RENTON, Wash. – Pete Carroll stormed into the Seahawks’ meeting room.
“Who are the kickers?”, he asked at Seattle’s rookie minicamp last year.
The room was filled with draft picks and undrafted free agents – all hoping to make the Seahawks’ roster.
Carroll wanted the kickers to have a shootout on a basketball hoop in the front of the room. The winner would stay, Carroll said. The loser would go home. He was joking, and the room with 60-something players erupted in laughter.
“The next thing we know we’re shooting basketballs … and we go out to practice and music is blaring the whole time and he’s dancing around,” said Luke Willson, a rookie tight end last year. “I was like, dude … this guy is kind of crazy.”
Seattle’s draft picks and undrafted free agents are likely in for a similar initiation today, when the Seahawks open their three-day rookie minicamp. But the music and jokes underscore the importance of the camp and the weeks following it.
It’s mostly a getting-to-know-you time for the players and the Seahawks, but it’s also phase two of the draft process. First, general manager John Schneider has to acquire the players, but then Carroll must develop them.
“I made the statement to our coaching staff as John broke us: Now it’s on us,” Carroll said in 2012, but he could have been talking about any year. “We have to show what a great class this is by the way we develop this talent and bring it to the playing field. “
One of the benefits of having a deep roster is that rookies aren’t needed in large roles right away. On the surface, only right tackle Justin Britt will truly compete for a starting spot, while the rest of Seattle’s eight-person draft will likely be used as complementary pieces during their rookie seasons.
But Carroll considers it his responsibility to see what the Seahawks have in their young players by testing them early. He said the Seahawks have data showing that they play their rookies more than most teams in the preseason for that reason.
“Every coach I’ve ever met, his only thinking is, ‘Who gives me the best chance to win now?’ ” former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. “And if you have that mentality, you’re never going to see player development. If you want to give kudos to Pete’s staff, it’s the discipline to ride the storms of the development with players.”
It sounds so obvious, but not all coaches are good at developing players. Some aren’t patient enough to stick with them. Others just aren’t good at it. Carroll is by no means the only coach with a track record of nurturing young talent, but he and his staff can point to many success stories: Byron Maxwell, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Malcolm Smith.
Said Greg Gabriel, the former Bears director of college scouting: “They’ve probably done as good a job as anybody, if not better than anybody in the league, at developing young players and getting them on the field.”