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Extending your expectations
The name is Peter Clay Carroll, but you might as well call the Seahawks’ new coach com-Pete.
That was Carroll’s buzzword, talking point and anything else you want to label it Tuesday at his introductory news conference. Compete. Competing. Competition. Carroll used the words repeatedly – and emphatically – during the 42-minute session.
Carroll, 58, comes the Seahawks off an unprecedented nine-year run at the University of Southern California where the Trojans were 97-19 because they had a competitive edge in talent and schemes. It is now Carroll’s task to translate that success at the collegiate level into his second go at the NFL.
“This is an extraordinary time,” Carroll said. “I hope that you can sense the excitement that I feel about this opportunity. I know it’s going to be hard. I know it’s going to be difficult. And people from where I come from want to say, ‘Gosh, why would you do that when you win all the time in college football and here you’re going into the meat grinder of the NFL?’
“I couldn’t be more prepared for it. I couldn’t be more excited about it. I can’t wait to get started.”
After high-revving his way through that assessment, Carroll got to what would be his bottom-line statement.
“What you’ll hear a lot from us in this program, this program is about competition,” he said. “We’ll see in all aspects of the work that we do that we will be in a relentless pursuit of a competitive edge in everything we’re doing.
“We’re going to compete like crazy. Maybe like you’ve never seen. And I hope that will be the theme that will rise to us and that will be the most important part of it, because we are in the most competitive world that you can be in in the NFL. I can’t wait to get this thing underway. I can’t wait to get it started.”
Carroll hammered home his point on competing and being competitive. Each time one of those words came from his mouth, he made a chopping motion with his right hand.
“Competition is going be the central theme in this program,” he said.
Infectious? Definitely. But can it happen here the way it happened at USC?
“Pete was doing in college what they did in the pros,” said Warren Moon, the radio analyst for Seahawks broadcasts. “He was running zone blitzes and all those different things.”
“Pete was ahead of the curve then, then he brought it to college football and that made him ahead of the curve in college football,” Moon said. “So I think he’ll just add a little more to that as he gets into the pros, because you can add more when you have smarter players, more experienced players.
“I liked his offensive concepts as well. That’s why his quarterbacks were always so NFL-ready, because they ran a pro-style game there. I love the schemes he runs on both sides of the football; it’s just a matter of getting the players to do those schemes.
“At SC, you wonder why they ever even lost a game the way they played and the schemes they have. So the key here will be to get the players.”
Moon will get no argument from Carroll, who hustled through some one-on-one interviews after the news conference so he could get into a meeting with the first candidate for the vacant general manager job – the person Carroll will collaborate with to restock the Seahawks’ roster.
“My job is really to orchestrate the performance of this club,” said Carroll, who also holds the title of executive vice president of football operations. “This is a big job, and I’m going to need a tremendous amount of help. We will enter into a search to hire a general manager. … This is an enormous decision for us. It’s a process that we’ll go through together and I’m thrilled to be part of this process. It is extremely instrumental to our future.
“Being able to be integrally involved in that is hugely important to me.”
It has been well-documented that this is Carroll’s second crack at the highest level of his profession. He was head coach of the Jets for one season (1994) and the Patriots for three (1997-99), after and between 12 seasons as a defensive coordinator and position coach in the league.
Carroll says he is not the same coach now that he was then, and is returning to the NFL with the Seahawks because it is not the same job that other teams offered in an attempt to lure him from USC.
“I’ve grown through this experience. I know so much more clearly where I’m coming from then I did then,” Carroll said. “I was not at my best at New York. I can’t tell you how far away I was then from where I am right now. I was not at my best at New England.
“I think the Seahawks have benefitted from the fact of what I’ve been through and what I’ve gone through. … I’m not the same. Hopefully, I’m better.”
Winning seven consecutive Pac-10 titles and two national championships in the past nine seasons has a way of bolstering one’s confidence, and resolve that their way is the right way.
As for why now and why Seattle, he offered, “As this opportunity presented itself, I just could not pass up the chance to come here. It’s just an amazing opportunity. I’ve always loved the NFL so much. I loved my time in college football. But always I had a thought maybe it could come together in a manner that would fit right and give me the chance to do things the way I would like to do it.
“It’s come together.”
Now, on to taking the necessary steps to make the rest of it come together. Assembling a coaching staff. Sitting in on the GM interviews. Evaluating the talent on the current roster. Deciding which players to select with the sixth and 14th picks in the first round of April’s draft, and which to go after in free agency to increase the talent level. And, of course, becoming more competitive.
On defense, he expects to expand upon a lot of the zone concepts that the Seahawks used last season. On offense, there will be additional changes as he moves toward a more run-oriented attack. But he gave a definite vote of confidence to quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who will turn 35 in September and struggled through one of the toughest stretches of his career to close the 2009 season.
“I know that we have a quarterback that has played really good football in his career,” Carroll said. “That is one of the key elements of putting together a team that has a chance to win right way. You’ve got to have a quarterback. I know that we have a first-class guy in Matt and I can’t wait to get working with him.
“The NFL is a quarterback-driven process. So the fact that we have Matt Hasselbeck here is a big factor to me. He’s played the game. He’s been a champion. He knows how to get the thing done. We’ve got to get his support group and his play to the level that gives us a chance to play great football.”
Carroll says the 2010 edition of the Seahawks will play with effort, enthusiasm, toughness and smarts. Or, as he put it, “We’re going to play this game like it’s supposed to be played – like you love the game of football.”
Carroll also is well aware that the Seahawks have won nine games combined the past two seasons.
“I like that it’s going to be hard. I like that it’s going to be difficult,” Carroll said. “What comes with that is the process of extending your expectations.”