Offensive Line Controversy: Carroll Announces Open Competition

Pete Carroll announced early Wednesday morning that he would open up competition at every offensive line position following his latest review of Saturday’s game vs. Minnesota. Carroll notes that the group of LT Will Robinson, LG Paul McQuistan, C Mike Gibson, RG Paul Fanaika, and RT Breno Giacomini gave up significantly less pressure on the quarterback than his starting offensive line.

“The only explanation for why that group played better is because they are better players.” Carroll explained. “People want to confuse things by looking at this and that, but all I care about is the result.”

Several reporters noted that the second-string line was playing against second-string opponents. Carroll dismissed the notion as “pointlessly logical.” Another reporter asked whether the coach had noticed a difference in how the Vikings played defense in the second half.

“Oh yeah. Big time. They were bringing five and six players on blitzes on almost every play in the first half, and that went down to almost no blitzes in the second half,” Carroll said. “I’m not sure why that matters, though, when it comes to grading out offensive line performance.”

Assistant head coach and offensive line coach Tom Cable fully supported Carroll’s decision even as he mentioned some adjustments they had made at halftime in play calls to alleviate pressure and simplify the game plan.

“We really wanted to test our 5-step drop package in the first half, and kept calling those intermediate-to-deep pass plays even when Minnesota was blitzing us repeatedly,” Cable said. “We changed that entirely in the second half by going with quick 3-step drops and other quick-hitting plays that made it much simpler.”

Despite the stark difference in play-calling by the Seahawks, defensive scheme by the Vikings and quality of opponent (2nd string), the entire coaching staff thought it made perfect sense to do a comparison based on result alone. Taking into account any of these extenuating circumstances was just too difficult, and made their “brains hurt.”

It may take fans some time to adjust to this new philosophy where Kevin Williams is considered an equal opponent as his back-up Letroy Guion, or a 3-man rush is considered as hard to block as a 6-man blitz. It may also be confusing trying to figure out how an offensive line can develop any consistency or rhythm when the head coach starts splitting reps on the offensive line in practice and in game, especially with such a shortened off-season due to the lockout. They will not be alone. Other coaches around the league were confused when they heard about Carroll’s plan.

“I try to give other coaches the benefit of the doubt, but that’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard,” Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said. “This is the worst possible pre-season to be splitting reps at any position since most guys will barely have a chance to get comfortable, let alone play well, in this amount of time. One guy would have to be light years better than the other to make that kind of disruption worthwhile.”

Carroll was not stopping at the offensive line. After a strong debut by DE Maurice Fountain, in which he collected a tackle for loss, Carroll announced he would start splitting reps with starters Raheem Brock and Chris Clemons.

“Fountain made a couple good plays, so he’s obviously starter-material,” Carroll said.

Judging the performance of players getting snaps with the first-team will be incredibly difficult since so much could be different from the previous week in terms of offensive game-plan, quality of opposing defense and defensive play-calls. Carroll laughed off the notion, saying simply, “Whoever is in when we score is playing the best, regardless of those things.”

Carroll closed the press conference by noting that players like LT Will Robinson had never really gotten a chance to start, so they clearly “deserved” this opportunity just for playing well in a few pre-season games.

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