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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?


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.


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Anonymous (not verified) on August 12, 2011 10:21 AM

A more accurate description on Hasselback/Tatupu would be that PC/JS anticipated/observed a decline this year and were prepared to include them at a compensation that would free up money to compete in the free agent market in other areas. They each declined the lower salary and chose instead to be released.

Also, this leadership regime has shown an aggressiveness towards keeping a young athletic group of players, so even though the amount right now constitutes an overhaul, it signals that there will be no sacred cows. When players start to decline, they can accept less and move to a backup or platoon situation or they can be released. There has been no evidence that even if the Seahawks had won the SuperBowl last year, they would not have done this with several players. This will be especially true with players with higher contracts from the old regime or old draft system, i.e. it is a warning shot for Trufant and Curry.

tjkenney15 (not verified) on August 9, 2011 9:10 AM

A strong coach filled with competition and a desire to constantly win is what we need more than a solid qb. Good leaders can turn the most mediocre people into a force to be reckoned with.

Trakar (not verified) on August 8, 2011 3:54 PM

So where was Pete's "always compete" when he named TJ starter before he ever threw a ball in a Seahawk's uniform? He should have been made to prove that he was a better QB than Whitehurst before he was named starter.

Josh (not verified) on August 9, 2011 12:24 PM

Can you read? It even says he brought him in because of his familiarity with the same coordinator he's worked with for 4 years. Carroll even said its temporary until Whitehurst gets more time with the playbook. This will help the TEAM reach a higher COMPETITIVE LEVEL more quickly. It makes sense to have a guy familiar with offense to help it get direction. Its not only for the quarterback position, but for the recievers, the runningbacks, the tight ends. Sounds like a smart move to me. just sayin.

Anonymous (not verified) on August 8, 2011 4:26 PM

I think that point is made pretty clear in the article isn't it? Also, with a lockout and no time to prepare the guy who knows the offense gets the nod. Carroll is on record saying the competition remains open, but Jaclson will start game 1. Is that that hard for people to realize?

rogerla20 (not verified) on August 8, 2011 1:56 PM

Good one Scott...Its cool to see you become a sportswriter maybe I will cacth you filling in for plashke on Around the Horn. I have one question, you say Jackson is a star free agent then call him underwhelming? There will be good competition between whitehurst and jackson but Hassleback would make the team more competitive. we will see, letting hasslebeck go is a definate end to the Holgrem era.

Scott (not verified) on August 8, 2011 2:37 PM

Roger , Jaclson was listed with the star free agents because he was a "big name" signing regardless of performance.

Hawk_Eye (not verified) on August 8, 2011 12:04 PM

Nice Article Scott! The only thing I would like to add is the reason Pete and John didn't sign Osi and other top name free agents is that they clearly stated that they only want to invest top dollars in Young Players. This makes sense since we are in a rebuilding process.

RolloTomasi (not verified) on August 8, 2011 8:02 PM

Matt Hasselbeck didn't exactly tear it up last year.....or the year before.....or the year before that.
7-9 mainly due to the improved D and ST
The Offence wasn't good last year, and Matt was as fragile as fine China.

pecrawley on August 8, 2011 10:31 AM

Respect your point but competing and winning are two very different things. I'd rather win with Matt Hasselbeck than compete (and likely miss the playoffs) with Tavaris Jackson.