Salk: Why has Pete Carroll’s reaction to Seahawks’ start been out of character?
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has lost games before. Sunday’s loss was his 95th in the regular season in the NFL. I think he lost once or twice at USC, and I’m guessing a few times as an assistant before his first head coaching gig in 1994.
I mention this not because he has lost often (in fact, he’s won 51 more times than he’s lost), but because he has experience in how to handle a tough week at the office.
For years, I have interviewed Pete the day after Seahawks games – both wins and losses – and generally he offers a lesson in comfort. He knows how to make everyone feel better. Even the day after Russell Wilson threw a pick at the goal line in Arizona, when Cris Collinsworth unfairly blamed Pete for not running the ball and with the world laughing at him, Pete was strong in accepting responsibility and comforting the fans. I was proud to root for his team that morning.
Pete understands how to win, how to lose, and how to handle himself in all situations. When he speaks, it is with forethought and great care. So losing the second game of the season isn’t something likely to trip him up or get him to break character.
And yet I was surprised on Monday’s Pete Carroll Show by his level of candor, his direct comments about his quarterback, and his seeming lack of patience with his team.
To review: he benched a player (Jordyn Brooks) for taking a late hit penalty; he explained that in order to deal with penalties, he was willing to use “the bench as an ally,” something he has hardly done in his time here; he spoke to his disappointment in the way Sunday’s loss ended, criticizing his quarterback for not checking to the open man and then saying, “I wish Russ could have helped us there” and “Unfortunately we just didn’t get it done.”
Let’s also point out that while praising Bobby Wagner, he also made sure to bring up the number of tackles that were made after Ryan Tannehill repeatedly found completions in front of Wagner’s zone coverage.
This was decidedly un-Pete-like.
Why? Why is the oldest coach in the league acting in an unfamiliar way? Without knowing the answer, I can speculate.
I know he just turned 70 years old last week. If he’s anything like me (and he probably isn’t), changing that tens place over makes you think. Every change of decade has always left me feeling melancholy and concerned that there’s only so much time left. If I felt that way at 40, I can only imagine what thirty more years will add. If Pete is considering that his coaching time is running short, it would certainly explain the added urgency and a lack of patience for mistakes.
The other possibility is that he ceded some public ground to Russell Wilson this offseason. Russell complained about the Seahawks’ offensive line, lobbied for a more modern approach to the offense, wanted a say in the hiring of a new coordinator to install those modern changes, and even threw out some destinations he wouldn’t mind being exploring in the trade market. While he talked, Pete was quiet. Yes, Pete looked good and Russ looked bad. Pete looked mature while Russell seemed petulant and not particularly comfortable saying anything beyond his usual platitudes and cliches.
But the perception is that in new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, Russ got his kind of guy. And logic would dictate that if Russ got his way, then it came with an implied admission that Pete’s style was outdated. I don’t believe Pete thinks his style is any more outdated today than it was in 2013. He is as convicted about his philosophies as anyone I’ve ever been around. Is he willing to adapt? Yes. But will he change his core beliefs? No. Nor should he.
The problem with Russ’s public statements this offseason is that to get his way, it had to come at the public expense of his coach. And I wouldn’t blame Pete for taking the opportunities when presented to remind everyone that he still knows this game and that his quarterback isn’t perfect.
I don’t blame Pete for one moment. He has done things his way to great success for a decade now. And while he may not coach for another decade, his remaining time will be spent doing things his way.
A way that has led to a lot more wins than losses.
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