Carroll and the collaboration connection

Posted Jan 14, 2010

The Seahawks are following their own formula in hiring a coach before a general manager, and having each oversee his area of expertise on equal footing.

At his introductory news conference, Pete Carroll was asked if there was an advantage to the Seahawks hiring a new coach before a new general manager.

“Yeah,” the new coach said Tuesday. “I think there’s a real positive in it: I get to be involved in it.”

Carroll laughed, and so did everyone else in the packed auditorium at the team’s headquarters on the shores of Lake Washington.

Hiring a coach before the GM might not be the norm in the NFL, but if ever there was a time to be abnormal, this is it. The Seahawks have won a total of nine games the past two seasons, after advancing to the playoffs in the previous five seasons.

As CEO Tod Leiweke explained it, “This wasn’t something we were otherwise predisposed to doing, if not for Pete’s candidacy.”

When Carroll made it clear that he was ready to return to the NFL after a nine-year run of unprecedented success at the University of Southern California (97-19 record, seven consecutive Pac-10 titles, two national championships), it came with a stipulation:

“Once we talked to Pete,” Leiweke said, “it was clear he wasn’t going to wait.”

So here the Seahawks are, with the new coach sitting in on the interviews to find a new GM that began Tuesday and are continuing this week. But it’s all part of the collaborative fiber that will be the backbone to how the team’s football hierarchy is going to work.

There is Carroll. There will be a GM.

“We’ve got a good list,” Leiweke said of the GM candidates. “We’re feeling confident that somebody will come off that list. But if not, we’ll cast a wider net.”

Offered Carroll, “We’re going to work it out with the candidates that are here and with the different levels of experience and backgrounds they have.”

Part of that working-out process will be having Carroll and the GM on equal footing, each handling their area of expertise, working in that collaborative mode and reporting to Leiweke. But, as Leiweke put it, “It’s less about them working for me than me working for them, and making sure they have all the resources and tools to be successful.”

Again, this might not be the norm, but it is the way Leiweke has decided to proceed after studying the structure of other successful NFL franchises – like the Steelers and Titans.

“Can collaboration work? It does all the time, in all sorts of environments,” Leiweke said. “In fact, it’s how I lead. This is the model that makes sense to us – to get guys to work together, to share opinions. And the coach’s opinion is going to matter in who we pick (in the draft). But ultimately, that’s the general manager’s job: To go out and find those guys.

“And how can you not ask Pete Carroll what he thinks about the draft? That’s exactly what we want here. ”

As Leiweke spelled it out, Carroll “will control his 53-man roster,” while the GM will be “not a jack of all trades, but a master of players and the draft board” and focus on getting Carroll the kind of players he needs to improve that roster.

“That is the model we were committed to, and that was something that Mr. Allen (Paul, the owner) was very committed to – that we get people who are good, and they’re disciplined, and they stay in their lane,” he said.

“We believe this can be done. We believe that if you get like-minded people who are coming here for the right reasons, that it not only can be done, it’s going to lead us to regaining our winning ways.”

Count Carroll among the believers, as well. He made that clear during the Sunday night meeting with Leiweke in Los Angeles that was the deal-maker in completing the USC-to-Seattle connection.

“He said, ‘Look, in thinking about this, I don’t want to be the general manager, but I want to make sure we hire a great general manager,’ ” Leiweke said.

That’s why Carroll is here to sit in on the interviews. That’s why Leiweke thinks – no, knows – this approach will work.

“We’re going to have collaboration on the draft, and our general manager will hear from Pete –and that’s a really important thing,” Leiweke said. “That’s really how we’re going to set this up.

“There are two kinds of tension: Good tension and bad tension. We’re going to set this up so there’s good tension, where people are weighing in and we’re talking and we’re communicating and no one person is sitting and judging sweeping issues. We’re going to build a great team here. And when we looked at models, that’s the model we admired the most.”

Just how will this play out?

“We’re going to work that out with the lucky guy that gets to come to this organization,” Carroll said. “We’ll figure that out based on his background and what’s best for us.

“This is an enormous decision for us, and it’s a process that we’ll go through together. I’m thrilled to be part of this process. It is extremely instrumental to our future.”