EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The 12th Man? All-in on the Seattle Seahawks.
But deep down, there’s a sense that everyone is still holding back a few chips when it comes to Pete Carroll.
Doesn’t make sense, really. It’s Carroll’s vision, Carroll’s blueprint, Carroll’s judgments that have led the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl for a second time, and from some chaotic rubble just a few years ago that made the Mariners’ usual dithering across the street look as coldly efficient as a Navy Seals op.
Carroll has assembled a football team and instilled it with both a ruthless streak and the knack to amuse and entertain. The Seahawks’ appeal is broad: a goody-two-shoes quarterback, a motormouth corner, heart-and-soul grunts, and steely-eyed hit men – and a centerpiece running back who’s the very essence of the brutality that makes the game America’s favorite guilty pleasure.
But a look at the carryings-on of the head coach suggests a three-hour Sunday cruise on the Good Ship Lollipop – which was just how his first crack at NFL coaching right here in Joisey was disparaged.
The elfin cheerleader shtick.
The basketball hoops all over the team’s Renton headquarters.
Macklemore pumping from his office stereo – and a deejay for practices.
The relentless “Win Forever” tweeting.
The new-agey press conferencees, where the analysis tends more toward “We’re going to have a really rocking day today.”
Carroll takes his Seahawks after football’s big prize Sunday against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, an impossible-to-argue-with achievement. But couldn’t he have got there in a manner that’s a little more, well, football?
“No, it’s not the way it’s usually done – but it works and guys like it so why wouldn’t more coaches do it that way?” wondered wide receiver Golden Tate.
“It’s kind of hard to have a bad day with Coach Carroll because every day you show up, he’s going to bring something new to the table. Once you get out on the field, he’s a 62- or 63-year-old with receiver’s gloves on, throwing the ball 50, 60 yards. You never know, he might be standing in the huddle as you’re calling the play.”
As defensive end Michael Bennett characterizes the Carroll way, “It’s the Google of football.”
It’s not necessarily that the invested masses he likes to call “the 12s” dismiss Carroll. But old school Seahawks fans were raised on Chuck Knox football, as hard-boiled as it comes. And younger ones enjoyed the teams of Mike Holmgren, an engaging intellect with a West Coast offense – but who also looked the coachly part under that headset. Besides, he’d won his Super Bowl with Green Bay, and nothing says football quite like that.
Plus, it doesn’t help Carroll back home that after his two failed stabs at NFL coaching he regrouped at USC, which quickly rose again to be the scourge of the then Pac-10 while the local teams were pretty much the scunge. Oh, and assorted NCAA rules were broken, too. Carroll’s arrival in Seattle seemed to be just ahead of that posse, though he has denied such motivation.
It is curious, though, that while his USC style was seen as simply recruiting a roster of five-star athletes and turning them loose, he and general manager John Schneider have built the Seahawks with big helpings of the overlooked, the snubbed and the under-regarded.
That speaks to evaluation, teaching and development. Which means an eye to detail. Which means practice isn’t all Snoop Dogg and sno-cones.
“It’s interesting to hear (it explained) so many ways – laid-back, free-wheeling, doing whatever,” he said before a practice this week. “But we run this program with extraordinary standards in how we prepare every day, with expectations that they’re going to be working their tails off every single step of every single practice.
“When we get to games, it’s not a different situation for us. I don’t believe that people are very good at turning things on and off when it comes to intensity.”
For all his themes and buzzwords, there’s bedrock methodology. His “Competition Wednesdays” pit the 1s against the 1s; “Turnover Thursdays” has the Seahawks defense scrapping as they would on game day, and instills in the offense the need to protect the football.
That the Seahawks have led the NFL in drug suspensions of late has led to suggestions of a lack of discipline, and cornerback Richard Sherman’s 15 seconds of infamy two weeks ago fueled more wild-in-the-streets nonsense. Whatever Carroll’s concerns, he’s addressed them – and, no, not with an iron fist.
“I don’t know if it’s ‘modern’,” he said of his style. “It’s just the only way I know how to do it, and I understand the guys do respond favorably. They like what’s going on.”
And the football establishment? The possibility of a Seahawks victory Sunday might just have them scared to death.