Pete Carroll and John Schneider: the honey badgers
Pete Carroll and John Schneider don’t give a $@%#! They do what they want to do. They’re the honey badgers of the NFL.
Russell Wilson is too short? Schneider doesn’t care … he drafts him with a third-round pick and Carroll starts him in the preseason and turns him into one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
Brandon Browner was a Broncos reject and deported to the Canadian Football League? Schneider doesn’t care … he brings him into camp and Carroll turns him into a Pro Bowl corner in one season.
Red Bryant is too big to play defensive end? Schneider and Carroll don’t care … they move him to the outside of the defensive line and Big Red flourishes and presents huge challenges to opposing offenses.
Reverse passes and flea-flickers are considered gimmicky in the NFL? Carroll doesn’t care … he’ll run whatever he feels like. Same with going for it on fourth down and onside kicks. Carroll doesn’t give a $@%#!
In case you’re not one of the 53 million people who have seen the viral YouTube video, the honey badger is known as the most fearless animal in the animal kingdom. He’ll climb up a tree to eat a snake, crawl inside of a bee hive for honey and bee larva, and he’ll even risk the poisonous venom of a king cobra. Sure, the honey badger gets bit every once in a while, forcing him to pass out for a few moments, but when he wakes up that cobra is gonna get eaten.
Why? Like Carroll and Schneider, the honey badger doesn’t give a $@%#!
In a copy-cat league where personnel decisions and play-calling never gets very far out of the box, Schneider and Carroll buck traditional, safe decision making and do what they believe in. If you have no other reason to root for the Seahawks, there’s a good place to start.
I wrote at the beginning of the year about this team being an Island of Misfit Toys but it’s more than just the personnel decisions they make. In just about every way, this team is unique. The players on its roster, the coaching decisions they make and the plays they run are different from anything you’ll see around the NFL.
Personnel. Like the honey badger, Schneider will crawl into a bee hive to find winning talent. Wilson is too short. Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate are not traditional, Calvin Johnson “Megatron”-style receivers. K.J. Wright and Kam Chancellor are simply too tall and lanky to get low enough on defense, where leverage is so important. Richard Sherman only played two seasons in college at cornerback. Yet these are some of the best players at their position in the NFL.
I could go on and on. Who turns a college defensive tackle like rookie J.R. Sweezey into an offensive guard? They have a former running back in Allen Bradford, who scored 16 touchdowns in college, playing inside linebacker on the practice squad … and he’s good. It’s just different.
Coaching. Tom Cable, the mastermind behind the zone blocking scheme, was a unique hire. Cable came to Seattle off of a tumultuous stint as head coach of the Raiders. Somehow he fits in perfectly with Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Every offensive lineman I’ve spoken to this year, from Paul McQuistan to Max Unger, gushes over Cable’s ability to explain offensive line play.
He’s a tough guy who was born to coach and will do it from anywhere, including a hospital bed. Last year he underwent critical back surgery that took him off the field for a couple of weeks but he was able to coach via Skype from his post-operative location.
Last Sunday in the Seahawks’ win over the Jets, Cable made a change during the game that was critical to the running game and more than doubled its production in the second half. He determined that the line’s aiming points were slightly off and a little ahead of where they needed to be in order to block the Jets’ defensive line and linebackers.
Garnering that information during a game and at ground level is as difficult as it gets. It’s nearly impossible to see from the sidelines so you must rely on the feedback you get from five different players and the coaches up in the press box. Somehow Cable was able to alter the offensive line’s blocking angles and improve the Hawks first-half run production from 52 yards to 122 yard.
You know what? Tom Cable is a honey badger, too!
Play-calling. Carroll and Bevell will climb up a tree to chew a snake’s head off, too. Late in the New England game with the Hawks down 23-17 to the AFC champions from a year ago, Carroll and Bevell went up top with a rollout pass that Wilson threw deep to Sidney Rice for the game-winning touchdown. They’ve run flea-flickers and reverse passes and gone for it on fourth down in some very critical situations.
Don’t underestimate how devastating these decisions can be to an NFL coach or general manager if they don’t work out. Remember how much complaining there was after the Seahawks opened the second half with an onside kick in the loss at St. Louis in Week 4? Remember all of the criticism over Browner early in the season last year? Remember all the heat they took from the national media for drafting James Carpenter and Bruce Irvin in the first rounds of the past two drafts?
There’s a reason why executives and coaches in the NFL don’t take those kinds of chances – they get you fired if it doesn’t work out.
But those decisions are working out and they’re paying off big for the Seahawks. But unlike the honey badger, Pete Carroll and John Schneider aren’t making those moves just because they feel like it or because they don’t give a $@%#! They’re making those decisions because they believe in them – so do I.