Reports about recent departures raise the question, but the results show that his approach is fine. Remember the Seahawks were a few missed field goals away from finishing 12-4 with injuries to several key players.
Mike Holmgren wants to make something clear right away: Pete Carroll doesn’t need his advice. With two Super Bowl appearances and five straight seasons with a playoff win, the NFC’s most successful active coach has clearly demonstrated that he knows what he’s doing.
Still, when there are stories of Michael Bennett reading books during team meetings, or Richard Sherman saying Carroll’s words have gotten stale, it’s nice to get some perspective from another Super Bowl-winning coach.
So I reached out to Holmgren and asked: Does a coach have to worry about changing his approach?
“It’s something you need to think about,” Holmgren said. “If you think there’s a chance you’re getting boring or becoming repetitive, then you do have to think about it.”
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Whether he was in Green Bay or Seattle, Holmgren relied on a players committee to make sure he wasn’t losing the locker room. He would call meetings with guys such as Reggie White, Brett Favre or Matt Hasselbeck and ask, “Am I getting through?”
He also remembers a conversation he had with former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox, who told him, “A coach really only gets eight years. After that, people have already heard everything you have to say.”
Holmgren wasn’t ready to buy into that completely but confessed there was probably some truth to it. And if you’re keeping score at home, Carroll just completed his eighth year in Seattle.
So should Mr. Rah Rah try to tone it down a touch? Should the king of being “fired up” douse the flames from time to time?
Former Husky star Damon Huard doesn’t think so. Huard never played for Carroll but did play for the likes of Jimmy Johnson, Bill Belichick, Dick Vermeil and Herm Edwards.
And for anyone questioning whether athletes performing at the highest level of their sport need outside motivation, Huard gives an emphatic yes.
“I thought (motivation) was really important; there’s no doubt about it,” Huard said. “I was motivated by all those guys in some shape or form.”
It’s not that these guys were climbing on tables on Sunday morning and doing Vince Lombardi impressions. Belichick would randomly call on players about the other team’s personnel, and the fear of upsetting him with your ignorance was motivation enough.
It was uncomfortable at times, but the man always put his team in a position to win. Carroll has done the same, which is why Huard thinks the idea of him changing his approach is absurd.
“Are you kidding me? (Carroll’s style) doesn’t get old,” Huard said. “I think this is just about a couple of bitter guys that are disappointed they’re not here. Had they been healthy and had they played better and if they’d just kept their mouths shut and played football, they’d still be here.”
Former Seahawk Steve Largent, as you might imagine, was pretty good at motivating himself. Hall of Famers tend to have that quality.
But that didn’t mean coaches couldn’t give him a boost — whatever the technique might be.
With Jack Patera, it was fear-based. More threats than carrots. Largent distinctly remembers Patera telling players “we will tolerate you until we can replace you.”
Knox was different. He’d carry around notebooks full of “Knoxisms” and try to pick his players up.
Largent said the big speech would come during the Saturday-night meeting, which he always found entertaining.
“I can’t imagine anyone reading a book when Chuck was talking,” Largent said. “I would probably have jumped on you if I saw you doing that.”
Every coach has his style. And though I have no doubt that some can drain their players after a certain number of years, I’m not convinced Carroll has done that.
This is a team that played much of the season sans Kam Chancellor, Sherman, Cliff Avril and a decent running back, and yet, if Blair Walsh made very makable field goals, they could have been 12-4.
If I’m Pete, I’m listening to Holmgren and Huard. I’m thinking about what might not be working, but am not changing who I am.
This team has been over .500 for the past six years, and over the past two, beat the eventual Super Bowl champions in the regular season.
So no need for a change-up, Pete.
Even if the message is getting old, the victories most certainly are not.