Seattle Seahawks are bold and brash — and Pete Carroll wouldn’t have it any other way
“Richard had a chance to … he got his thoughts out today a couple different times about what he felt about it [the postgame outburst]. We did talk about it, and he was really clear that the last thing he wanted to do was to take something away from our team and what we had accomplished. He got caught in the throes of the fight, right off the bat, and there’s a little bit of leeway there. Particularly for the guys who play on such an edge emotionally, like Richard does. This is a very emotional kid, and this is what drives him. And I understand that. We did sit down and talk about it, because I wanted him to present himself in his best light. He’s an incredible kid — he’s got a great sense about things, an understanding and sensitivity. He cares, and he’s a very thoughtful person. So when he puts out those kinds of thoughts, he has to know what he’s saying, and I think he’s very understanding at this point. He caused a stir that took something away from the team.”
When Carroll took this team over, there was a serious dearth of long-term talent. He and Schneider made more than 300 player transactions in their first year, and only four players from the pre-Carroll era remain on the Super Bowl team. If you want to find this level of success in a short time, you have to think outside the box. Hell, you may have to build a new box from scratch. And that’s what the team’s braintrust did — understanding implicitly that they would be able to find bargains in players discarded or unwanted by other teams because their square-peg personalities just didn’t fit.
“I think I’m competitive,” he said of this alleged “Moneyball” approach. “I don’t know if it’s open-minded. I want to help our team be great and play great football and do this game the way we’re supposed to do it. I don’t want to miss out on somebody because they’re not like me. I’m OK with that. I’m just trying to figure out where they fit in — if they can help us, they can help us. I look at it more competitively than open-minded.”
Carroll talks about his players as sons. He identifies with their knuckle-scraping desire to get to the top, because he shares it. Carroll is not too far removed from his own failures with the New York Jets and New England Patriots in the 1990s, or the scandals that ended his hyper-successful decade at USC, and that gives him an edge when it comes to finding players who, as Ray Lewis so eloquently put it, are pissed-off for greatness.
“Our approach is to help our guys be the best they can possibly be. That’s our overriding philosophy — to figure out how we can help our guys perform at their very best. With that thought in mind, some guys have personalities that would fit in some places, and they might not fit in others. In our situation, we’re pretty open to being flexible to the uniqueness guys bring to our program. Not just physically, but also in their makeup. So, maybe that’s why you’re asking — I’ve got no problem with guys who have personalities, who are outgoing. I don’t have any problem with guys who are quiet.
“What is the end result of what they bring? We’re going to figure out how to communicate with them, to try to help them grow and be their full, complete selves. There’s a lot to that. We care, and that makes a big difference to us. Our guys know that. When they say that we let them be themselves … I told them this weekend. We don’t let them be themselves; we celebrate them being themselves. And we cheerlead for them to be themselves. And we try to bring out the very best they have to offer. Sometimes, we go overboard. Sometimes, the individuals get out of bounds — and then you’ve got to step back and get back in bounds. I understand that, but that’s how we operate.”
The hidden factor, of course, is what happens when a coach gets in a room with a prospect and has to determine whether that chip on the shoulder is a positive or a negative. Carroll has had enough time to think about it, and has made enough moves to refine his vetting process.
“It’s about grit to me, it’s really grit. That’s what we’re looking for in guys, and that’s that competitiveness, that mentality of ‘There’s no obstacle too big.’ They never give in to the thought that they can’t win. Tremendous resiliency, have to be successful, that makeup that drives them, that’s really what we’re looking for. I use the ‘chip’ word because the guys that have a chip on their shoulder are made up that way. I think grit is a better word. I’ve come to believe that grit is the key factor in deciding success and overcoming shortcomings and abilities and stuff like that. The guys that have the grit, they’re the ones that you’re looking for.”
True grit? It’s a solid enough headline. Behind the scenes, the Seahawks are an open wound, looking to inflict pain on all those who have overlooked them. And now, they have a Super Bowl in sight where all family business can be settled.
For better or worse, Pete Carroll would have it no other way.