Raheem Brock is the sort of NFL long-timer who thinks he has seen it all. He has a 2006 Super Bowl ring from the Indianapolis Colts to stick in the face of any who question him.
In his ninth season, the Seahawks’ backup defensive end is an eye-roller, a skeptic when it comes to most things said by coaches, media, even his younger teammates.
So, naturally, he almost sprained an optic nerve when he joined the Seahawks the week of the season opener and heard coach Pete Carroll begin to spill his catch phrases such as “tell-the-truth Mondays” and “always compete” and “I’m in.”
Slogans work for Brock, 32, like forks work for birds. Asked if Carroll’s motivational rhetoric was a corny throwback to college, he smiled.
Yeah, it was,” he said, laughing. ” I was like, Ohgawd break it down again? We break it down 100 times! He says a whole bunch of stuff like I was back in college again.”
For some veterans, Carroll’s tactics can be annoying. But there’s two things worth considering here:
Carroll’s relentless optimism, energy and loquaciousness are genuine, not a gimmick, so he’s not a phony; and all coaches are annoying.
Props to Brock for telling the truth on tell-the-truth Monday.
Pro football is a high-stress, violent, short occupation in which bosses often scream at workers to do better even when they are doing well, and especially when they are injured, tired or plain fed up. Fortunately, the money is so good that, aside from Albert Haynesworth or Vince Young, few tell the bosses to go to hell.
There is a cultural expectation that football coaches will be petty tyrants. So when they are, things seem right. In fact, being an ass 24/7 is the easy way out. I mean, who can’t be — wouldn’t love to be — a Bill Parcells or a Bill Belichick, at least for a while until the kids run away, the divorce lawyer calls and the pink slip arrives?
On the other hand, it takes a little something to overcome the baser instincts to elevate the working relationship to something approaching ordinary human decency. Of course, as soon as the decent football coach is fired, the characteristic is cited as his fatal flaw — too soft, players ran over him, quit on him, etc.
Guess what? The asses get fired just as quickly as the decent guys. Neither personality type assures greater or lesser success. Look at what a mess Belichick made 15 years ago in Cleveland and what a dynasty he made later in New England.
As with Belichick, Parcells, Tom Coughlin, Jeff Fisher, Tony Dungy, Bill Cowher, John Gruden, Mike Holmgren, each man’s style works until it doesn’t. Then some get fired. The smarter ones (Dungy, Holmgren, Cowher) walk out before they get thrown out or burned out.
Eventually, all big-time coaches wear out their players, assistants and bosses to the point of diminishing returns. It’s part of the business. But early on, if things go well, the decent guy can build up a little political capital.
Which is what you’re seeing now with Carroll. Brock, who has a career-high 10 sacks, gets the larger point even if it isn’t directed at him.
“I was frustrated,” said Brock of Carroll’s ways early on. “But its good for the younger guys who never had the experience. I learned to understand that everybody hasnt been in my situation, where Ive been going to the playoffs so many times, and playing with Peyton (Manning) and all those guys.
“Younger guys need to hear things like that. All the stuff that he says is helping. It makes sense. But for the guys who have been through this before, we kinda block it out a little bit. We dont need to be pushed, like, Dont listen to the media, this and that we already know.”
According to Matt Hasselbeck, Carroll’s initial message of wanting to change Seahawks culture struck some as unnecessary.
“At first, that was almost, not offensive, but, Why do you need to change the culture?'” he said. “‘The cultures not the issue. But it wasnt that there was anything wrong with our culture or our mindset, its just that his is just different, and thats fine. With his rules or whatever, it just becomes who you are.”
Carroll spread his mantras around the building, from trainers to photographers to signage, according to Hasselbeck. and resistance began to fade, aided no doubt by the quick disappearance of players who didn’t much get it.
“If you just get everybody caring about it the same amount really, if you get the players to care about it more than the coaches do, thats when you have something special,” he said. “And the coaches care as much as they could possibly care. But at the end of the day, as players, this is our team and weve got to take ownership of it and we got to step up and make it matter.”
But the system is not hand-holding around the campfire. Carroll has three general rules: Protect the team; no whining or excuses; be early. Hasselbeck explained that if a player shows up at 11:59 a.m. for noon meeting, that’s not cool. Noon is punishable.
“Its disrespectful,” he said. “Its not acceptable. Its just the rule. Theres no gray area on that.”
Hasselbeck understands that a guy like Brock can be dismissive, but the Seahawks who have been here for two successive seasons have no such cause.
“Those of us who have been through that, were just hungry,” he said. “Were like, All right, whatever. You tell us what to do, well all do it as long as it works and we win.
“I think that, for me, that was way more important. Make sure it works and make sure we win.
The last 10 days have gone a long way toward acceptance of Carroll’s mantras in upper case instead of lower case. They can be read and understood even by rolled eyes.