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Seattle Seahawks

Commentary: Forget about Seahawks’ old signs; whether Mike Macdonald can coach matters more

Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider, left, and head coach Mike Macdonald field questions during a news conference on Feb. 1 in Renton, Wash.  (Kevin Clark/Seattle Times)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – But can he coach?

This should be the only thing Seahawk fans and Seahawk players should be asking. The virtual erasure of the Pete Carroll era in the hallways near the entrance of the team’s practice facility is immaterial next to that question.

Just in case you hadn’t heard, the team’s new coach, Mike Macdonald, had all the pictures of the Super Bowl-era team stripped outside the team room at the VMAC. You won’t see photos of Richard Sherman’s tip, or Marshawn Lynch’s Beast Quake run, or any of the indelible moments that came to define this franchise. Old slogans such as “Always compete” and “All in!” are gone, too.

Even the basketball hoop in the main meeting room, where frequent shooting contests would take place – including one with Kevin Durant years back – has been removed. Noteworthy? Sure. Strange? Maybe a little. But ultimately inconsequential.

For one, the banners the Seahawks won – whether it be a Super Bowl, an NFC championship or a division title – remain in place. Macdonald isn’t coming in trying to delete history. And if historic pictures at Lumen Field were to be taken down (which I doubt Macdonald could control anyway), that would be worth fuming over. But the idea at the practice facility seems to be that these Seahawks are to form their own legacy, not compare themselves to the greats of the past. Was it necessary? Probably not. But if it somehow leads to even one more win over the next few years, it will have been worth it.

Players say they are content with it all, although criticizing the new coach wouldn’t be the wisest of moves. Defensive lineman Leonard Williams fielded questions about the new-look hallways Wednesday.

“I think it’s given us a clean foundation to create whatever we want to be. We’re not chasing to be like any other team that’s been here before,” Williams said. “I mean, it definitely feels different. Mike, he’s serious about being something different and creating our own identity.”

I’m not sure every, or even most coaches, would have made that decision after replacing Carroll. But speculating that this is disrespectful to Seahawks that have come before, or that it signals insecurity within a man trying to distinguish himself from Carroll is probably misguided.

It’s common practice for a new coach to make sweeping changes that go beyond the playbook. The missing photos and mantras make for interesting offseason chatter but don’t mean much.

The only potential issue regarding all this is if Macdonald flops as the head coach. If the Seahawks finish 4-13 in each of the next two seasons, there will undoubtedly be folks pointing to how the decline all started when Mike tried to change the culture. It’s nonsense, of course, but detractors are always on the hunt for ammo.

Plus, as Seahawks general manager John Schneider pointed out on Seattle Sports, the building is still replete with team history.

“Right when you walk around the corner from the indoor facility, I mean, we have the plates (with names) of every player that’s played here, and the pictures from all the guys, like more recent guys and all that,” Schneider told hosts Bob Stelton and Dave Wyman. “Really in Mike’s mind, it’s kind of, hey, we’re celebrating our history, guys get that, but we’re not coming in here with certain slogans and leadership mottos and that sort of thing. We’re going to build our own as a team.”

One of the first things Macdonald stated in his introductory news conference is that he isn’t Pete Carroll and isn’t going to try to be. Probably smart considering there might be nobody who can be Pete but Pete himself.

But few in Seahawks nation care if Mike can match his predecessor in regards to charm. They just want to see him surpass him in regards to victories.

The Seahawks’ defense has been particularly porous lately, ranking in the bottom fourth in the NFL in yards allowed over the past three seasons. Macdonald, meanwhile, oversaw a defense in Baltimore that ranked first in points allowed last season and third in 2023. This coming after implementing a “D” at Michigan that was more or less still in place when the Wolverines won the national championship last year.

But he’s in a new position now. I remember an assistant-turned-head-coach in the NBA – and I wish I could remember who – once saying that he got a whole lot dumber once he moved 18 inches on the bench.

Winning solves everything, though, and would make a lot of players smile. Usually a good thing for new pictures.