up to snuff. The actions taken by Carroll in recent seasons have often been those of a man determined not to lose rather than one desperate to exit the arena victorious.

Passivity is for those who are lost. But with a single decision on Sunday, Carroll teased his triumphant return from a foray off of the once-beaten path, reminding us of what once was.

The scene is familiar; same shit, different day. The Seahawks have failed to convert on third down, opting for a disappointing play-call with questionable personnel that yielded predictably unsuccessful results. A squadron of tiny beaks (they’re all the same bird, it doesn’t make a difference) roars (squawks?) viciously, as they have provided their offensive counterparts an opportunity to pull ahead on the ensuing drive.

While the following events are unconfirmed, they are certainly likely: Wilson, sensing his opponent’s optimism, is disgusted. He turns desperately to the visiting sideline, making direct, unwavering eye contact with a pensive Carroll. The coach mulls it over. Ahead by two points. Fourth-and-five. Third quarter. In field goal range. A running down, methinks. But the glint in Wilson’s eye is so pure, so focused, so unlimited, that Carroll knows what is to be done. He shifts his gaze from Wilson to the 6-foot-4 water buffalo who just so happens to be wearing identically hued garments. Carroll smirks. The end for one Isaiah Oliver is nigh.

In play, touchdown(s).

The purpose of this essay is not to commend Carroll or Brian Schottenheimer for continuing to improve run-pass splits (even though Seattle saw increases both in totality and in neutral game script). It’s also not another desperate plea for the Seahawks to allow their principal game-breaker to flambé opponents. No, this treatise exists in conjunction with all of that, to pass along the primordial Croatian proverb “molim nastavite s pretvaranjem četvrtog,” which roughly translates to “hey, that was cool and we should do it again.” Please recognize: the suggestion that Seattle’s aggressive approach is here to stay could look absolutely moronic six days from now. Maybe that has less to do with my lack of faith in Carroll iterating his belief system and more with the fact that we can’t have nice things in 2020. Until then, things in the handegg realm seem to be going alright.

Upon one single decision, a whole season does not foreshadow. Carroll’s game plan and decision-making will surely shift when facing other opponents, especially those that choose to field NFL-caliber defenses. There’s a chance that Sunday was the apex of analytical victory for the entirety of Seattle’s 2020 season. But Carroll’s decree to keep his offense on the field in an unforced moment such as this is a callback to his own bygone era featuring monocular poise. (According to Tasteful Profanity’s Signature Statistic, Boldness/Bravado Profile (BBP), the Seahawks’ decision to keep their offense on the field ranks in the 84th percentile of Carroll-centric gonad exposure.) It’s a rerun that viewers have long yearned for. It’s the greatest hits album with all the right tracks. It’s a sign that maybe, just maybe, Seattle’s coach has reached back into his bag of tricks and joined his protegé in the modern era.