Allen, who died Monday, led a Seahawks organization that embraced individuality, celebrated differences and provided a nurturing environment that allowed players to express themselves, no matter how disruptive it might seem from the outside.
The Seahawks have a persona – really more like an aesthetic – under their current regime that couldn’t be more distinctive, and at odds with the prevailing culture of the NFL.
They are an organization that purports to embrace individuality, to celebrate differences, and provide a nurturing environment that allows freedom for players to express themselves, no matter how disruptive it might seem from the outside.
That style has led to great success, and at time some great turmoil. But it is the Seahawks’ way, for better or worse – far more of the former, to be sure, in the nine seasons of coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.
Carroll said Tuesday that the team’s ethos has drifted down from the top – owner Paul Allen, who died Monday and left a gaping void in the Seahawks organization.
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“He didn’t want to be the same as everyone else,” said Carroll, who during a news conference Tuesday movingly extolled Allen’s virtues as a boss, innovator, visionary and friend. “His spirit was on everything we were doing.”
The natural question is whether that spirit can be maintained as the Seahawks transition to a new ownership model, which at this point remains a mystery. The first question to be answered is whether Allen’s sister Jody, vice chair of First & Goal, Inc. – the company that oversees Seahawks operations – is interested in assuming the ownership mantle. If not, then there presumably would be a search for a new owner. The list of people with the wherewithal to buy into a franchise valued at $2.58 billion, according to Forbes, is not overflowing.
Carroll said Tuesday that those are questions for another day; this is a time to celebrate Allen and what he stood for. But the coach did vow that the organization would continue to run smoothly in the wake of Allen’s death after 21 years of ownership.
“I don’t see how our fans couldn’t be assured we’re on course,” he said. “Nothing’s changing. Paul wouldn’t want us to do anything different than what we’re doing, which is to go for it and to represent in every way we can, until you can’t. We’re going to go for it just in that fashion.”
Carroll said he never would have been lured away from USC in 2010 – a tumultuous, dissension-filled time in the Seahawks organization – if he hadn’t become convinced, through liaison Tod Leiweke, that he shared a vision with Allen. He learned that Allen had an intense desire to win a championship – “no holds barred,” in Carroll’s words.
“He wasn’t going to let anything get in the way,” Carroll added. “I found trust early in that conversation, that relationship, that became so well-founded as we got together and started going about it and battling together.”
Allen, of course, was a man of eclectic interests that Carroll affectionately summarized, with wonder in his voice: “Whether it’s in space or under the ocean, the farthest reaches of the globe, chasing diseases and freeing animals and saving elephants, all the amazing things he stood for.”
But in the realm of football, Carroll characterized Allen as not being hands-on as an owner, but rather inquisitive and supportive.
“Paul had a great thought that he wanted to put people in charge and give them what they needed, the resources they needed, and he wanted you to go for it,” Carroll said. “He didn’t want you to hold back. He wanted at all times to be pushing ahead. That’s all we could ever hope for.
“The message was clear how he wanted us to go about our business. That’s why John and I were in such concert from the beginning. You couldn’t ask for a better format and a better setting. That’s why I wound up finding my way here.”
Allen, he said, knew there was a space for people to be different, which coincided perfectly with Carroll’s philosophy. Hence, you had free spirits such as Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett populating the Seahawks’ locker room, meshing beautifully during the glory years – though there would perhaps be a price to pay in the aftermath.
“We’ve been a little bit different around here,” Carroll said. “I couldn’t have loved (more) the way he embraced that, his liberal thinking, his openness. … He wanted to do special, unique, extraordinary things, and he appreciated whenever we were going through whatever phases we’ve been through. The stuff we’ve encountered over our years together, he was always supportive.
“You’ve heard me talk about uniqueness a lot, about our players. That’s just echoing the kind of way Paul would look at things. He wanted us to find special qualities in everything we were doing and the people we were dealing with. We were in concert to the Nth with that one.”
Allen, he said, was never embarrassed by something a player would say or how he acted – and there have been a few opportunities over the years.
“He knew there was a time and a place we could deal with it properly,” Carroll said. “He always believed there were ways we could work our way through things if we were really resourceful.
“He was just a good dude. He was fun to do things with. For me I knew I could free-wheel, and figure out stuff and go for it, and throw the ideas by him, and almost always he would have suggestions. But always in support of not trying to be like everyone else, but doing things in a unique fashion. We fit very well together in that sense.”
Carroll’s fondest memory of the owner is being on the stage at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey after Seattle’s Super Bowl triumph over Denver, reveling with Allen during the trophy ceremony, then watching him play the guitar “like he was Eddie Vedder or something” at the party that night.
“You can have all the money in the world, but it’s really hard to have that world championship,” Carroll said. “It meant everything to him. To be able to share that with him was amazing.”
And in the brutally painful aftermath of the Super Bowl loss to New England the following year, Allen only elevated his stature in Carroll’s eyes.
“He was, as far as I was concerned, just as championship in victory as he was in the defeat,” he said. “We immediately went to work on what was coming up next as soon as we turned the corner. He supported John and I in a beautiful fashion.”
Carroll was asked how he planned to honor Allen.
“I’m going to do it by competing,” he said. “I’m going to give him everything I’ve got.”
Those have always been the Pete Carroll buzzwords. But he shared that penchant with the Seahawks owner.