Posted January 18, 2014

Doug Baldwin and Richard Sherman survived Jim Harbaugh, thrive under Pete Carroll

Seattle Seahawks
(Charles Rex Arbogast)

Pete Carroll gives Doug Baldwin and Richard Sherman enthusiastic noogies in 2011. (Charles Rex Arbogast/Getty Images)

RENTON, Wash. — Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh have been downplaying their personal and professional feud all week as they prepare for the NFC Championship game, but it’s not a media creation — these two guys have had beefs with each other since Harbaugh became Stanford’s head coach in 2007 and started to challenge the death grip Carroll’s USC Trojans had over the Pac-10.

Two of the players Harbaugh coached at Stanford were receivers — Doug Baldwin from Gulf Breeze High in Florida, and Richard Sherman from Dominguez High in Compton, Ca. Sherman moved to cornerback after his first two seasons for the Cardinal, and neither player made a huge impact under Harbaugh — at least, not enough to be drafted highly by any NFL team. Sherman was taken by the Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, and Baldwin signed with Seattle as an undrafted free agent that same year. Both men have made serious impacts in the NFL — Baldwin became the first undrafted rookie to lead his team in catches and receiving yards since the AFL-NFL merger, and Sherman has become perhaps the best (and definitely the most vocal) pass defender in the league.

Thus, Baldwin and Sherman have interesting recon abilities as the only two guys to have played for both Harbaugh and Carroll. Safe to say, Harbaugh’s personal style rubbed both players the wrong way — both Sherman and Baldwin felt like odd fits, and Baldwin actually thought about quitting the game altogether in his junior year before his mom told him to stick it out.

“I’ll start with Coach Harbaugh,” Baldwin said this week, when asked how different his college and pro coaches are. “Coach Harbaugh was a very… I’d say he’s more of a disciplinarian type of coach. He likes to be in control of things, and likes to be hands-on with everything. He likes to make sure that everything is running smoothly and he has his say on stuff, and Pete is the same way. I just think they have different approaches. Like I said, Harbaugh is more of a military type. Everything has to be precise and has to be exactly the way he wanted in order for it to go as well as he wants it to go, and Pete kind of gives us leeway to do things that we want to. It might rub the outside people the wrong way sometimes, but I think for us, it gives us a better sense of just having fun when we’re at practice or in meetings and stuff.”

Carroll’s belief that his players should be allowed to express themselves more clearly as long as they’re getting things done on the field is something he’s learned works for him after failed attempts at doing things in more traditional ways.

“I tried when I was about 24 and the coaches yelled at me when I was an assistant on staffs,” Carroll said Thursday. “They thought I was crazy trying to do what I was trying to do. I thought I was wrong because they told me I was. So just by growing up and maturing and the opportunities when I had the chance to be in charge… I was given the opportunity to have a voice and to speak out and so that’s what happened. All I’m trying to do is do the best we can do. All I got is this. So this is the way they get it, and if it doesn’t comply with the way other people do it I can’t do anything about that. It’s no different in our program right here. We’re trying to find guys that have unique ways about them and qualities and try to allow them to demonstrate that in the way we perform. We’ll go to no end to figure that out.”

Asking Sherman about Harbaugh over the last few years? Well, you would have received all different kinds of (mostly off-the-record) responses. Sherman rubs a lot of people the wrong way because he’s not at all afraid to tell people just how good he is, and he’s learned to appreciate the value in a coach who lets him do that … again, as long as he can back it up on the field.

“He’s the polar opposite of that,” Sherman said of Carroll’s approach compared to Harbaugh’s. “He’s not soft, but he’s easygoing. He’s loose. As loose as you can get out there. He allows his players to be who they are within the confines of the team, as long as it doesn’t hurt the team, he allows guys to be themselves. If you’re a reserved guy that’s always focused, that’s always locked in that like an Earl Thomas is, he allows you to be that guy and be locked in 100 percent of the time. If you’re a loose guy and you dance at practice like I do, he allows you to be that guy. As long as when you’re on the field you do exactly what you’re supposed to do.

“He allows guys to be who they are. Russell Wilson is an outgoing, incredible person, he allows him to be that. Everybody can be who they are within the scheme of the Seahawks and what we want to do.”

Dougt Baldwin (l.) and Richard Sherman hoist the 2011 Orange Bowl trophy after Stanford beat Virginia Tech, 40-1. (J Pat Carter/AP)

Doug Baldwin (l.) and Richard Sherman hoist the 2011 Orange Bowl trophy after Stanford beat Virginia Tech, 40-12. (J Pat Carter/AP)

And did Harbaugh let Sherman be that way?

“A lot less so,” he said with a laugh.

Coaches use different approaches. Some tailor their players to their own philosophies — their players must fit a mold. Some are master physiologists who appear to stamp their mark all over the roster, when they actually treat every player completely differently. Vince Lombardi set the paradigm for this approach as much as anyone. And then there are coaches like Carroll, who run looser shops and balance the positive effects of that mindset with the negative inevitabilities. The Seahawks’ frequent dalliances on the wrong ends of the NFL’s substance abuse and performance-enhancing substances may have their roots in part because of Carroll’s firm belief that players deserve second chances.

It’s worked for Carroll to the tune of a 13-3 record and the NFC’s No. 1 seed, four years after he inherited a team so bereft of long-term talent that there are just four players on the roster who have been in Seattle longer than he has.

So, he’ll take any shots you’ve got on the way up.

“Part of the process is figuring out who you are and what you are so that you could do that consistently and be at your best. That’s something that is going on around here … people are hearing it because we’re trying to help our guys be the best that they can possibly be, every single guy in the program. That approach is felt by these players, they can tell and they’re responding in a way of giving us the best they have to offer, and that’s all we can ask for. That’s basically what’s going on, and it’s been what’s been going on for a long time.”

Baldwin, who walks through life with “a boulder on my shoulder,” has thrived in an environment tailored to each individual player.

“I think the perception of football players and football coaches is that everything has to be structured in a sense that it has to be hard and difficult and there’s no fun — football is not supposed to be fun,” he said. “That’s just not the case. I think that the teams that are the most successful are the teams that have fun doing what they’re doing. It just goes against the grain of what the perception is of what football is supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be hard and rigorous and you fight for your wins. Here, we have a fun time practicing, we have a fun time in our meetings, and that ultimately leads to us having a fun time out there on the field game day — which I think contributes to our success.”

You’ll find just as many players who espouse and appreciate Harbaugh’s approach in San Francisco,  but there are two guys in Seattle who have been through the Harbaugh car wash … and they didn’t really find success until they graduated from it.

Different strokes for different folks? Not for these two Seahawks. For them, there’s only one way to the Super Bowl — through their old coach, and powered by their new one.

37 comments
leehwgoc
leehwgoc

Let's remind ourselves that Carroll's 'loose approach' has resulted in


1.) severe, program-torpedoing NCAA infractions at USC


and 


2.) the most PED suspensions in the league since Carroll took over in Seattle.

JohnFerguson
JohnFerguson

I'll bet that both Baldwin and Sherman learned a lot more about how to learn to play their positions from Harbaugh than they have from Carroll.  Pete Carroll's approach has upsides and downsides.  Manning might have trouble because they have such a flexible defensive structure that is difficult to anticipate.  If he does figure out their tendencies and gaps, he will tear them to pieces as they dissolve into a frustrated overly emotional mess.

noelseanify
noelseanify

Sherman transcends football. He is the epitome of why people watch football- excitement. As talented as someone like Peyton Manning is, I have long since grown bored of his vanilla post game interviews "we just played our game/ hats off to them for a hell of a game/ thanks to coach" blah blah blah. People like Sherman are why I watch football. The raw emotion, the unbridled passion- thats entertainment. And hell, he can back it up, right? I love it

ProfessorGriff
ProfessorGriff

good for Sherman - 5th round pick who clawed and fought his way to being one of the league's best players.  Hope the Seahawks win!

dwb_alpha
dwb_alpha

Both teams seem to take on the personality of their coaches.  Seattle is loose and having fun out there, just like Carroll, while the 49ers whine, throw a temper-tantrum, and blame the officials every time they don't make a play, just like Harbaugh.  He really was the perfect coaching hire for the forty-whiners.  I look forward to watching him whirl around, pout, and make a fool of himself on the sidelines for many years to come.

ElvisHitler
ElvisHitler

These guys are a couple of drug riddled clowns and carroll is the ring leader. Prob pays these losers in adderall and circus peanuts.

abmmartinez20
abmmartinez20

I think it is slightly unfair to compare Harbaugh at stanford (college) to what they have experienced in Seattle under Pete. It is unfair to compare the level of freedom given by any coaches in the NFL versus College.  There is probably reasons that A college coach would micro manage a little more, or not necessarily give players as much freedom.  However, it does make sense that the approach that Carroll has now is the same he had in USC since he still claims he had no idea about all the NCAA rule violations that occurred under his watch. The loose approach worked well there all the way up until they got caught and Pete left.   In the end people are different and all coaches do things differently, this is just how things work.

Realist
Realist

A lot of different personalities and different ways to help them succeed. But after back-to-back 11-1 seasons at San Diego, building Stanford from a doormat to a national power, and taking the 49ers to three straight NFC championship games ... I would say Mr. Harbaugh's methods work for a vast majority of his players. 


KristianColasacco
KristianColasacco

"but there are two guys in Seattle who have been through the Harbaugh car wash … and they didn’t really find success until they graduated from it". 

What?  This sounds like it's a sentence from Mad Libs.  Who graduates from a car wash?

JizzMasterZero
JizzMasterZero

Master physiologist?  I assume you meant psychologist, because I have never heard of a coach being compared to a physiologist.  

MattMotherway
MattMotherway

I can't stand this crybaby attitude towards Harbaugh. I'm starting to believe it's strategic just to get under his skin. Does anyone really believe Stanford would have done better if Sherman was allowed to run his own agenda???

I played under Willingham, who ran a very tight ship and we had no where near the same success, so perhaps Harbaugh has the right balance. It's just that you can't please everyone, especially not these primadonnas.

MS_CommonSense
MS_CommonSense

First let me say that I think Harbaugh is loud and obnoxious. I'm certainly no fan of his. However, Farrar is way off with the title and tone of the article. "Baldwin and Sherman Survive Harbaugh..." Do they really expect us to have sympathy because they had a football coach who was intense and loud??? I'm guessing that anybody who played organized football from PeeWee and up had a coach like that. Who knows...we're it not for Harbaugh's style, they may not be the players they are today who can perform under the "relaxed" atmosphere of Carroll.

DennyCrane
DennyCrane

neither player made a huge impact under Harbaugh

============================================

It took Pete whispering "PED" in their earsto make the change.

rollwithit
rollwithit

@leehwgoc PEDs are the player's decision.  Does your boss tell you what to eat and how to eat and what to take?  Are you saying Carroll promotes this and instructs players to do so in order to lose money in their future contracts?  Don't you think they would tell the NFLPA that their coach made them do that?  PEDs in Seattle most likely come from the "competition" that he puts every player through to make the team--high stakes contracts and limited jobs, make players do anything they can to make the team.


NCAA infractions...uh yeah we know every team does this.  Read "The System" if you need to get a better understanding.  Calling out a player or coach on infractions as some cheater is like calling every speeder on the highway that gets caught a 'potential murderer" and all the rest of us that don't get caught "angels of the highway".  The NCAA system is rife with cheating because the NCAA system is an illegal monopoly of indentured servants and the lawsuits have already proven that.  So long EA video game NCAA 2014, 2015, 2016...it's dead because of 'the system" of using people and not paying them.

Dean9
Dean9

@JohnFerguson Manning 5 years ago maybe but Manning with the duck floater arm...I am just not seeing it.  Denver played the weakest schedule in the NFL this year.  Denver's best wins were there last 2 which were against teams they lost to in the regular season.

Craig9
Craig9

@abmmartinez20 "all the NCAA rule violations that occurred under his watch" included one guy's parents getting free stuff from an old high school buddy/wanna be agent.

Look it up.

Chris8
Chris8

@MattMotherway I wouldn't call it a crybaby attitude.  I actually worked for two people who had similar differences to these two.  One was more of a mirco-managing control freak, the other much more relaxed.

I couldn't stand working for the micro-manager because it wasn't enough that you had to get something done, but you had to get it done a specific way.  That really irks on people.  The more laid back manager would tell us what needed to be done, and when it needed to be done by, but he left it up to us as to how to best get from A to B.  

It made for a much nicer working environment.

Harbaugh has had a lot of success, sure; but the way he conducts himself leaves much to be desired.  If the 49ers hit a rough season or two (which can happen to the best of teams) that way of doing things could do a lot more damage than good.

I don't think giving players a problem (i.e. How to stop the other teams run game) and giving them some leeway to come up with their own solutions makes them primadonnas.

dkp
dkp

@MS_CommonSense Stanford probably spent close to 300 k giving Sherman an education which he never wd have had if Stanford hadn't tried to "rescue" him (the university *loves* to rescue the underpriveglded. AS A Stanford employee, I am ashamed Sherman is in anyway,  shape, or form w Stanford. He is a disgrace to such a good university.

MyDogWally
MyDogWally

@MS_CommonSense I'm confused.  First you attack the title and tone of the article, then you attack the two players who were misrepresented by the title and tone.  Baldwin and Sherman had nothing bad to say about Harbaugh.  It's obvious they respect him and his successes.  They just prefer playing for Carroll.  Nothing surprising or inflammatory about that.

MS_CommonSense
MS_CommonSense

Wow! Seattle fans are defensive. I don't think he was referring to Baldwin, a marginal NFL WR, but more so Sherman.

I wish Seattle would own their mistakes, acknowledge that PEDs have been a problem and move on. Stop deflecting and hiding from it.

Max Brenner
Max Brenner

@DennyCrane Are you seriously trying to make PED accusations of a guy like Baldwin, who has never been remotely linked to them in any manner?  Yeah, let's draw broad strokes here.


The article was about how different approaches work for different players.  Not exactly earth shattering stuff here.


Stay classy SF.

Realist
Realist

@VinceVuH.Nguyen @leehwgoc If you don't think there's a correlation between the inmates-running-the-asylum attitude that resulted in crippling penalties at USC and the inmates-running-the-asylum attitude that has resulted in multiple Seahawk suspensions ... well, you're blind.


Realist
Realist

@Craig9 @abmmartinez20 "Under his watch" includes 4 years of crippling penalties for USC. Of course, he doesn't have to worry about that, since he skipped town one step ahead of the posse. 

brian.adams
brian.adams

@Chris8 @MattMotherway Chris, to be fair all his (Harbaugh) players appear to love him. He's always taking twitter shots with fans in public, and seems really intense, but fun, and easy going at every turn. 


He may be intense, be I don't think there's anything to suggest he's a crazy micro-manager of OCD magnitude as you alluded to with your comparison.



ecp_unix
ecp_unix

@dkp@MS_CommonSenseRescued?!!!! Don't get it twisted my friend, Stanford gave Richard Sherman that education because they felt that he would help them win football games. Richard Sherman earned that education!!! I'm getting tired of you misinformed people that feel that a university that makes millions of dollars off of a bunch of kids, is doing the kids a favor!!!! Good night Gracie

MS_CommonSense
MS_CommonSense

Did we read the same article???

"Harbaugh’s personal style rubbed both players the wrong way — both Sherman and Baldwin felt like odd fits, and Baldwin actually thought about quitting the game altogether in his junior year before his mom told him to stick it out."

They had nothing bad to say??? Both have "been through the Harbaugh car wash..."

What are you so confused about???

MyDogWally
MyDogWally

@MS_CommonSense  You say you wish Seattle would own their mistakes.  Are you referring to the team or to its fans?


If you mean the fans, I wouldn't look to an internet blog for teary confessions.  Still, I'm a Seahawks fan who's repulsed and discouraged by those players who chose to cheat.  But, at the same time, they got their punishment.  Can we move on now or should we keep talking about DennyCrane's self-professed ability to read people's minds.


MS_CommonSense
MS_CommonSense

As a NYG fan I don't have a dog in this fight. However, you can't deny that PEDs have been a consistent issue on Seattle. I don think pointing out a fact like that makes @DennyCrane a "whiner". I understand there are differences in defensive schemes that could explain this, but it does seem odd that Sherman went from draft afterthought to the most dominating DB in the league.

PacificNWMark
PacificNWMark

@MS_CommonSenseyou do realize that both of the passages you cited were written by the article's author, and are not attributed in any way to Sherman or Baldwin?

VinceVuH.Nguyen
VinceVuH.Nguyen

@MyDogWally@MS_CommonSenseDo you know what the differences in PED's? It's adderall which is LEGAL if you have a prescription and NOT if you don't. Really a dumb thing because they prescribe it to people with ADD and ADHD. So get off your high horse about PED's. It's not the same as Human Growth Hormone that most major league ball players use. But what's funny is the NFL doesn't test for Human Growth Hormone. Make you wonder?

MyDogWally
MyDogWally

@MS_CommonSense What makes him a whiner is the suggestion that Pete Carroll had anything to do with the PEDs.  These are grown men, highly paid and in what is possibly the world's most competitive careers.  That some of them choose to cheat, and use their free time away from the team to make that happen, has nothing to do with the coach.  No NFL coach can control what his players do off the field.


Until DennyCrane proves he has a Palantir, he's just gossip mongering, like so many internet trolls who know nothing and hide behind their keyboards.