warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Will Pete Carroll Repeat? How The Coach Is Shaking Things Up

Scott Enyeart |
August 7, 2011 | 11:02 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Carroll is hoping to lead Seattle to its second-straight NFC West title.
Carroll is hoping to lead Seattle to its second-straight NFC West title.
Pete Carroll has never done things in ways most would consider orthodox.

The second-year coach of the Seattle Seahawks is proving that once again this offseason.

Armed with his mantra, "Always Compete," Carroll is building and reshaping the identity of the franchise one player at a time.

Can’t make trades or sign free agents because of a four-month NFL lockout? 

No problem for Carroll and General Manager John Schneider. They had a plan, and hit the ground running when the lockout lifted.

To the surprise of many, the Seahawks notably parted ways with longtime quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and defensive staple Lofa Tatupu (who played for Carroll at USC) as a part of the roster overhaul. 

In their stead the team brought in big name free agents such as WR Sidney Rice and QB Tarvaris Jackson from Minnesota, and TE Zach Miller and OL Robert Gallery from Oakland.

The genesis of the roster moves the Seahawks have made stems directly from Carroll competing in every phase of the game.

He is competing against conventional wisdom.

But for a coach who stresses the importance of competition throughout every aspect of his team (including for starting positions on a daily basis), is bringing in big name players for big time money good for the culture of competition he has created? Will those “stars” really be required to compete?

Absolutely.

Carroll proved when he decided to not re-sign Hasselbeck and to release Tatupu that past accomplishments held no weight in the new regime. 

He sent the message that if you can’t get the job done, it’s time to move on. Or as he would prefer to say, “You’re either competing or you’re not.”

Miller, a Pro Bowl player in Oakland, will immediately be a factor in the Seahawks’ offensive plans. His presence will help the play of those around him to elevate, namely fellow TE John Carlson. 

It’s a “survival of the fittest” mentality on a Carroll coached team. That is the essence of competing under Carroll. Carlson may not be the better player of the two, but he will be forced to push himself to compete with Miller, and ideally, become a better player because of it. Miller benefits from this culture too. When his teammates get better, it forces him to step up and maximize his potential daily. It’s the concept of ironing sharpening iron carried out on the gridiron.

The competition Pete Carroll wants to cultivate isn’t just for spots on the depth chart, it’s between his offensive and defensive units as well. 

Competition themed practices and first units taking on one another (which is uncommon in the NFL) are among the ways Carroll’s Seahawks carry out competition as more than just a catch phrase.

Carroll wasted little time naming the underwhelming Jackson his starting QB over Charlie Whitehusrt, and for some, this was a sign that all the talk of competing was fraudulent. 

That couldn’t be further from the truth. 

In fact, it was the most competitive move Carroll could make. 

Once again the lockout rears its ugly head. No mini-camps, no OTA’s. No problem. Carroll decides to bring in a player who spent the last four years in Minnesota running the offense under Darrell Bevell--the same one Bevell will now install as the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator. To up the ante Rice, another Viking, was also signed by Seattle, bringing with him more familiarity with the offense, and chemistry with Jackson.

It looks like the ultimate competitive play by Carroll from a number of angles. 

It’s likely Carroll knew what he has (or doesn’t have) in Whitehurst and saw the need to cut his losses while he was still ahead. Or, he knew Whitehurst wouldn’t thrive if he was just handed the starting position, so he brought in a guy who is experienced as a starter in the NFL, forcing Whitehurst to sink or swim. A competitor knows when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. 

Whichever is the case here, one thing is for sure; Carroll has a plan.

Defensively, in addition to the release of Tatupu, the Seahawks re-signed DT Brandon Mebane, brought back Leroy Hill, parted ways with Lawyer Milloy and added a handful of players along the defensive line. 

Bringing back Mebane was a known priority this offseason, but a few of the other moves have left some fans scratching their heads. 

Why not bring in a shutdown corner? Why not sign a Pro-Bowl pass rusher like Osi Umenyiora?

But if we’ve learned anything about Carroll from his short time in Seattle, and in the years he spent at USC, we know that the predictable move is never the one he will make. And it’s worked for him tremendously.

It’s like clockwork. 

He identifies and brings in what he views as the best possible talent to accomplish his end game of “winning forever.” 

Guys that may not be a “fit” in other places, castoffs with a chip on their shoulder and even guys with established resumés. Once he gets them, they are battled-hardened each day in his high-tempo, themed practices and then turned loose on opponents. 

If all goes according to plan, what they face on game day will pale in comparison to the week of competition they just experienced in practice.

Say what you will about the quality of teams in the NFC West, but Carroll inherited a Seahawks team that many picked to finish last in the division, made a flurry of transactions, and managed to not only win the divisional title, but also a playoff game against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. 

He is the first head coach since Steve Mariucci to jump from college to the NFL and win a division title in his first year. Aside from those two, that feat hasn’t been accomplished since the NFL/AFL merger.

Yet, some still remain skeptical. They revert to the same criticisms: “This isn’t the PAC-10, it’s the National Football League;" “He’s too much of a ‘player’s coach’;” and the ever popular “He’s too ‘rah rah’ for the NFL."

Keep doubting--it only feeds the competitor in him.

Pete Carroll is doing it his way. 

He isn’t letting outside influences dictate how he should do things. His philosophy and approach are well documented in his book Win Forever, and he is proving it works. 

Some would say Carroll travels to the beat of a different drum, but there’s no drummer here. It’s just Carroll being Carroll, doing things the only way he knows how - by always competing.

_________________________

Reach Scott by email, or follow him on Twitter.



 

Buzz

Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.