Pete Carroll started out answering a question about his new offensive coordinator, Shane Waldron; the Seahawks head coach ended up getting philosophical, launching into a long explanation on a topic he so often brings up: offensive balance.
This is anything but a new topic when it comes to Carroll—he has been preaching balance not just throughout his 11-plus years in Seattle, but also back when he turned USC into a college football powerhouse—but Carroll felt the need to explain himself once again to kick off camp because sometimes the meaning of balance, at least the way he sees it, gets misconstrued at times.
Balance to Pete Carroll has never meant a specific number of running plays vs. passing plays—and while we're at it, Carroll has never discussed a desire to have a "run-first" offense despite it so many people wanting to slap that label on the Seahawks. To Carroll, balance isn't about a particular number of runs or passes in game, it's about having the ability to do both well when one or the other is required to win a game. Sometimes that might mean running the ball 40 times a game because of inclement weather, or because of what an opposing defense is giving them, or because Seattle is playing with a big lead in the second half. But balance can also look like Seattle's 2018 win in Carolina in which the Panthers committed to stopping the run—the Seahawks had rushed for more than 150 yards in the previous seven games—and the Seahawks won with only 75 rushing yards in a game in which Russell Wilson threw for 339 yards and two scores.
"Hopefully, our ability to mix the running and the passing game can be as good as it's ever been," Carroll said. "That's what I'm hoping for. We always want a balanced offense, we want an explosive, balanced offense. That's so we can run the ball when we need to. I've said it other ways at times and you guys have gone running with that, but we've always been that way. It goes all the way back to the Trojans. We did the same exact principle to keep us being a balanced football team so that we can sustain throughout all the rigors and the challenges no matter what they are, and that's something we need.
"We have featured Russell on the move and off the play actions and all that stuff, and that's why it's so important to have the balance in the running game. That's what we're seeking; we want to be explosive and we want to be balanced. That does not mean it's going to be 50-50, I never thought that. I don't ever talk that way, but the balance to me is the ability and commitment to it so when you need it, it's there, so you can win games in the fourth quarter running the football and doing the things you want to do in the style that we want to win with."
And regardless of how often Waldron might call running plays on a particular Sunday, Carroll wants a team offense that has a commitment to a running game throughout the year—in training camp, in practices, in games when it's called for—so that an effective and explosive running game is available when the Seahawks need it.
"It's really more that you're always committed to it, so that when you need it, whether it's the opponent, the weather, the situation, it's the fourth quarter, it's the wind blowing too hard, or whatever it may be, you have the availability of the run game whenever you need it," Carroll said. "If you're not committed to it and all of a sudden, here comes that game, you don't have it. And our football has ever been structured that way. This goes back as far back as I can go back in how I've been raised as a coach. That's an important aspect."
Carroll also sees the running game as a key element of having a tough football team. Not to mention it ties in well with his "all about the ball" philosophy that puts such a strong emphasis on turnover differential.
"The running game is what really closes the circle in your football team about your toughness," he said. "If you don't run the football, you aren't going to be a tough football team; you will be something other than that. You can win a lot of games. It's the commitment to it, it's the mentality of it, it's the way that you own the football—we have been a turnover oriented team forever, we've been plus for ten years straight and we'll continue to be that to do that. It's all part of it that fits together; it helps you win games. I don't gauge (balance) on numbers, it's not on numbers. It's on the ability to be effective, and its ability to affect what you want to do in the throwing game. If you can't run it—we've had a couple spans in there when our running backs were all banged up, and you can tell that our game went kind of dead on us. That's not necessarily that you can't run it by calling it, it's the effectiveness and the impact that you have on the running game when it's not there, it's not the same game."
What exactly a balanced offense will look like in 2021 with Shane Waldron calling plays remains to be seen, but Carroll knows that for Seattle's offense to be at its best, it will need to be able to call upon both the running game and the passing game when the situation calls for either.
"We score our points around here, and (the running game) has been an effective part of our game, and it's given us stability too, in our style," Carroll said. "We've been pretty consistent over the years. We need to get back to really being dominant offensively. I think part of that is making sure it will come. I think Shane (Waldron) is tuned in and ready to do this beautifully, and I'm really excited about it."
Photos from Seahawks Training Camp practice, held on Thursday, July 29 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Seahawks Training Camp is presented by Safeway.