Pete Carroll won multiple national titles at USC and has been to two Super Bowls in his first five seasons with the Seahawks, winning one. Yet it's an 11-minute video, not trophies or rings or accolades, that will be Carroll's biggest contribution to football according someone who knows Carroll and his career quite well.
"I think this is going to be one of Coach Carroll's biggest contributions to the game," said Rocky Seto, the Seahawks' assistant head coach and someone who has worked with Carroll since 2001.
The Seahawks released an updated version of the tackling instruction video they put out last year, an effort spearheaded by Carroll and Seto to provide coaches at all levels a look at how the Seahawks teach their players to tackle.
As concussion awareness increases, football continues to evolve, which is why Seto sees this work as being so important. The Seahawks have not only cut back on injuries since putting an emphasis on leverage-based shoulder tackling, they have also reduced their number of missed tackles.
In other words, the Seahawks, who have allowed the fewest points in the NFL for three straight seasons and the fewest yards for two straight, are showing that improving safety and playing hard-hitting, effective defense don't have to be mutually exclusive.
"Our players have gotten healthier," Seto said while showing clips of the video to fans at Wednesday night's Seahawks Town Hall. "We've been able to lower our head injuries with our defensive players, and our missed tackles have been down implementing this style. So if you're high school coach or a Pop Warner coach, it's a new game. When I was playing and even coaching early, I was taught to get my head across a tackle, or see what I hit, which in effect put my head in the line of fire. It has worked beautifully in terms of getting guys down, but now we know better."
Carroll and Seto have slowly been implementing elements of what they now call a "Hawk Tackle" going back to their days together at USC, but this really all came together in 2012 when Kit Lawson, the coach of the Birmingham Lions, an American football team from Birmingham, England, was visiting a Seahawks practice. After observing how the Seahawks teach tackling, Lawson noted that their technique looked a lot like a rugby tackle, and lightbulb went off in Seto's head. By showing clips of rugby players make big hits without pads or helmets, Seto and Carroll had a great example of just how hard a hit can be delivered without using the head.
"We just feel like it's important for the game," Carroll said. "We're trying to always help out, in particular in keeping the game safe. We've been doing something for a long time that we had never really shared before. It was something we had learned, just through ball—it's an old style concept of tackling. When we connected it with rugby, it made it even more fun to grow with it."
This year's video features many of the same techniques from last year's version, but adds a few elements such as what they call the "Hawk lift tackle"—essentially the idea being that a runner can't drive his feet for extra yardage if those feet are no longer in contact with the ground. If last year's video is any indication, the second edition should be well received by everyone from Pop Warner coaches to high school coaches to NFL league officials promoting player safety.
"We've gotten great response from a lot of coaches in a lot of places," Carroll said. "The league in particular really liked that we were putting this out there. We'll pump it all out again… and it will reach thousands of coaches who connect with tons and tons of people. We're just hoping we can keep the game fresh and keep moving."
Carroll and Seto have seen a significant change in the way their players tackle in just the short time that this has become a coaching emphasis for them. Kam Chancellor, for example, was penalized and fined multiple times early in his career for helmet-to-helmet hits, even giving himself a concussion in 2011 with a hit on Anquan Boldin. Now, Chancellor makes highlight-reel hits with his shoulder and is still one of the most intimidating forces in the game.
"They've really taken to the style and it shows up in our film all the time," Carroll said. "The thing we like is we've been able to maintain a physical way about us in doing what we're doing, so we don't think we lost anything there, but we do think guys are a little better protected from penalties and from getting hurt. All of that seems to work well. Obviously we're playing pretty good defense."
Pete Carroll, Tom Cable and Rocky Seto hosted a Seahawks Town Hall meeting at Cinerama in downtown Seattle on Wednesday evening talking about football and the Seahawks with the 12s.