RENTON — If Pete Carroll has made anything clear during his five years as coach of the Seahawks, it’s that “It’s all about the ball.’’
That’s Carroll’s five-word mantra that stresses his belief that the most important stat in football is turnovers — both creating them on defense and preventing them on offense.
Recall that Carroll entered the team’s annual Town Hall meeting with fans last spring holding up a football and saying, “Everything we do — our style, our technique, our philosophy — has to do with this thing right here.”
Then he rattled off a number of statistics to back up the importance of turnovers in determining the outcome (which could now be updated to include the fact that Seattle is 33-6 under Carroll when winning the turnover battle, 17-24 when it does not.)
Most Read Sports Stories
- Mariners acquire All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier from the Padres
- GM Jerry Dipoto says active Mariners have two offers — one 'notable' — out to free agents as MLB lockout looms
- Commentary: Jayden de Laura driving a WSU flag into the Husky Stadium turf should haunt Huskies now — and then motivate them
- Given the chaos that enveloped the Huskies all season, this Apple Cup blowout was the only logical conclusion
- Instant analysis: Three impressions from WSU's 40-13 rout of UW in the Apple Cup
Sometimes, though, when Seattle coaches want to get that point across to their players, it becomes all about the piranhas.
One part of Seattle’s weekly routine to emphasize turnovers is a video produced by Rocky Seto, the team’s defensive passing game coordinator. The video is typically shown on “Turnover Thursday,’’ a day when turnovers are a focal point and the existence of which further makes clear Carroll’s philosophy.
Seto said the videos feature “just a bunch of styles of how to take the ball away and how to keep the ball.’’
But to make sure everyone is paying attention to a message that is among the most basic in football, every once in a while one of what Seto calls “God’s creations’’ makes an appearance in the middle of a play — a ram or a snake or a piranha.
“Kind of to simulate that this is how the animals attack and we would like to execute a similar technique,’’ Seto says. “We have a lot of fun with it. It’s a long season, you know?’’
The St. Louis Rams weren’t exactly laughing, though, when safety Earl Thomas copied one of those techniques — a six-inch chop — to force a key fumble late in the game and preserve Seattle’s 20-6 win. At least, that’s how Carroll preferred to view the play.
“It’s a technique of striking that is used in a lot of aspects of the animal kingdom we’ve found,’’ Carroll said later. “So whether it’s a kangaroo or a ram head-butting, we look for that six-inch punch.’’
It’s all part of what Carroll said is a critical task in coaching football: “How many creative ways can you bring the point back to the surface again?’’
Says Seto: “It’s always the same message, but it just maybe comes from different angles. The art of it is that coach (Carroll) is a master of teaching the same principle over and over but keeping it fresh. That’s what we try to do.’’
The statistics show it’s working as Seattle lost the fewest turnovers in team history this season — 14. That broke the record of 17 set by the 2005 team. The two other seasons with the fewest turnovers also came on Carroll’s watch — 18 in 2012 and 19 in 2013. That Seattle’s combined record in those four seasons is 49-15 and includes what are to date the franchise’s only two Super Bowl appearances is no coincidence, Carroll believes.
It helps that Seattle has a quarterback in Russell Wilson who grasps Carroll’s philosophy. Wilson had just seven interceptions this season in 452 attempts, an interception percentage of 1.5 that was the lowest in franchise history other than Seneca Wallace’s 1.24 (3 in 242 attempts) in 2008.
Wilson led the NFL with 39 passes thrown away this season, according to Pro Football Focus, living up to what Carroll has said is one of his greatest traits of being “tremendously conscious of taking care of the football’’ and getting rid of it when necessary.
Wilson’s career interception percentage of 2.1 would be the third-lowest of all time if he had enough attempts to qualify (behind Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers at 1.6 and New England’s Tom Brady at 2.0).
A little luck also helps as Seattle had 23 fumbles this season but lost only seven — tying the 2005 team for the fewest in franchise history.
“The ball bounces our way, I guess,’’ Wilson said.
It added up to a year when Seattle had a plus-10 turnover differential, not quite the plus-20 of last season but still good enough to rank fourth in the NFL.
Seto is happy to give the videos — and the piranhas — a little credit.
“The more you see it, the more clear you are in your mind about how to do it and naturally it just becomes more ingrained in you,’’ Seto said. “I really believe that.’’