— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) April 4, 2014
I remember the day the Seahawks fired Jim Mora.
Seattle had just finished the 2009 season with a 5-11 record. Among the eleven defeats were several blow outs — including games that were over long before half time.
The Seahawks had no real identity. For all of Mora’s enthusiasm, his brand of football was non-specific. The key component to the offense was ‘balance’. Defensively it was just a bland 4-3 at a time when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens were dominating the AFC with aggressive and creative 3-4 schemes.
Players were going on radio shows mouthing off about the dynamic in the team. In Mora’s end of season press conference he refused to pinpoint any issues — simply repeating they’d assess everything.
When asked what positives he could build around — he name-checked the punter.
The Seahawks were irrelevant.
Forcing a new GM to inherit Mora as Head Coach felt like an exercise in futility. They had to break free, take the hit and find a fresh vision for this team.
On the 8th January 2010, “Jim Mora fired by the Seahawks” rolled across my Rotoworld timeline (in the days before Twitter, of course).
It was exciting because it showed mediocrity wasn’t acceptable to this franchise.
But not as exciting as the news that would break an hour or two later.
The Seahawks were going after Pete Carroll.
Forget the success at USC, the ‘big name’ hire and the end of the muddled Mora era (such as it was).
The best thing about Carroll was his strong vision. He knew what he wanted to do and how to implement his plan.
The Seahawks had direction again.
December 12th, 2010.
Debilitating. Hopeless. Gut wrenching.
A Seahawks team that had scratched its way to 6-6 were shredded by a 4-8 San Francisco outfit.
It was a game Fox Sports cared so little about, they were willing to experiment with a backing track during the broadcast. After every snap, a drum beat played over the announcers to try and force some excitement into what the rest of the country saw as a mediocre contest.
(Imagine if they tried that now for a Seahawks/49ers encounter?)
The game finished 40-21 to the Niners. The size of the task facing Pete Carroll was never more ominous.
A now 35-year-old Matt Hasselbeck threw four lousy interceptions and lost a fumble. Michael Robinson was Seattle’s most productive running back with 33 yards rushing.
Ruvell Martin was the teams leading receiver with 75 yards. Aaron Curry led the team in tackles.
The Seahawks didn’t force a single turnover in the game, with Alex Smith slicing and dicing his way to three touchdowns.
The score was 40-7 heading into the final quarter. A Leon Washington kick return and a late Deon Butler touchdown added some gloss to a miserable day.
Carroll had a turnover machine at quarterback, a festering stench of a running attack and an impotent defense.
It was a horror show — and the Seahawks were a million miles away from the Super Bowl.
The only building blocks they had were players drafted in Carroll and John Schneider’s first class. Russell Okung and Earl Thomas showed promise — while a young special teams stand-out called Kam Chancellor was creating a stir with his effort and application.
The new regime inherited a mess. I’m not sure non-Seahawks fans realise just how bad the situation was.
They were expansion-franchise ugly by the end of 2009. As Kenneth Arthur points out, Seattle were 29th for DVOA in 2009 and 30th in 2010.
In 2012 and 2013, they ranked #1 in DVOA.
If you’d have told me after that San Francisco game in 2010 that this team was three years away from getting to the Super Bowl — I wouldn’t have believed it. No way.
And that’s why Carroll’s work should be praised and celebrated among the greatest jobs ever by any coach, GM or owner.
— Pete Carroll (@PeteCarroll) April 4, 2014
It’s not just the way this team has been built, because a lot of the credit there must be shared with Schneider. No other team in the league has managed to discover the following within four drafts:
— A franchise quarterback in the third round
— A shutdown, elite corner in the 5th round
— The best strong safety in the NFL in the 5th round
— An elite running back and tone setter for a trade worth little more than a 4th rounder
They also crafted the deepest and classiest roster in the league, aided by multiple hits in the later rounds or undrafted free agency. How many other teams can win the Super Bowl when their two most explosive players (in Seattle’s case, Christine Michael and Percy Harvin) are sat on the bench or in the treatment room for most of the year?
Seattle really left no stone unturned in piecing this together. They rejected conventional wisdom. They did it their way.
It’s not just about acquiring talent and hitting on draft picks. It’s about developing talent. Carroll put together a staff who are adept at getting the best out of their young players.
While the rest of the league now scrambles to mimic the current World Champions — all will fail unless they re-create the systems in place to develop their talent. It’s not just about drafting tall, long athletes to play in the secondary. That’s the smallest part of the team building exercise.
The key is what you do with those players when they enter the building. And that’s where Carroll wins.
He is a fantastic coach. And while someone like Bill Belichick continues to receive most of the plaudits (and rightly so) — you also have to note the decline in New England’s defensive performance in recent years. Belichick, by nature, is a defensive coach.
I doubt you’ll ever see Carroll’s defensive backs or defense in general play lousy football. If there’s one guarantee you’ll get from this group, it’s fine secondary play. That’s Carroll’s forte.
It won’t matter if defensive coordinators move on, or other coaches. While ever Carroll is part of this franchise you should expect high standards on defense. It’s his project, he is pulling the strings.
Today’s announcement of a new contract isn’t necessarily a surprise, but it’s the best news anyone in Seattle could’ve asked for this off-season.
The Seahawks are fortunate to have Carroll. They’re fortunate to have the ‘Win Forever’ vision. And they’re fortunate that there’s going to be at least three more draft classes that benefit from his wisdom.
Why three years?
That was the question both Schneider and Carroll had to dodge in the press conference and then an appearance on Brock and Danny shortly after.
When news of an extension broke I think most people expected at least a five-year deal. Carroll’s a young 62 — and the Seahawks have an opportunity over the next decade to win multiple Championships.
Three years just seems a little… short.
I wouldn’t read too much into it though and I certainly wouldn’t fear it’ll be three and out by 2016.
— Sports Radio KJR (@SportsRadioKJR) April 4, 2014
This might just be an exercise in Carroll keeping his options open. He doesn’t need long term job security. And I doubt he has much interest in being tied down for the rest of his working life.
By the end of 2016 he might feel like he prefers another challenge in football. Or he might want to do something completely different.
Or he might just sign another three year extension. I don’t even think Carroll himself knows where his head will be in a few years time.
I’ve already seen people speculating on Twitter about what will or won’t happen. Why even have that debate? Pete Carroll will be the Seahawks coach for at least another three years — maybe longer.
Even when he leaves — almost certainly to return to L.A. or Southern Cal in some capacity or another — it doesn’t mean Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman also automatically move on.
Today is a day for celebration. Big Balls Pete is staying put. That’s all that matters.
Carroll isn’t just a Super Bowl winning coach. He’s an inspirational public speaker with a message that goes far beyond a football locker room.
A lot of what he teaches his players can be installed into everyday life. I suspect that’ll be his next challenge and project — installing Win Forever into a broader non-sporting universe, further growing projects like ‘A Better L.A.’ and inspiring a new generation of young people to achieve their potential.
He recently returned to USC to conduct a seminar at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. There’s a few Seahawks-nuggets in this session, but more than anything it’s a great insight into Win Forever and how it can be used in a non-football environment.
I’d recommend watching all two hours if you have the time.