Sunday, March 18, 2012

Something Special Happening In Seattle

Jim Mora got up in front of the press after his dismal 2009 season as head coach of the Seahawks. The man who had hired him, Tim Ruskell, had already been fired. Mora represented the last remnant of a dark era in Seahawks football, littered with horrible personnel decisions and cliche-driven coaching. The news broke shortly thereafter that Mora had been fired to make room for a special mystery candidate. Fans and media were understandably skeptical when word spread that Pete Carroll was taking over. I had questions about what type of identity Carroll would establish with the team. It felt like a splashy hiring, lacking in substance, by a desperate ownership looking for anyone not named Mike Holmgren.

Back then, almost anyone would tell you the expectation was that Carroll would come in and create a middling team that played undisciplined finesse football. The Seahawks would become a USC graduate program, with Carroll unable see past "his guys," from the glory days. Very few, if any, would have foreseen what has happened since:

- The now-famous roster turnover of 2010
- A division title in year one
- A playoff win in year one
- The rise of a Top 10 defense in 2011
- The creation of what may the best secondary in football as soon as this coming season
- A punch-you-in-the-mouth identity on both sides of the ball built on mammoth offensive and defensive lines, and a runner more often called "Beast" than his given name

The word was that Carroll's rah-rah demeanor might play well for a year at best, but that professional players would soon tune him out. Seattle crossed a chasm this off-season. Key players on both sides of the ball were free agents. This would be the first time we could truly see how players felt about Carroll, and what he was doing in Seattle. Would they run to other teams and start talking trash like Josh Wilson, who famously referred to "California Pete," after his trade to the Ravens? Would the Seahawks have to overpay them to retain their services? After nearly a week of free agency, the Seahawks have re-signed arguably all of their most important free agents, and to reasonable deals.

Players like Red Bryant talked about feeling like they are onto something in Seattle, and that he wanted to stay a part of it. As exciting as that was, there was another test when it came to attracting players who had not been a part of the resurrection for the past two years. Jason Jones and Matt Flynn were both highly sought-after free agents. They each visited Seattle during a particularly nasty stretch of weather. The Seahawks were recruiting them, but not blowing them away with financial offers that made the decisions easy for either player. If they were going to come to Seattle, it was going to be because they believed in the program.

Jones was the first to fall in. His signing was a shock because there were so many reasons to expect him to sign with his former coach, Jeff Fisher, in St. Louis. Instead, he decided to move to the farthest NW corner of the country and play for a team that will rarely make an appearance on SportsCenter. Then, Flynn flew to Miami. His former offensive coordinator was there. It was right around the corner from Louisiana, where he played college football and where his girlfriend grew up. The fan base was clamoring for him. The starting job was there to be had. Instead, he decides to take a job with the Seahawks where there will be no guarantees that he will be a starter. How does that happen?

Sports Illustrated writer Peter King posted some illuminating tweets Sunday night after speaking with Flynn:

"Talked to Flynn. Said a big factor in Sea over Mia was vibe in the building in Seattle: "The coaches, the staff--they were fantastic.'' - link

"Said he sat for a long time with OC Darrell Bevell, formerly of GB, and felt the Sea offense would be just like the one he learned in GB." - link

Carroll and John Schneider are building something that players want to be a part of. Flynn could wind up being a total bust, but that's besides the point. At the moment of truth, two free agents who had interest from multiple teams, chose the Seahawks because of a belief that something exciting was being built here. It is still mostly a secret across the league. Seattle is the below .500 team with Marshawn Lynch at running back. The tide is turning, though, and even the commonly blind national media is slowly starting to realize what is going on. King, Pete Prisco, and others have started talking up the Seattle defense. A few may even go as far as picking the Seahawks as their sleeper team in 2012. None of it will matter if the team does not continue it's evolution on the field, but there is little reason to project a step backwards. The team should be healthier, more cohesive, clearer in its identity, and now bolstered with some new free agent goodness. And that's before Schneider gets to work his magic in the draft.

Give Carroll his due for getting the franchise where it is now, after being so far gone only a couple years ago. I greatly underestimated him, and totally misunderstood him. He deserves continued scrutiny until the team starts winning, but there is nothing wrong with tipping your cap and taking some pride in being a team on the rise.

12 comments :

Anonymous said...

It takes a big man to admit a mistake. This management team is smarter and more aggreessive than they have been given credit for, they are building s winner for the long haul. Youth and success are not normally used in the same sentence to describe successful NFL franchises but if it works, we may be witnessing a whole new model for franchises to emulate. I am really enjoying watching the making of a winner in Seattle. Interesting to note that the Mariners are doing the same thing!

Sadhappy said...

Phenomenal article. Love the way you took recent events and put them into context.

At the very least, the flynn signing shut down the chicken littles for a few weeks. Thank god. It was just getting to be a bit much.

-s

Jeff said...

Stoked on Flynn right now. Best option available this year and for a great price. Loving this FO more and more, just a great feeling of going in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

Great article and great work on twitter!

Ever since I watched all 45 minutes or so of PC's introductory press conference I've been sold.

Clear, confident unwavering vision of how to go about winning forever! GO HAWKS!!!

Kip Earlywine said...

I remember last year when Seattle signed Zach Miller (a HUGE surprise at the time) and he made comments very similar to the kind expressed by Peter King in that first tweet.

I'm paraphrasing, but Miller basically said that he could just feel something special going on when he visited, so this isn't even a particularly recent phenomenon. Pete's been building up a buzz within this franchise for a while now, and the further we get along, the easier it is to sense it ourselves.

Darren , NY said...

i must say "DITTO"!!!

Anonymous said...

In what world other than the Seattle "I'm jealous of California so I will twist fact to fit my hatred" world was USC's legendary program under Carroll a
"a middling team that played undisciplined finesse football". That's an absolute joke, and if that's the level of analysis that was happening in Seattle regarding the hiring of Carroll at the time, more's the pity. Y'all need to look past your rain-addled brains and give credit where it's due. Criticize USC for ethics, but seriously, a "middling" team? A "finesse" team?

Laughable. I see the cloud hanging over the city hasn't abated since I was there. New flash folks, no one in California cares if you hate them or not, they just don't think about you.

I hope Flynn does well and helps the 'Hawks have a great future. There are some great fans up there and it would be nice to have a good team in that stadium, just really good for the league. But no one is going to care about that corner of the U.S. until you force them to care. So far no Seahawks team has ever even suggested anyone care. Win a few titles and you won't have to cry about how you're ignored. You sound like some spoiled kid who thinks he should start and the coach won't let him.

eburghawkfan said...

This front office has been great. Even their failures have helped the team (Whitehurst, Gallery, Jury's out on Rice). No panic in their moves.

It's hilarious how you still hear people declaring that PC just uses all his old USC guys... still. How can people actually think that PC is gonna go after Leinert? Not gonna happen. Remember Lendale White? Pete is not stupid.

I'm having a hard time not getting too optomistic about the Flynn addition. Hearing Bevell say that they will run an offense very similar to GB does not help me temper my excitement.

Great article.

PS - The Anonymous Californian might ant to re-read the article. I think he is confused. He sure confused me.

Anonymous said...

I was never one to envision a finesse team, but I certainly saw a lack of discipline in the USC program. That conclusion should be obvious to anyone with half a brain, rain-addled or not. And "middling" is an excellent way to sum up Pete's previous runs as an NFL head coach.

Congrats to Pete and JS on what they have accomplished so far with this roster turnover. This team is in good hands.

Anonymous said...

Nobody that was paying attention had any of those bad thoughts. Carroll had a solid grip on this thing from day one. He's talked the talk and walked the walk since his first press conference.

FWBrodie said...

It's very difficult to criticize any Schneider/Carroll personnel moves these days for fear of winding up looking like a fool. Instead I find myself wondering who this year's Kam Chancellor will be, Malcom Smith, Byron Maxwell, or Ricardo Lockette? Or who will be the next Sherman, Baldwin, or Wright out of this year's draft class?

The days of Curry, Lo-Jack, Jennings, Branch, and Josh Wilson are long behind us now. The Seahawks are a budding talent pipeline.

Matt A said...

Reading this article actually gave me goosebumps! Well written and thank you... I agree 100% and am so glad we got rid of Ruskell, that guy ruined our team. Nobody thought it could be on the turnaround this quickly, but Carroll and Schneider have sure proved many skeptics wrong. As a Hawks fan for over 25 years it was quite a surprise to see the team really start to gel last year with all the injuries. If our draft goes as well as this year's free agent signings, I honestly believe that the Hawks can shock the world this season... not making any predictions but I don't see the Niners repeating last year. I think we were a few TJax mistakes away from a 9-10 win team, and if the o-line / run game can improve even more, Matt Flynn will be able to get comfortable and we could be one of the most balanced teams in the NFC! GO HAWKS