Posted January 22, 2014

Seattle Seahawks are bold and brash — and Pete Carroll wouldn’t have it any other way

NFC West, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl XLVIII
Pete Carroll believes that there's a method to Seattle's madness

Pete Carroll believes that there’s a method to Seattle’s madness. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

“A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of a sheep.” – Richard Sherman

RENTON, Wash. — I am not here to praise or to bury Richard Sherman, but to hopefully explain him. And in explaining him, to perhaps explain a Seattle Seahawks team I’ve covered since Pete Carroll was hired as the team’s head coach in February 2010.

When I first met Sherman, he was a backup cornerback trying to find his way onto a rebuilt defense as a fifth-round draft pick in 2011. He was not particularly talkative, but what was obvious was that Sherman wanted this very, very badly. In his first minicamps, Sherman stuck to his receivers like glue and made several impact hits — he was not expected to make much of a fuss, but he did so early on, and he became the NFL’s best cover cornerback in a fairly short time. In 2013, according to Pro Football Focus’ game-charting metrics, Sherman was targeted 58 times on 549 defensive snaps, a league-low, among qualifying cornerbacks, 10.56 percent. And he still led the NFL with eight interceptions.

Sherman made the deciding play in Seattle’s 23-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship, when he tipped a Colin Kaepernick pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the end zone with 30 seconds left in the game. Linebacker Malcolm Smith came down with the tip-drill pick, but Sherman had set it up. It was a triumph for the NFL’s best defense, and a moment of joy for a roster so young — not one player on Seattle’s roster has any Super Bowl experience.

MORE COVERAGE: Sherman: Why I called out Crabtree | Tale of tape in Peyton vs. Russell

And then, all sorts of hell broke loose. In a postgame interview with FOX Sports’ Erin Andrews, Sherman went off on Crabtree, insisting that “I’M THE BEST CORNER IN THE GAME! WHEN YOU TRY ME WITH A SORRY RECEIVER LIKE CRABTREE, THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE GONNA GET! DON’T YOU EVER TALK ABOUT ME! DON’T YOU OPEN YOUR MOUTH ABOUT THE BEST! OR I’M GONNA SHUT IT FOR YOU REAL QUICK!!! LOB!!!”

(That’s “Legion of Boom,” the nickname for Seattle’s secondary, for the uninitiated.)

Reaction was swift, of course, Sherman’s postgame meltdown became a referendum on everything from sportsmanship to race relations in America to “Eww, icky! Those football thugs are disgusting!” At his postgame press conference, Sherman referred to Crabtree more than once as “mediocre,” even slowing the pronunciation down in case any of us in the room didn’t catch it.

Later, in a one-on-one with Steve Wyche of the NFL Network, Sherman was more composed and introspective as the next step of his season washed over him.

“It’s such a blessing,” Sherman said after all the furor died down. “It’s such an unbelievable opportunity for a bunch of nobodies. A bunch of guys who … fifth-rounders, sixth-rounders, undrafted. Guys who have come together like a family and played for one another. It’s a fairytale story that you really couldn’t write any better.”

On Monday, Sherman sent a text to ESPN’s Ed Werder saying that “I apologize for attacking an individual and taking the attention away from the fantastic game by my teammates …That was not my intent.”

In the end, I think it’s the unwanted angle that drives Sherman the hardest, and sometimes against his better judgment. Yes, he has a beef with Crabtree that goes back a ways, but what happened last Sunday was less cause than effect. Sherman always has in mind the names of the 23 cornerbacks taken before him in the 2011 draft. Those 23 names — a list that includes world-beaters such as Ras-I Dowling and Chimdi Chekwa — are lashes on Sherman’s soul. They make up a demon that screams to him how fragile this all is and how quickly it can all be taken away.

So, in the biggest moment of his short adult life, Sherman acted like a child. Perhaps there was no other way for him to act at that time.

For the record, Sherman wasn’t the only Seahawks player looking to settle scores after the win. Receiver Doug Baldwin, a teammate of Sherman’s at Stanford who went undrafted in 2011, put up 215 total yards against the 49ers, but he didn’t want to talk about that. The man called “Angry Doug” by his own teammates, the man who walks through life with a “boulder on my shoulder” in his own words, had heard ESPN’s analysts call Seattle’s receiver corps “pedestrian” and “appetizers,” and that was his focus after the game.

“It irritates the hell out of me when you have guys that constantly want to talk about our receiving corps about how we’re average, we’re pedestrian,” he said.

“Well, we’re going to walk our asses to the Super Bowl as pedestrians.”

Quarterback Russell Wilson was more graceful, but no less resolute about his motivation — he remembers full well the “too-short” designation that dropped him to the 75th overall pick in the 2012 draft.

“To be honest with you, the thing that I thought about the last snap was … man, I could have been playing baseball right now,” said the former infielder who was taken by the Colorado Rockies in the most recent MLB Rule 5 Draft. “The other thing I thought about is just all the people that told me I couldn’t do it and told me that I couldn’t get there.  It’s one of those things that you just believe in yourself, you believe in what God has given you.”

Carroll is the sheriff in charge of herding all these angry cats, and when I asked him Monday about his team’s psychological makeup, he said there’s definitely something to the idea that you can get outsized results from outsized personalities — if you know how to manage the inherent risk involved.

“It’s the competitiveness this team has, and I think we’ve really chosen guys who feel that they have something to prove,” he told me. “[General Manager] John [Schneider] feels like that, I feel like that, and we all feel like that. It’s a chip on the shoulder kind of mentality around here, and it’s something I recognized the second year. We had a bunch of guys who kind of understood what that meant, and we’ve just kind of built on that. I think we’re a very, very competitive group — we understand the value of that and where we want to go. It’s a powerful feeling we have.”

But what happens when that “powerful feeling” gets out of hand? Carroll always talks about protecting the team, but from the various PED incidents to the ancillary public outbursts, it seems that the herding doesn’t always go so well.

“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.

108 comments
JohnMoscript
JohnMoscript

The first flag for pass interference againist the Seahawks. Pete Carroll will go ballistic rage.....So

if he gets his way it will determine the outcome of the game.

JohnMoscript
JohnMoscript

Well the question is : Will the ref's keep there yellow flags in their pockets or make the right call?

x72
x72

Team full of drug riddled thugs

DavidHarte
DavidHarte

The Seahawks have always been an average team outside Seattle: their receivers are mediocre (Harvin is  now a type of crystal, apparently), their defensive line can't stop the run away from home and that ridiculous noise, they have one cornerback.


Denver is also mediocre at this point because of all their injuries on defense.  Yet if Peyton Manning can put 30 on this team, we'll realize the home field advantage Seattle had.


The fact that the Seahawks may benefit from the laughable decision (re: greed) to play in New York in winter shows us what a third-rate league the NFL too often is: part-time officials (aging fatties running around lost), too many games, many spaced too close together…and now an Ice Bowl Super Bowl.


Fine work, Roger. 


What a hack.  (Though they'll put a statue up in Seattle if the weather's so bad Denver can't throw…just what we all wanted to see for the championship.)

Mike26
Mike26

Everyone in America is jumping to too many conclusions about Sherman and the Seahawks.  We need to see what JoeCabot says about this mess and follow his lead.

Patokev
Patokev

 "Behind the scenes, the Seahawks are an open wound, looking to inflict pain on all those who have overlooked them."  What a strange way to close an otherwise good article.

michaelshewey
michaelshewey

Seahawks fan, here. Some of our naysayers are just pathetic---squealing, defecating, infantile little children throwing fits of rage, crying alone in empty daycare pens with nobody to console them or change their diapers. Their team loses and ours wins so now they have to tear down the play center.

Personally I can understand some of the negative sentiment toward Sherman--were he a 49er I would probably resent him, but as an individual I actually give him kudos for his raw, undistilled passion and emotion in the midst of a society that prefers false sentiment, fake smiles, manufactured soundbytes, disingenuousness and insincerity. Another example of our superficial obsession with style over content. For that matter, since race has been injected into this discussion, this sort of homogeny is very much a "white" thing-- white yuppy corporate mantra of "keeping it light", keeping it marketable, polished, intellect trumping heart, etc.

But, yeah, keep shrieking, swine. Sherman just made himself a household name and very marketable brand; notoriety pays. The longer this fire rages, the more of a cultural icon he becomes, and the more money he will reap. He is now the Dennis Rodman of the NFL, and, like Rodman, what a huge asset to the teams that he suits up for. This is a higly intelligent fellow, and I would surmise that he is a lot more enlightened than his bellicose chorus of double digit IQ naysayers. Glass houses, all.

JPG
JPG

You can trash the Seahawks, Pete Carroll, Richard Sherman, the 12th Man, the city of Seattle, the Great Northwest but you can't beat us.

You can post your hate, envy, bitterness, animosity against the same but you can't beat us.

You scream, whine, beg and complain about everything Seahawks and everything Seahawks but you can't beat us.

You lose.

End of story.

WHO*IS*ESPN
WHO*IS*ESPN

Nothing wrong with bold & brash. It's the ghetto trash arrogance he and the players display that makes them neegers

RSHorvath
RSHorvath

Carrol has a history of putting together programs that cheats He left USC in ruins. He then joins the Seahawks and 4 players get busted for addarell.

MoBarclay
MoBarclay

Honestly move on.  If you ask any fan or person without the media spin, they'll say that's one of the best games I've ever seen.  The Peyton/Brady bowl was boring.  Felt like a regular Sunday game.  I couldn't even watch it.  So tired of this story too.  Get over it.  So every sport site and especially ESPN can be thankful for this all, including a great new rivalry that was all about football and not about talking heads and gibberish.  I like the Niners/Hawks battling.   It's cool.  If this was Dallas/Redskins and say the Redskins had Sherman, you'd all love it.  You just hate that we have the Best D.  Analysts can barely admit on air, but they know it.  They just say it's stats.  No.  They're the best.  One of the Best D's to ever take the field.   How about the fact we're playing our old AFC west rival in Denver?  Remember that too?  John Elway keeping us out of the playoffs every year?   Honestly don't understand why the media and writers don't take a different angle with these stories.  This is boring.  Find something else to talk about for once.  Just one time.  It would be nice.  Just a bunch of lemmings walking off a media cliff just because they're not original.  #GoHawks

JedGray
JedGray

Here is question no one is asking. If what Sherman did was so outrageous and terrible why is the media and everyone else involved so intent on latching on to this story and milking it for all it's worth? Wouldn't it show a little more "class" to steer the conversation to other members of the team, or even the game as a whole? Or how about the fact the 49ers played their asses off, to the point of loosing two amazing players to horrific injuries, injuries incurred from playing amazing, old school, smash mouth football. They left everything they had on the filed, almost pulled off the win, and I respect them for that. Anyone write an article about that in the last two days? These are all much better story lines with a lot more "class".

 As a life long Hawks fan I will say yes, the team and the fans are fired up and a little outspoken this year. Deservedly so. Did you watch this team this year and what they did? A few outbursts and a little trash talking is nothing compared to amount of crap that has been thrown our way since 1976. We've had to endure every troll on the internet all over our sites and message boards for weeks now. The same people calling Sherman classless and a "thug" are the same that have been spewing the most obnoxious, self righteous crap over every message thread they can get their hands on all season. Now you've all got your two minute sound bite to latch on and over react to. Enjoy it. We'll hear it for years, I'm sure, even as every team in the league is having players get arrested for everything for DUI to murder.


I guess what I'm saying is your judgement and condescension is not new. It's always been there, and it always will be. It's not going to change my love for my team or the game. It provided this team the drive to get to the Super Bowl and solidified a fan base that is finally growing outside of the PNW. Thank you for that. GO HAWKS!!!!!

ChadCollins
ChadCollins

I cant stand Seattle but in a way I hope they win this game.  They were CLEARLY ripped off in their last SB appearance.  I cant imagine how boiling mad their fans must be.  They kind of deserve to win one

DavidHarte
DavidHarte

Sherman is laughable--you'd think he was 320 with the bs he spouts.


But the real joke here is Carroll: Pete ran a dirty program at SC and got busted, slunk off to the NFL and has more players busted for illegal drug use than anyone (including our boy Richard, who got off on a technicality his fellow CB somehow missed!).


Such class acts.  Here's hoping Peyton Manning & Co. hang 50 on the punks.


Then they can all go home to a heroes welcome in the House of Mold.

dennis139
dennis139

You can justify his reasons all you want.Seattle (both players & fans) need to learn how to be winners & losers. I live here in Washington State, and all I’ve heard prior to that game is bad and disrespectful the comments towards Kaepernick by the 12th man, and even on local radio stations.What a bunch of hypocrites!

The Superbowl is going to be the Peyton show, and if he wins…no one outside of the Northwest is going to lose sleep over the Seahawks and if the Seahawks win and start bragging…no one will listen.Seattle wants the national audience and it’s just not there.

I am so sick and tired of the 12th man wanting their cake and ice cream…

RobertCassis
RobertCassis

@DavidHarte This is the most uninformed opinion I have ever seen.  Did you even watch any of their games this year?


It's amazing how the mediocre teams made it to the Superbowl while all the truly great ones are at home...

rainman90
rainman90

@DavidHarte You realize that the Seahawks had the best road record in the NFL this year, right?

Frotoon
Frotoon

I just came down here to express that same thought, but you beat me to it. Yes, that metaphor was a klunker.

Mike26
Mike26

@michaelshewey Are you 13?  Seattle as an organization has earned the disdain that others feel - and display - for it.  Drugs, arrogance, lack of character and dearth of true leadership will be its downfall.

WHO*IS*ESPN
WHO*IS*ESPN

@michaelshewey 2 Good years and seattle thinks it is a dynasty.  But ghetto trash players coaches and fans are the reason no one like them. Nothing to do with "brash" but arrogant pricks.   Throwing popcorn at a guy on a stretcher confirms how much of a classless town you have

AlexExley
AlexExley

@michaelshewey   Your post sounded somewhat similar to "squealing, defecating, infantile little children throwing fits of rage."

cbcatanz
cbcatanz

What happens if Denver scores more points then the Seahawks?

PGH
PGH

@JPG Remember Super Bowl XL...your ONE appearance?. I recall your last trip to the big dance ending in unhappy disaster.  There were some pretty bummed out hipsters in the stands that day.  The 12th man was UPSET! 


 

riley8
riley8

@JPG Winning football games is obviously all you have in your life.  Enjoy the SB defeat.

Mech
Mech

@RSHorvath WHAT !!! As if USC or Pete Carrol had any control over Bush accepting things from his agent. And as far as drugs Seattle has no more then any other Pro football ream,,, adderal is not a Performance enhancing drug PED.  The misinformation spred by liars like yourself is egregious. Todd McNair has a lawsuit against the NCAA for these very sanctions and will likely win against the NCAA and until then the record is sealed, after unsealing the record Pete's history will be clean,,, and you sir will look like the moron you are.

John Schneck
John Schneck

@RSHorvath 

Wow,  did you Google all this, or did you research it in school for your masters?

AlexExley
AlexExley

@JedGray   "If what Sherman did was so outrageous and terrible why is the media and everyone else involved so intent on latching on to this story and milking it for all it's worth?"


Are you new to this thing they call the media?

greenknight.jf
greenknight.jf

An agent got Reggie Bush a job, Brandon Browner smoked a joint, and Richard Sherman may or may not have taken A.D.D. medication. 

Thug Life....

Seahawks focus on detail. 

 @DavidHarte

TylerGodefroy
TylerGodefroy

@DavidHarte  all you have to do is look at the stats (read the article) to see they are no joke on the field.

Playhouse
Playhouse

@dennis139Wow. Sports fans wanting their team to succeed. We're just all sorts of crazy up here in the PNW, aren't we?

justsaying..
justsaying..

@dennis139 Took me about two sentences to realize you haven't liver here long. You're a bay area transplant, came to the northwest and have done everything in your power to turn it into Frisco. Leave

Playhouse
Playhouse

@RobertCassis@DavidHarte This is thing. There are so many who haven't actually watched the Seahawks who just offer their opinion based on misconceptions and biases. Let them keep thinking they know and understand the team. The Hawks can win the Super Bowl with that.

Toreby
Toreby

@WHO*IS*ESPN@michaelsheweySomeone leaned over to see what was happening and 5 popcorn fell on him. OH MY GOD IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD! At least nobody was stabbed to death outside the stadium after the game...

MichaelDuerre
MichaelDuerre

@WHO*IS*ESPN@michaelsheweySince Seattle joined the NFC West in 2002, the Seahawks have won the division 6 times, have been to the playoffs 8 times, have 8 total playoff victories, and have appeared in 2 Super Bowls.  

YOU are the only one here accusing Seattle of thinking it's a dynasty.  No one from the Seattle organization has said that and I haven't seen any of the fans on this comment section say that.  But, like it or not, they have had more success than any other team in the division since joining.  So, keep on hating and making stereotyping accusations against the Seattle players and their fans.  We just don't care! :-)

Playhouse
Playhouse

@PGH@JPGSports fans aren't supposed to be upset if their team loses in the Super Bowl? Wow. Please enlighten us as to how that's supposed to be done.

And what does that appearance have to do with this season, this team, and this game coming up? Not a single thing. But I'd love to hear your math to somehow make that work.  Something along the same lines of the Niners fans expecting that they would've won the Super Bowl last year and gone to the dance this year on the strength of the five rings the franchise had won before over its nearly 70-year history. How exactly did that work out in the end, in either case?

Let's all deal with this year, and the fact the the #1 offense and the #1 defense, the two teams jockeying for best record in the league throughout the season, have made it to the final showdown. Something that's actually relevant to the game.

Mike26
Mike26

@Mech @RSHorvath Shirley you can't be serious!  You believe what you want to believe, others will believe the truth.

scoutxx
scoutxx

@justsaying.. @riley8 @JPG HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!  Yeah, the greatest offense in the entire history of the NFL is a paper tiger. 


You should probably stop talking now. You're embarrassing yourself.