SEATTLE – Now on sale at the Seattle Seahawks team store: khaki pants and rumpled navy hoodies, essentials from The Pete Carroll Collection.
Got to beat that old Pork Chop Womack replica jersey you used to wear on Sundays, right?
Does it ever. Beats it badly.
Just the way the San Francisco 49ers were beaten Sunday in the Seahawks’ 35th season opener, a turn of events few outside of the war room down at the team’s Renton headquarters saw coming. Despite playing the fashionable pick to win the NFC West – if there is such a thing as fashionable in that Village of the Damned – and running exactly four offensive plays the first quarter, the Seahawks rolled 31-6 and 67,044 at Qwest Field rocked.
If it wasn’t enough to make you completely buy into the Culture of Pete immediately, at least you had to acknowledge that, hey, maybe he has something here beyond the arm-pumping and Beverly Hills abrazo – though there was certainly plenty of that even late into the coach’s first game on the Seahawks sideline, as quarterback Matt Hasselbeck reported.
“Charlie (Whitehurst, his backup) and I were sitting there talking and (Carroll) was trying to get the crowd into it more,” Hasselbeck tattled. “Then he came over to us and asked us to get the crowd into it more.”
This is pretty rich. As he bailed from USC, the rap on Carroll was that his guys were virtual pros. Well, in Reggie Bush’s case, not virtual – was a pro. But Carroll’s NFL rap is that he’s too Joe College.
Maybe. But the man is really about business.
Or maybe you weren’t paying attention over the last couple of weeks when he made seven roster moves after the “final” roster cutdown to 53. Three recent moves were offensive linemen, including the all-important left tackle – Tyler Polumbus – to cover Hasselbeck’s blind side. So manic was the shuffle that Carroll initially couldn’t remember Polumbus’ first name last week.
“He said I can call him ‘Troy’ from now on,” Carroll cracked Sunday.
In all, 27 of the 53 players on the roster have arrived since Carroll began, uh, sharing authority with general manager John Schneider, the biggest aggregation of tired-and-poor this side of Lady Liberty. And that’s just the latest in churn that began last season with the sacking first of GM Tim Ruskell and then coach Jim Mora merely because Carroll was available. Just how serious the new regime was about change was revealed in eating receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh $6 million guarantee.
“This is what he built,” said strong safety Lawyer Milloy, who played for Carroll in the coach’s last, lamentable NFL experience in New England in 1999. “That’s what different about him this time from the last time. He has more control of the operation and he came back into the league with a clear vision of how to get this thing done.
“I don’t think he’d be here if he didn’t have that, especially given where he’s at in his life. How can you see your plan pan out if you don’t have total control?”
Even if with all the comings and goings of late, it seemed out of control.
“Everyone wants to focus on the moves,” said receiver Mike Williams, perhaps Carroll’s biggest reclamation project, “but they don’t want to focus on why the moves were made and more importantly who the guys are that we’re bringing in. Guys like Stacy Andrews, who’s played in this league, and Michael Robinson, who’s a tough guy, a core guy.
“The guys who come in here fit what we’re trying to get done.”
Other than Polumbus, of course, the last flurry of roster moves mostly was to shore up the depth. There are six starters new to the team, but most had been working in those roles through the offseason. Milloy is a 14-year NFL veteran and, along with cornerback Marcus Trufant, a steadying hand on a defense that surrendered just two field goals in three 49ers possessions inside the 10-yard line. Likewise, Hasselbeck – aside from a bizarre first-pass interception – made masterful decisions that allowed the offense to weather that first quarter that wasn’t.
“The lessons are really strong for us,” Carroll said, “that you just hang.”
He means for the long term, too. There will be more adversity and tougher games dead ahead. His message wasn’t that Sunday was too good to be true, but that it needs to be more than temporary. The proof is in the comings and goings.
“From a player’s standpoint, I’m honored to be here because I know I’ve earned my spot,” Milloy said. “He’s quick to get rid of somebody who doesn’t buy into what his vision of success is. So anybody who’s here should be proud.”
Because he’s part of the Pete Carroll Collection.