Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner have been with him for 10 seasons. Kam Chancellor was with him for eight, Richard Sherman for seven and Marshawn Lynch for five.
Pete Carroll has coached a host of All-Pros and future Hall of Famers during his tenure with the Seahawks, but perhaps the most compelling testimony speaking to the culture he has built came from a guy who had been there for one month.
Adrian Peterson, the best running back of his generation, signed with the Seahawks on Dec. 1 and played just one game before being sidelined because of an injury. He spent the rest of the season as a mentor to younger running backs and appeared to have a substantial impact on budding star Rashaad Penny. But the day after the Seahawks’ final game, Peterson — who has played for seven NFL teams in his 15 years — offered profound praise for the franchise.
“I’ve been blessed to play with a lot of different organizations. I can say this is definitely, probably, the best experience I’ve had,” Peterson said. “There’s a different mentality that I experienced coming into this building. With the team having the record that they had, just kind of seeing how the coaches and the players continued to approach each week, just really grinding and focusing on one week at a time and looking at it as another challenge, another opportunity, I mean, to get better. So it was an amazing experience for me.”
Peterson didn’t single out Carroll here, but he did extol the mindset he instills. And if you notice something about the Seahawks, it’s that players rarely want to leave.
The aforementioned Penny is set to hit free agency worth significantly more than he was before he blew up in the last five games of the season, when he logged at least 135 rushing yards in four of them. When the California native and San Diego State product was asked if he wants to return to Seattle, he beamed and said, “This is home to me. I would love to be back.”
You hear this quite often — and you have to think Pete has a lot to do with it. Think about some of the times he could have sounded off on players but bit his tongue. In 2016, Sherman twice blew up at his coaches on the sideline, and after the second instance (vs. the Rams), blasted Carroll for choosing to throw the ball on the 1-yard line — a clear dig at the infamous Super Bowl mishap.
Carroll never chastised him publicly, possibly prompting Sherman to reach out to the Seahawks to see if they would match the deal the 49ers offered two years later.
In 2015, Lynch chose to rehab his abdominal injury away from the Seahawks’ trainers, and notoriously declared himself out just before the team’s playoff game vs. the Vikings that postseason. Carroll never criticized him publicly, and four years later Lynch rejoined the team for the final regular-season game and two playoff games.
In 2018, safety Earl Thomas regularly denounced the Seahawks for not signing him to an extension two years before his contract was set to expire. He flipped Pete the bird after breaking his leg in Arizona, but yet again, Carroll gave Earl his full support.
And, of course, when Wilson put forth a list of four teams he’d be willing to be traded to last offseason — thus putting Seahawks fans into a spin cycle — Carroll downplayed the drama and showed reverence for Russ. Since then, Wilson has repeatedly said he wants to return to Seattle (although who can really be sure).
Oftentimes, relationships matter just as much as success. That’s not just true among players and coaches, but coaches and owners as well. Two examples in San Diego speak to this.
In his final year with the Chargers, coach Marty Schottenheimer led the Chargers to a 14-2 record. But his frayed relationship with owner Dean Spanos cost him his job. Meanwhile, Padres manager Bud Black — possibly the nicest man in sports — never led the club to the playoffs and just once finished with a winning season. He still lasted nine seasons in SD, and is about to enter his sixth season with the Rockies, who have just one playoff appearance under Black’s watch.
Carroll’s Seahawks may have gone 7-10 this season, but he has earned the benefit of the doubt given previous success. Just as significantly, given the relationships he’s built, it’s unlikely the folks above him want to see him go.