Pete Carroll has not just accepted the concept of individualism when it comes to running a football team, he has actively embraced it as the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. The way Carroll sees it, if a player can be himself, and if a team helps that player be his best self, then the on-field product will improve. And while it's hard to argue with the results—five straight seasons with postseason berths and double-digit win totals, two Super Bowl appearances and one championship—embracing big personalities and outspokenness can, at times, bring up questions about things like locker-room chemistry.
That was the case Friday when, following the Seahawks' third day of organized team activities, Carroll was asked about a recent ESPN article that suggested rifts in the locker room, some of which dated back to Seattle's loss in Super Bowl XLIX.
"I think it was an old story that was revisited," Carroll said. "I don't even know where all the stuff came from. I would say this, I've said to you guys before that the big wins are just as hard as the big losses if you let it be. Our first Super Bowl was a challenge to get back form. Our second Super Bowl was a challenge to get back from. That's just how it is, it's that impacting. And if you notice, most teams don't make it back, the odds are that you don't make it back to where you've been. So as we've been challenged with growing and understanding and moving ahead, that's just as normal as it could be. I'm proud of where we are and how we've handled our past. That article makes reference to stuff that's years old now. This time of year, if you guys want to keep talking about it, you can, but it's not a big deal to us at all. It isn't an issue to us at all."
As Carroll will always point out with topics such as this, maintaining a healthy relationship between his players, or between coaches and players, is an ongoing process that never ends, and while things will never be perfect in a locker room of 53 highly competitive young men—90 this time of year—he really likes where his team is at heading into the 2017 season.
"We've been working at this for years together," Carroll said. "This is an ongoing relationship we've had. I've tried to explain this, we're kind of living as a family in this situation. These guys have grown up with us as football players, and in that we go through a lot of changes and there's a lot of things that happen and there's a lot of challenges in all directions. Not just for one guy; for all of our guys. And in that, I know I'm dedicated to making progress as we go. That doesn't mean everything is always going ahead exactly as you plan. Sometimes there's setbacks and challenges, and as a matter of fact, if you don't count on that, you don't understand. So we're in great shape. This locker room is in great shape, this group is fired up, they're working hard every day, everybody is pulling for one another. Whatever you guys think might be otherwise, it isn't. We're in great shape right now and everything is going in great fashion."
As for the idea brought up in the article that some players are treated differently than others, that's not something Carroll would deny, because he doesn't believe it helps his team be its best to treat every player and every situation the same.
"I show favoritism to every one of these guys," he said. "Every one of them. I'm trying to figure each guy out and help him out as best as I can, I think we're doing OK at doing that. Each person is different, and whereas they have to fit into the team—they've got to maintain the team expectations and standards, and I've got to make sure I hold them to all of that—individually I treat those guys as well as I can to what they need and how it fits them. In terms of Russell, we've raised Russell from a neophyte in this program, and he has done an extraordinary job for us. He's a great competitor and a great worker, and I could say that about Doug (Baldwin) and Richard (Sherman) and Bobby (Wagner) and K.J. (Wright), but they're all different and they're all unique, and they all deserve the individual attention that they get. If I wasn't doing that, I'm not reaching to help them be the best they can be. I'm not going to treat everybody the same and overlook whatever is going with them individually. I'm not doing that. If you don't think it's working, then too bad. I think it's working pretty darn well. It's the best way we know how to do it. We're demanding that these guys find their best, and I'm demanding of myself that I find that in them and help them get there and stay there as long as we can and continue to be successful and get along and serve each other and all of that.
"In essence, I guess things are a lot different than maybe you guys think. I don't know that, but in here with us and the work that we're doing, I think we're in marvelous position. That doesn't mean everybody's on the same page exactly right all the time. I'm not either. We've got to work at it, it's a challenge. It's about developing relationships and working with people and helping them to find their best, and that's what we're working at right here. We're not doing it right all the time, but we're trying."
While Carroll will never forget the feeling of losing a Super Bowl, or of winning one, for that matter, that loss was not an issue for last year's team.
"It wasn't even a question, I don't know if it ever even came up," Carroll said. "But I will say this, and I'm putting myself in trouble by saying this. It's never going away for me. The first one's never going away for me. It has affected me for the rest of my life, and the next one affected me for the rest of my life. I'm OK with that, I've just got to keep going. I've got to manage my ways so I can keep moving forward. I don't say that it affected me in a negative way, it's just a big experience. It's a lot you go through, it's a lot that you deal with, and you've got to put it in the right place so that the next step you take can be the best step that you're taking, and that's what we're working at doing."
The Seahawks held their third of seven Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on Friday, June 2 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.