NEW YORK – Pete Carroll finished the week undefeated and untied in press conferences.
As he has been all week, the Seahawks’ coach was again a media all-star Monday morning. This time, he was standing next to the shiny Super Bowl trophy carrying the name Vince Lombardi.
And again, he was invited to explain – or in some cases, defend – his coaching style. Consider it another example that Carroll might be widely quoted but still remains misunderstood as an NFL coach.
In the context of the trophy’s namesake, the perception is that Carroll could not be further from embracing the precepts that led to Lombardi’s name being carved on the game’s most important symbol.
Let us remind readers that Bart Starr passed for more yards in Super Bowl I (250) than Russell Wilson (206) did in Super Bowl XLVIII, and Carroll’s Seahawks rushed for more yards (135) than Lombardi’s (133).
So the concept that Carroll is a new-age revolutionary coach is laughable. Music at practices and a genial relationship with his players doesn’t change the fact that Carroll accepts nothing less than unrelenting competitiveness and a hunger to pound the will from opponents with physical play.
Yes, some of Lombardi’s most famous quotes were about winning. Carroll never mentions it, focusing on competing and improving every day. He addresses the means rather than result.
And in the end, the Seahawks’ 43-8 Super Bowl win against Denver turned out to be less competitive than a typical Wednesday practice during the season, and their final game of the season was won by their most lopsided margin of the year.
After a night in which “sleep wasn’t in order,” Carroll arrived characteristically animated, but, remarkably, again had to place Sunday’s win in the context of his firing as head coach of the Jets 20 seasons ago. It was the thousandth time the topic was raised this week.
Carroll could have been excused for prefacing his answer with, “Why I oughta take this trophy and shove it,” but instead he laughed and graciously expanded. “It didn’t dampen my spirits, it didn’t slow me down. I hate to learn the hard way, but sometimes that has to happen.”
Carroll is at his best when he probes what is at the heart of this team, and what drives them, and what were the keys to taking a five-win team in disarray to the pinnacle of the sport in just four seasons.
He pointed to touchdowns scored last Sunday by undrafted free agents Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin, and an interception return for a score by linebacker Malcolm Smith, a seventh-round pick who became the game’s MVP.
They were “not the heralded guys coming in, (but who) competed in our program and found a way to contribute enormously,” he said.
Nothing could better reflect the goal of finding players with that molten nugget of competitiveness at their core.
By stressing that every game, every play, every snap in practice is a chance to compete, the notion of expecting excel- lence is spliced onto their DNA.
“This is exactly what we envisioned from Day One,” Carroll said Monday. “That may sound cocky, that may sound arrogant, but it’s a mentality that you can’t get in one week (before a big game). This team has that foundation and that understanding. Not one of these guys are surprised about that.
“It’s a long process to bring those guys into that mentality and it comes from a very strict, disciplined approach. That’s how they’ve learned it.”
And as the winning was expected, the aftermath has been planned.
“I think we are in a very fortunate situation, (GM) John Schneider has done an extraordinary job of structuring this roster looking ahead so we can keep these guys together,” Carroll said. “One of the things that happens so often is teams have a big fallout after they win the Super Bowl. And we’re not in that situation. We’ve done this with foresight so we would be prepared, and we’ll get going on the next challenge.”