Pete Carroll’s next quest: Defending the Super Bowl title

Posted Feb 21, 2014

Fresh off the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history, coach Pete Carroll already is looking forward to – and planning for the challenge that will be – the Seahawks winning another.

INDIANAPOLIS – Now that Pete Carroll has led the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl championship, the focus for the team’s fifth-year coach already has turned to making sure it happens more than once.

That “Always Compete” mantra he showed up with in 2010 isn’t just a Carroll catchphrase; it’s one of the cornerstones of his try-and-catch-us mentality that has seen the Seahawks go from 7-9 in his first season to 13-3 and Super Bowl champions in his fourth season.

Carroll emphasized that mentality and approach during his podium stint at the NFL Scouting Combine on Friday, and then underlined it during a post-podium conversation.

“I don’t think it’s any different than winning a National Championship and trying to win it again,” Carroll said from the podium in the media center at Lucas Oil Stadium.

And Carroll would know, because his USC teams won the NCAA title in 2003 and 2004.

“There’s a whole mentality that goes into how you get there, then once you get there you continue,” he said.  “It’s not a brand new experience. It doesn’t have to be. But it does take great discipline and it does take the proper work ethic and mentality so that you can stay in connection with that which got you there.

“You’ve got to know how you got there so you can repeat it again, and retool it. So that’s the challenge. You have the see the signs that are demonstrated by players and the coaches and the people that support you that takes you away from what in essence it takes. So that’s the whole science that I’m really excited about going through.”

A key to the Seahawks’ unprecedented success during the 2013 season was the players’ ability to turn their chip-on-the-shoulder attitude into on-the-field fortitude. And Carroll sees no reason why that should change just because the perception of the Seahawks has.

“That’s not just this season, it’s the same guys who brought that chip in, they didn’t just develop that,” he said. “It was there when we got them.”

That chippy group includes the All-Pro trio of free safety Earl Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman and strong safety Kam Chancellor; quarterback Russell Wilson and wide receiver Doug Baldwin; linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright; and defensive linemen Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane. Whether it was being selected late in the draft, or not drafted at all, or being told they were too small to play at this level, their I’ll-show-you mentality has served them – and the team – beyond well.

“There is true mentality,” Carroll said. “This is a very gritty football team. These guys were driven individuals to do something special. You get enough of those guys, it shows up. You can sense it as a team. And I think that’s what you’re seeing.”

And it also rubs off.

“It’s in the makeup of the people,” Carroll said. “We’ll watch that real carefully. That’s the kind of indicator and the kind of signs we look for: Do things change because of what just happened?”

And life has not, and will not, be the same for the coach or his players after they went 13-3 during the regular season and then used a suffocating defense to turn back the New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos in the postseason – with the exclamation points being the 23-17 win over the 49ers in the NFC Championship and the 43-8 dismantling of the highest-scoring offense in NFL history during the Super Bowl win over the Broncos.

“It’s been a little different,” Carroll said when asked about joining the select fraternity of Super Bowl-winning coaches. “It’s been really fun. There has been tremendous energy about the ball game that continues. Everywhere we go anybody we run into wants to talk about it. The ones who come up basically are pumped up about the game and what happened.

“So we’ve had a lot of fun with it.”

The NFL is a copycat league, and the Seahawks are now the cool cats everyone would like to copy – from their “too short” quarterback, Wilson; to their fast, physical, aggressive and long defense, especially the length that serves Sherman so well (see his end-zone deflection that was intercepted on the 49ers’ final play in the NFC title game).

Let’s start with Wilson, since there have been nonstop questions here about the return the Seahawks have gotten after selecting him in the third-round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

“We’ve learned that Russell is a great football player and a great competitor and all that,” Carroll said. “It just doesn’t matter what package he comes in. It’s not because he’s 5-11½ that he’s a great football player. He’s a great football player.

“And here we are in another draft with some notable players who are likewise. I think it was Johnny (Manziel, the Texas A&M QB) who said that Russell has opened the door for him and guys like him. That’s true. Because the last couple years, the general thinking was that a guy of Russell’s stature couldn’t play. Which obviously is wrong. It’s wrong. And anybody who said that is wrong.”

But, just as obviously, there’s more to Wilson than misconceptions.

“All the elements that make up Russell make him very, very unique,” Carroll said. “Regardless of how tall he is.”

Then there’s the effectiveness of playing not long ball, but length ball, at the corners on the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense. It starts with the 6-foot-3 Sherman, whose 6-5½ wingspan played directly into him leading the league with eight interceptions. But it also includes 6-4 Brandon Browner, whose end-zone deflection on the final play sealed the Week 8 win over the Rams in St. Louis; and 6-1 Byron Maxwell, who intercepted four passes in December after stepping in for Browner after he was injured and then suspended.

There also has been a lot of talk at the Combine about following the Seahawks’ defensive blueprint. So will the league now be filled with tall corners who can play even taller because of their length?

“No, because they don’t exist,” Carroll said. “Big, fast guys are the fewest people around. Everybody would like to get longer, taller guys that run 4.4 (seconds in the 40-yard dash). But there just aren’t many humans like that in the world.

“So it’s rare when you find them, and then you have to develop the guys. The perfect guys aren’t there.”

Except, that is, when you develop them in the secondary of the defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL and led the Seahawks to their Super Bowl championship.