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A clean slate
As Tod Leiweke sat down to explain what he is calling a “clean slate” for the Seahawks as they move into the new decade, the man who represents the biggest change in the team’s football hierarchy was across the room.
Leiweke was in a conference room at the team’s headquarters Monday afternoon, while the image of just-hired coach Pete Carroll during his exit news conference from the University of Southern California was on a TV screen.
“There’s Pete now,” Leiweke offered in mid-sentence.
He then said, “I believe Pete Carroll is an extraordinary coach who could have gone other places but chose not to. To the benefit of this franchise, he has agreed he’s going to come here and lead us.”
Leiweke had a busy weekend. He went to Minneapolis on Saturday to interview Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier – just in case the Carroll connection could not be completed. Sunday morning, it was on to Los Angeles, for a final – and fateful – face-to-face meeting with Carroll.
“A huge factor was when he agreed he would work shoulder-to-shoulder and in tandem with the general manager,” Leiweke said. “He will report to the office of the CEO, and here’s my job: My job is to take the football operation and make sure there is fantastic collaboration.
“And what that means is, you have to have people who are predisposed to that. So Pete is absolutely ready to do that. He does not want to be the general manager. I think our hand is strengthened with general manager candidates where we can now go get somebody who’s really going to be focused on that draft board and personnel.”
The Seahawks now have two-thirds of the threesome that will control the fortunes of the football operation – Carroll, who will be introduced to the Seattle-area media Tuesday during a 10 a.m. news conference; John Idzik, who will continue in his capologist role as VP of football administration; and a new general manager that Leiweke would like to name “sooner, rather than later.” All three will report to the Leiweke.
“This is how you build and upgrade organizations,” Leiweke said. “You find people who are really good at what they do and put them in those roles and keep them in those lanes. That’s really our vision.”
Carroll, 58, also will hold the title of vice president of football operations, but Leiweke repeated – and repeatedly stressed – that the new coach and new GM will work in a collaboration capacity.
“We had an idea that this could be really good,” Leiweke said. “But there was a certain structure that was going to be really important to us. That structure was that we were going to have a coach who was going to sit independent of the general manager, because we’re excited as well about some of the general manager candidates who start coming in here beginning (Tuesday).”
Hiring Carroll, of course, meant firing Jim Mora, who had just completed his first season as coach and a man Leiweke considers a friend. But it was a move Leiweke felt was imperative to correct what he admitted had become a dysfunctional situation at times the past two seasons as the team made the move from Mike Holmgren to Mora as coach and also decided against retaining general manager Tim Ruskell, who then resigned last month.
Last Monday, Mora still was in the team’s plans. That changed as conversations with Carroll during the week moved from exploratory to exemplary – for both sides.
“We had a good discussion last week, and in that discussion it was clear to us that Pete would consider us,” Leiweke said.
And the team’s preferred structure.
“People had said this was a done deal,” Leiweke said in dismissing those reports. “We had a super-important discussion (Sunday) night in L.A. to talk about that very thing. Because that was the model that we were committed to, and that was something that Mr. Allen (Paul, the owner) was committed to – was that we get people who are good and they’re disciplined and that they stay in their lane.
“We think we have gotten a fantastic coach. This is a guy other people tried to get and didn’t get.”
Carroll had rebuffed advances from other NFL teams in recent years. But it was the Sunday evening discussion between Leiweke and Carroll that proved to be the deal-maker when the ridiculously successful USC coach said he could work within the framework of the team’s new structure.
“Pete was interesting to us because he was in the NFL,” Leiweke said of Carroll’s 16-year tenure in the league that included stints as the head coach of the New York Jets (1994) and New England Patriots (1997-99).
“It’s clear to me that this man has a chip on his shoulder to prove that he also can win at the NFL level. He had a .500 record (actually 33-31), but he’s been paying for that. But this is a guy that then went on and did things in football that no man has ever done. After the last two seasons, those are things that resonated with us.”
While the Seahawks won a combined nine games in 2008 and 2009 – with four of those victories coming against the St. Louis Rams – Carroll was putting what proved to be the finishes touches on a nine-season stay at USC which saw the Trojans go 97-19, win seven consecutive Pac-10 titles and two national championships.
It was that dichotomy of success that helped Leiweke come to the conclusion that total change was needed as the Seahawks move into the new decade.
“What we did, seven days a week, is we were really studying this organization trying to understand how we break this cycle of losing we were in,” Leiweke said. “That’s not acceptable. It’s not acceptable to our fans. It’s not acceptable to Mr. Allen. It’s certainly isn’t acceptable to me.
“Some have said this isn’t fair. I’m not going to debate that point. But status quo was simply not an option. From that feeling of the last game to the feeling I have now, I’m filled with hope.”