RENTON – Pete Carroll likes his Seahawks to play on an emotional edge. They ended up on the wrong side of that edge more times than he would like in 2016, which the coach cited as his biggest regret while looking back on Seattle’s season.
“I think there were a couple outbursts that we had that we documented well that took us to a place we don’t want to be. We don’t want any part of it,” Carroll said Monday. “The emotional side of it brought out some expressions and took us to a place that was a distraction that we had to get through. And we did. We did deal with it and got through it better than on the inside than on the outside for those watching. We were able to directly go at stuff. We grew from it. Sometimes the setbacks can allow you to grow and it did. But we don’t need those distractions. It’s hard enough to get it done when everybody is in lock step and all that.”
Carroll said he made that point to his team as the Seahawks met for the final time on Sunday, a day after their season ended with a divisional-round playoff loss in Atlanta. Some Seahawks players let their frustrations get the best of them in that game as they did at other times this season.
There were the two sideline blowups with Richard Sherman, the first directed at defensive coordinator Kris Richard and the second at offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Frank Clark and Jarran Reed briefly went at it during one game. Michael Bennett was involved in several scuffles during training camp, he threw a punch in the closing seconds of a loss and had to be restrained after going after an Atlanta offensive lineman in the second half on Saturday. In the locker room afterward, he profanely berated a television reporter who asked about Seattle’s pass rush.
Carroll said Monday that he wasn’t aware of all the details of that postgame incident but called it “another example of not being poised at the time.”
As Carroll noted on “Brock and Salk” earlier in the day, those lapses in self-control aren’t unique to this season. He mentioned the unseemly incident in the closing seconds of Super Bowl XLIX, when Bennett and Bruce Irvin scuffled with some Patriots players as New England was running out the clock.
“Our guys are duking it out,” Carroll recalled. “Well, they can’t handle it very well when they get their butt kicked, and maybe we need to get better at that. I don’t know if I want to get better at that. I’d rather not go that way but I’ve already talked to them about it before they left … That’s not the way we want to show who we are, what we are. However, it is what we did, it is what we showed, and so there’s some areas to get better at and to fix and to be restraining when we can. But I don’t think we’re very good at that and I’m taking credit for that and I gotta do better.”
By credit, Carroll means responsibility. He gives his players much more leeway than other coaches to express themselves, feeling it’s a way to get more out of them. He doesn’t want his players to suppress their emotions on the field but to channel them properly, which is easier said than done. That’s why Carroll said he’s disappointed in the outbursts this season but “not necessarily surprised.”
“It’s important for me to tap into these guys, their emotional side, and it becomes part of their play when it fits the person and that’s how they operate,” he said. “But sometimes, like I said, we make mistakes. I needed to do a better job of helping them head that off. This is a game that calls for guys to play at the edge and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But I think there’s a mistake when they go too far.”
Disagreements and even altercations like those the Seahawks have had amongst themselves aren’t uncommon in the NFL. Nor are they a unprecedented in Seattle’s locker room. Recall the stories of Percy Harvin body-slamming Golden Tate a few days before Super Bowl XLVIII then slugging Doug Baldwin the next summer. But that happened in private and only surfaced well after the fact whereas the Sherman sideline incidents and the fallout from the second one in particular played out for everyone to see.
Carroll said some of the issues this season ended up making the team stronger. He just wishes they would have happened behind closed doors.
“I regret that you guys had to see kinda the family laundry,” he said.
Carroll acknowledged that part of the reason why emotions tend to run so high with the Seahawks is that many of them now have sense of urgency knowing their championship window won’t be open forever.
“It’s hard for them to deal with the passing of the opportunity and when it starts to slip a little bit, yeah, it’s hard,” Carroll said. “And so we have to do a nice job there. But please don’t fault them going for it, now. They’re going for it, they’re trying to figure it out. Sometimes we don’t do it right. Sometimes I don’t do it right, and I wish I could stay a step ahead of them as the father figure here. I wish I could catch them before they make the mistake, but sometimes they just have to make their error, and if you’re gonna expect people to take it as far as we want to take it, then we’re gonna have to understand sometimes it’s gonna go too far.”