Pete Carroll’s guiding principle is that if you create the right environment, if you show people a better way, great things will happen. But will it work with draft pick Frank Clark?
Pete Carroll’s whole persona is based on bringing out the best in people. His guiding principle, and thus by extension the Seahawks’, is that if you create the right environment, if you show them a better way, great things will happen.
I’m convinced it comes from a genuine place. A famous profile of Carroll in Los Angeles Magazine eight years ago begins with a vignette about him driving late at night to one of the poorest, most dangerous inner-city neighborhoods in Los Angeles, unannounced, and interacting with young men, stunned that the high-profile coach of USC was in their midst. The story said Carroll did it frequently, all over the most dangerous and downtrodden parts of town.
Carroll explained to the author, Pulitzer Prize-winner J.R. Moehringer: “Somebody they would never think would come to them and care about them and worry about them — did. I think it gives them hope.”
That’s who Carroll is. That is what the Seahawks have become, for better or worse. As Carroll said Friday at the opening day of rookie minicamp: “We kind of live in a world of optimism around here. We think that something good is going to happen, and we’re going to be able to take care of all situations we deal with. We pretty relentlessly go about our daily business with that thought in mind.”
More on Seahawks’ rookie Frank Clark:
- Seahawks seemed to hear what they wanted to hear about Frank Clark | Larry Stone
- Hotel manager told police Frank Clark said, 'I will hit you like I hit her'
- Top draft pick Frank Clark makes on-field debut at Seahawks rookie minicamp
- Frank Clark speaks: "I'm going to make them proud"
- Frank Clark may face possible ban if he has future altercation
- Prosecutor: I don't believe Frank Clark punched or slapped girlfriend
- Seahawks made mistake by drafting Frank Clark | Larry Stone
- Hawks didn’t interview witnesses to ugly hotel incident involving draft pick Frank Clark
It’s admirable. It’s also pragmatic, of course. Carroll is, after all, a football coach, one who wants to Win Forever. If you can take great talents with troubled pasts that other teams bail on, and convince yourself that your culture will transform them, you’ll end up with some great success stories. Also, Carroll acknowledged Friday, with some failures.
This brings us, as you’ve no doubt guessed, to Frank Clark, who stood on a podium after his first Seahawks practice Friday and said, as he has all along, his mistake was to “put myself in a bad position.”
He portrayed himself as “a great guy” — one who overcame a troubled youth that included brothers who were in gangs, a mom struggling to make ends meet, a homeless stint on the streets of Baldwin Park, a notoriously poor area of Los Angeles. In other words, just the sort of person that Carroll is convinced he can make better, on and off the field.
By now, the noise surrounding Clark is deafening. The truth of what happened in that Sandusky, Ohio, hotel room last November is murky. There is no video to clear things up, as happened in the Ray Rice case. When TMZ released the video that vividly and horrendously showed Rice punching his fiancée — who had earlier apologized for her “role in the incident that night” — the whole domestic-violence dialogue changed in the NFL.
But perhaps not as much as it should have. In the Clark case, everyone agrees there was some kind of physical encounter. The prosecutor’s opinion that Clark didn’t punch or slap his girlfriend, Diamond Hurt, is accompanied by her statement to The Seattle Times that the police work on the case and their report was exemplary; and that, furthermore, Hurt didn’t recant her story.
The police report includes a quote from Hurt that the 6-foot-3, 271-pound Clark punched her, and by her younger brothers saying the same thing. It’s buttressed by accounts from two women next door, who heard the commotion and went into the room to find Hurt appearing unconscious and “definitely beat up” according to one of them. Also by the hotel night manager, who in a statement to police the next day said Clark told her shortly after she entered the couple’s hotel room, “I will hit you like I hit her.”
Many people are screaming to leave the poor kid alone. The justice system has spoken. Clark’s charges were reduced from first-degree misdemeanor domestic violence and assault to fourth-degree persistent disorderly conduct.
“The facts are not as they initially appeared,’’ the prosecutor, Lynne Gast-King, told The Seattle Times.
However, that’s disputed by Perkins Township chief of police Ken Klamar, who told the Sandusky Register on Thursday he is baffled by Gast-King’s decision to drop and reduce the charges.
“I disagree with her,” Klamar said. “I believe what was written (in the police report) is an accurate portrayal of what happened that night.”
Klamar added: “They were not mutual combatants. His strength versus her strength? His size versus her size? Without question, (Clark) was the aggressor in that incident, and I stand by the work. I stand by the decision to file charges of domestic violence and assault, and I don’t see it any other way.”
Certainly, the prosecutor’s words give the Seahawks some cover — all they believe they need. Despite the fact the team didn’t talk to any of those witnesses, and despite the numerous accounts pointing to some sort of physical altercation that resulted in injuries to Hurt, the Seahawks claim their due diligence was vast and sufficient.
Carroll said again Friday that digging into the case told them a story that was “compelling in contrast to what you read. So I don’t know what it says about police reports, but I think … it was very telling. That just added to the story. It was one part of it that we put together to make some sense of this.”
The problem I still have is the Seahawks drew a line in the sand when general manager John Schneider said that domestic violence is a deal-breaker when it comes to draft picks.
He said two years ago: “We would never, ever take a player that struck a female, or had a domestic dispute like that, or did anything like that.” And he said it again, more than once, last week after the Clark pick: Putting hands on a woman is still a deal-breaker.
Many fans have made it clear they don’t care much about all this. They want to believe the best in their team and its players, they want to win and they’re ready to accept Clark on the Seahawks.
Many others have made it clear that this draft pick shakes their belief in the Seahawks’ core values, and it sickens them to have Clark on the roster of the team they love.
The Seahawks didn’t have to subject themselves to any of this. They could, and should, have moved to the next name on their draft board. But Carroll, the Great Rehabilitator, saw a dynamic, pass-rushing defensive end who was slipping on other boards. He saw a young man he felt would thrive in the ever-optimistic Seahawks culture. They heard what they wanted to hear about the case.
The Seahawks don’t want to see or hear much else.