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Seattle Seahawks

Dave Boling: Maybe Pete Carroll’s next move isn’t coaching, but assembling a superhero team to do good in the community

By Dave Boling The Spokesman-Review

Pete Carroll’s emotions filled the auditorium – sadness, squelched tears and instant-onset nostalgia.

Carroll was making his final appearance at the podium from which he had entertained and enlightened the media over the previous 14 years. And from which he had coached-up and cemented connections with hundreds of Seattle Seahawk players.

This was a couple weeks ago, when he’d been freshly fired and was still raw. He made clear that there was very little mutual in the “mutual” parting of ways that the team had portrayed.

He had fought hard, particularly hoping to spare his staff and their families the carnage that accompanies a regime change.

In the aftermath of his dismissal, he stressed that he might be 72, but he wasn’t ready to start napping on a cot someplace.

“I’m freakin’ jacked. I’m fired up.”

But where to apply all that fiery freakin’ jackness? Won’t he spontaneously combust without a sufficiently challenging outlet? What’s next?

“I don’t know … but I’m excited about it because there’s a lot to learn, there’s a lot to study. There’s some great discoveries that are going to come our way.”

Well, I’d like to offer an idea, born from one of the comments he made in his valedictory, one that got overlooked in all the news and emotion of the day.

It might lead to the perfect job for Carroll – so massive in its scope it would require a dynamo with boundless energy and PR skills: Reshaping the NFL.

The goal would be to transform it into a place with greater humanity and heart, and respect for the people who have turned it into a multibillion-dollar enterprise with global visibility – the players.

Looking back during his last presser, he mentioned a time when he had tried to push an initiative to the NFL higher-ups to do better by all the players, present and past, and exploit their popularity to do good in their communities.

“I brought this up years ago to the league, right to the top of the league,” he said. “I felt that the league could use direction to celebrate a new focus that they were missing out on … to come to the understanding that you have no game without (the players) … and they deserve to be seen for that.”

What would that look like?

“Well, you’re going to look after them. You’re going to take care of them. You’re going to see them through their careers the best way you can, make the decisions that always support their health, welfare, well-being.”

And afterward?

“Do we let them go, now they’re on their own, or do we celebrate them? Was it not worth a lifetime of support for those guys, and whatever that means?”

He talked to others about finding ways to “utilize our former players in ways all over the country and let them be ambassadors for the league, and for sports and for achievement and for manhood and all the education and all the wonderful things that they could stand for.”

You can gauge Carroll’s passion on things when he starts going free-range rhetorical, conjunctions stringing clauses together like a freight train, chugging along with no time for breaths or punctuation. This was one of those.

“We’ve got enough money … there’s enough money to do that and figure it out. Why wouldn’t we be creating superheroes for our young kids?”

He really got rolling at the “superhero” stage, expanding the potential influences into community and social realms.

“Something happens around the country – BAM – here comes the NFL and they show up on the site and they’re like a SWAT team of support, love, understanding, all that,” he said.

He might have cooled off the league front office with the SWAT team image, but Carroll wasn’t trying to sell the details as much as the initial broad concept.

“I thought there was so much to that and it would change the perception of the league from outside/in … that we understood what it’s like to care, and I think the message of sending that and what that would mean, not just to the young guys and the guys going through their (careers), but everybody who watches it. Everybody’s watching the NFL, so why not do that?”

The response to Carroll’s grand plan? “It didn’t go anywhere (but) it was a cool thought.”

Yes, it still is a very cool thought, coach. Maybe they could get a committee of current and former players involved as advisors. Former Seahawk Doug Baldwin, so socially concerned and aware, would be perfect, for instance.

But the NFL is driven by profits and ratings and having players come back off Sunday games to play on Thursday to pocket more TV opportunities (despite the short physical recovery time). And it’s about adding another game to the regular season. It’s about avoiding liability lawsuits.

So where’s the profit in Carroll’s good-guy programs, things like veteran after-care, current-player counseling, enhanced community involvement, leadership, etc.?

Well, attaching sponsorship is the obvious means. AARP, financial-planning services, health-care corporations and pharma companies all would be naturals for the kind of visibility old players would provide. Ad revenue could fund the programs, perhaps even drawing a mandatory slice from each franchise’s profits.

They could round up old Hall of Famers as spokesmen. They don’t have to be superheroes or SWAT members, just the men who fans loved and admired over the years.

But first, they need to get Pete Carroll to be the vision and energy behind the project.