Carroll has long created a feeling that his team is exceptional. His players don’t just think they are good. They think they are a unique, different breed than the rest of the NFL.

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A long flight home to Philadelphia — five hours, to be exact — and Angela Duckworth never stopped writing.

She had spent the day with the Seahawks and wanted to record everything she had observed. She wanted to incorporate it into her work.

Duckworth is a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania and a MacArthur “genius” fellow. Her specialty is grit, the trait she believes is the best indicator of success.

In 2013, she gave a talk about grit that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll watched before going to bed. The topic fascinated him, so he contacted Duckworth.

Duckworth’s background included teaching in the classroom. Carroll’s included teaching on the football field. Both valued grit’s importance.

But during her talk, Duckworth said something Carroll disagreed with. Parents and teachers always asked how they could build grit, and she told them, “The honest answer is, I don’t know.”

That struck Carroll as wrong. He was convinced he had been doing that for years. So last May, Duckworth flew to Seattle to see for herself. What she experienced that day didn’t change her outlook so much as reinforced it and has rippled across her work ever since.

“I knew that culture really mattered before I came out there,” she said. “But I was surprised to see how effective it was, and maybe more than that, it was what he was doing.

“The only reason I study grit is because I do want to increase grit in people. I want to create in places other than the Seahawks what Pete Carroll has created. I want that to be for all the kids who don’t have Pete Carroll as a dad or a coach. I want to scale that. In a way, that’s a map for my research program.”

Duckworth wrote a book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” in which she dedicates a chapter to culture. She estimates she spent the most words on Carroll.

She also recently started a nonprofit called the Character Lab, which hopes to build character in students and educate teachers and parents.

“The things I wrote down on the plane coming back in May,” Duckworth said, “that’s going to be the hypothesis I’m going to test as we get started with the Character Lab.”

Relating culture and grit

Less than two years ago, Angela Duckworth had spoken in less-certain terms about the importance of culture in relation to grit.

“My sense is that great coaches are able to create, to forge, a team or group identity that says, ‘This is the kind of person we want. This is what it means to be on this team,’ ” she said at the time.

But Duckworth’s day with the Seahawks allowed her to witness Carroll up close. She went to meetings, talked with players and scouts and traversed through the team’s gigantic facility.

“I had this intuition before I got on the plane, but it really drove it home: A lot of grit comes from the culture that you’re in,” she said. “So if you end up in a culture where other people are gritty, the leader is gritty, the leader is incredibly demanding and yet, at the same time, incredibly supportive, you’re going to be grittier than you would be in a place that didn’t have those features.”

The word culture gets thrown around a lot in sports, but Duckworth has an interesting perspective. She is not a sports fan. She is an outsider, and that distant vantage point allowed her to observe Carroll and the Seahawks through a broader academic lens.

“It’s a very strong culture; it’s palpable,” she said. “And they have all the features that cultures have. They have a common language, they have words that are understood in the group that can be easily misunderstood outside of the group. Like when Pete says, ‘Always compete,’ and then has that particular definition of compete. ‘It’s not about beating the other person but being your best self.’ In a way you’re like, ‘Why would he say that?’

“But that’s what cultures do. They create phrases and traditions that are understood by the ‘in’ group and usually misunderstood and not practiced by the ‘out’ group. Cultures usually have a history and a narrative: ‘This is who we are and what makes us different.’ They refer to themselves as categorically different. They’re not just football players, they’re Seahawks.”

A unique group of players

Carroll has long created a feeling that his team is exceptional. His players don’t just think they are good. They think they are a unique, different breed than the rest of the NFL.

Carroll has nurtured this environment through his confidence and ego, his iron belief in himself. He has never let his players feel anything but special, reinforcing that idea all season.

“I think Pete does a great job of bringing our type of guys in,” fourth-year linebacker Bruce Irvin said. “Our type of guys means guys who have faced adversity, who have been through stuff. That’s what our team is about. We know we’re a one-of-a-kind team in the league.”

They have felt that way for years, even before they won a Super Bowl, which indicates that Carroll intentionally built that feeling.

“Pete talks about this, how he gets guys who have been run out of wherever,” former Seahawks linebacker Heath Farwell said in 2013. “They ran me out of Minnesota, and I came here and I’m angry. How many guys on this roster are like that and play their (butts) off? They’re looking for certain guys. That’s just part of their evaluations, and I would say it’s different than a lot of personnel people. They’re looking for something real specific.”

We now know that specific something is grit. In one of her talks, Duckworth defined grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” She likened it to living life like a marathon, not a sprint.

But grit is a vague and elusive word. In many corners of the sports world, it is all but banned. As an adjective, it can mean nothing at all.

The Seahawks have defined grit to better predict which players will have it. And they have grilled current players in order to better understand why they’re gritty.

What’s interesting, as a thought experiment, is whether it’s even important if the Seahawks are different. What if they are just like other teams but believe they are exceptional?

“That’s all that matters,” defensive end Cliff Avril said. “If everybody believes in one thing, it’s definitely real in the locker room.”

‘20 Pete Carrolls’

On her trip to Seattle, Duckworth was in a meeting with the coaching staff. When the meeting ended, one of the coaches told her that he “spoke fluent Carroll,” which intrigued Duckworth.

“Pete has created a culture where it’s not just him who’s preaching,” she said. “It really seemed that you talk to the players, you talk to the coaches, you even talk to the photographers, and there’s this complete consistency of how they see themselves, the verbs and nouns they use, their priorities and values. I came out of that meeting, and it was like there were 20 Pete Carrolls.”

Duckworth gave the Seahawks a condensed version of the same speech she gives to Ivy League faculties. When she finished, a player asked a thoughtful question: If he promised his brother an Xbox as long as he got straight A’s, what should he do if his brother didn’t meet that goal? Still buy him the Xbox? Soften his standards?

But before Duckworth could answer, a voice cut through the auditorium.

“Pete couldn’t contain his advice,” she said. “He burst out. It was like he was showing me what he does with his own players. He said, ‘You don’t lower the standards. He can totally get A’s! There’s absolutely no question he can get A’s. He needs a coach, he needs training, you have to make it possible for him to do that.’ ”

Duckworth, the specialist in the room and a former teacher, laughs at the memory.

“I was like, ‘This is what he must do all day,’ ” she said. “It was a little peek into his mind about how he sees any setback or any problem.”