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Carroll looks back, but mostly ahead
Pete Carroll conducted his season-ender news conference standing behind the same podium he has all season in the auditorium at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
But a spit might have been a more appropriate perch for the Seahawks’ second-year coach because of the way he was grilled concerning the team’s quarterback situation and incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson. Carroll was asked about the position, or the player, or both, more than half-a-dozen times during his roughly 45-minute Q&A session.
The bottom-line assessment for any and all questions remains unchanged, no matter how many times Carroll is asked about it: Jackson is the starter moving into the offseason because, “He’s our No. 1 guy in the program and that’s all we have right now,” as Carroll put it.
But that does not – and will not – preclude the team from looking for a quarterback in free agency or the NFL Draft.
“But we will compete at all spots,” Carroll said. “I want to very clear to you that there is no misunderstanding that that’s the theme in this program – competing. That means you’re always looking to get better and you’re always pushing in every way, and if we’re not we’re not competing. And that’s wrong for us. That’s not our right mindset. That’s it.
“I’m not trying to send any mixed messages and you shouldn’t take any out it, because there isn’t. That’s it.”
In between the barrage of queries about the QB situation, Carroll was able to make his points on other topics:
The number of young players who not only played, but made plays – The Seahawks finished their season against the Cardinals with three rookie starters and 10 others who were in their first season as starters in Seattle.
“There’s just so many positive things to look towards when you think how young this team was and how much this natural jump occurs between Year One and Year Two,” Carroll said.
As a prime example, he pointed to free safety Earl Thomas, who was a flashy player as a rookie but became a Pro Bowl player in his second season.
“Earl played a tremendous football season this year,” Carroll said. “He had a great season, and the numbers don’t show it because you don’t see the picks (two, compared to five last season). But his affect on what we’ve done and the affect of the guys on the back end in creating the defense that has improved tremendously from one year to the next is kind of what I’m holding onto that we can see dramatic advancements by a lot of guys.
“Knowing that they’re going to improve is really where the focus is right now.”
Doug Baldwin – Carroll was asked if there was one player that surprised him this season and the obvious choice was the rookie free agent who led the team in receptions (51) and receiving yards (788). Carroll referred to Baldwin as “our eighth-round draft choice.”
He was the team’s top priority after the draft, and proved to be the most-productive of a promising group that also included wide receiver Ricardo Lockette, QB Josh Portis, linebacker Mike Morgan and safety Jeron Johnson.
“Doug was as consistent as can be from the day he got here and we thought he was going to be a really good player,” Carroll said. “But I think that’s the biggest surprise – that he could take it that far.”
Free agency – The Seahawks have the salary-cap space to be players, but their primary plays will be retaining their own players – a group that includes running back Marshawn Lynch, defensive end Red Bryant, middle linebacker David Hawthorne and fullback Michael Robinson.
“Our first concern is to take care of our team, and take care of the guys that are unrestricted on our team,” Carroll said. “We have some room, and we’re going to be able to do some stuff. But we really want to focus on the guys on our team right now.
“I want that to be a strong message: We believe in the guys that we’ve put together here who are the foundation of a championship team.”
The NFL Draft – The Seahawks will have either the 11th or 12th pick in the first round, which will be determined by a coin flip with the Kansas City Chiefs at the scouting combine next month. Carroll said he would like to get faster on defense, especially at the linebacker position; add another speed pass-rusher to complement Chris Clemons; and pickup a touchdown-maker on offense, either a wide receiver or a back.
“So we’re looking at it – (at) almost every spot,” Carroll said.
The returning players. Those who will return after spending the season, or much of it, on injured reserve. Those who might be added in free agency. Those who will be added in the draft. It all plays into Carroll’s “always compete” philosophy.
“We’re going to try to make it as hard as we can possibly make it for the guys on our team to stay on this team,” Carroll said, “because they better battle to keep their spots.”