Pete Carroll saw it before anyone else did.
He saw it fully formed in his mind’s eye, which no doubt had an inner glint. He saw, from the start, this vision of a joyful, cohesive football team he has been selling with an evangelistic fervor since the January day in 2010 when Carroll was introduced as the Seahawks’ new coach.
And now that it has all come to fruition, now that he has the ring and a thirst for more, it’s hard to imagine any other blueprint, or anyone else in the job. The Seahawks rightfully took care of that Friday when they gave Carroll a new three-year contract through 2016 that will take him to age 65. Or 29, in Carroll years.
Let’s tell the truth. There were a lot of us who wondered what the Seahawks were thinking, dispatching Jim Mora after just one year to grab the flamboyant USC coach. He didn’t quite seem like a Seattle kind of guy with his L.A. flash and that seeming psycho-babble about always competing and being the best you can be.
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Any coach could, and many do, spout such phrases. But Carroll had so much more in mind. He had the utmost clarity in his conviction that a program built on positivity, on maximizing strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses, could work in the NFL just as it had in college.
This was not a widely accepted belief, and indeed, Carroll had run into resistance in his previous NFL stops. But now he had the gravitas of national championships and what he felt was a foolproof methodology built from trial-and-error.
Most important, Carroll had management willing to give him a free hand, right down to selecting the general manager. He told John Schneider early they were going to forge “the most special head coach-GM relationship ever in the National Football League.”
Which caused Schneider to wonder, privately, what he’d gotten himself into. Or at least that’s the joke he made on the podium Friday, part of ongoing banter between the two. There’s no doubt now Carroll and Schneider are in lockstep in this vision, though that doesn’t mean they are always in agreement on every aspect. When that happens, they work it out.
“I can’t tell how many times we just sit down and we’ll just talk,” Schneider said. “Talk through things.”
Schneider more than once Friday used the phrase “low ego” to describe Carroll. But that doesn’t mean the coach didn’t have full faith that his new dynamic — this “very positive, fun culture here in Seattle” described by Schneider — would thrive in the cut-throat, violent, stressful NFL.
“I wanted to prove that we had come to a way that handled people in a manner that would allow them to be at their best,” Carroll said. “I thought we had found that out, and I just wanted to show it here.”
Now, of course, it seems so simple and obvious, as Carroll laid it out Friday: “We treat people in a manner, we think, where we can ask them to give us absolutely everything they have. We’re going to take care of them in every way, we’re going to look after them, we’re going to help them be the best they can possibly be.
“In turn, we expect them to give us everything they have, to be the greatest addition to a club they can be.”
And whenever you start to think it’s overly simplistic, and decidedly idealistic, well, just check the scoreboard: Seattle 43, Denver 8. It hasn’t changed.
Nor, it appears, has Carroll’s motivation to sustain the success. It starts with energy belying his age. He’ll turn 63 this season, though Schneider said with mock concern, “I thought you said you were 50. We might want to take a look at things.”
The phrase “young at heart” was made with Carroll in mind. Other than the silver hair, there’s little that indicates he’s in his 60s. He embraces the modern culture, remains physically fit and maintains the ability to relate to athletes 40 years his junior. All while matching their level of enthusiasm.
“Glena says it’s zeal,” Carroll said of his wife. “I don’t now what that means, though. It’s just kind of the way we want to live and operate in this job.
“This is an amazing world we get to live in and work in. We love the game so much, and the game is so important to us. To be part of it at this level and have a chance to achieve with the freedom they’ve given us, it just generates all the positive stuff.
“We’re on the psychology of positive here. There’s no doubt about that. We see things as they could become, and strive to make it happen. That’s so empowering on a daily basis.”
Carroll recognizes that the next great challenge is to stave off complacency. He said the Seahawks are “right in the middle of something really special here,’’ implying that the ending has not come yet.
In fact, when the goal is, as he put it, “to do things in every aspect, every phase and corner of our program, better than it’s ever been done before,” the very concept of an end is immaterial, in Carroll’s mind.
“There’s nothing to gauge that to, nothing to compare it to, which is how I like it,’’ he said. “There’s not going to be a time where we’re ever going to know if we did that.”
Maybe that sounds a little corny, a little too new age. But now, and for the foreseeable future, that’s the Seahawks way. The Pete Carroll way. And it’s working. Just check the scoreboard.
Still hasn’t changed.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146