When Michael Bennett was asked recently whether in his free agency he would give the Seahawks a hometown discount to re-sign with the Super Bowl champions, he responded rather defiantly in the negative, saying no, “This isn’t Costco.”
I thought at the time, “Well, actually, it is like Costco. The Seahawks buy their defensive linemen in bulk. They use a lot of them, so the cost per unit purchased is less expensive. If a manufacturer thinks he has a high-end appliance worth more per unit than Costco would pay, he can sell it to Albert Lee. But if he wants to move product . . . “
Seahawks fans are glad Bennett came to grasp the world of retail.
Indeed he took a hometown discount to stay with the Seahawks. He admitted Monday, after signing a four-year deal worth $28.5 million, including $16 million guaranteed, that he left money on the table from other bidders to return.
“Yeah, there was more, but I wanted to be here, man,” Bennett said at a hastily call press conference at the Seahawks VMAC headquarters in Renton. Then he went on to deliver a commercial for the Seahawks that probably paid for a good chunk of the contract right there, at least as regards how current free agents, be they Seahawks or from other teams, might perceive staying with, or joining, him in Seattle.
“There are a lot of young guys here, and there are a lot of winning ways,” he said. “I just love the organization and the things that they are about. I love the staff, from the equipment staff to the medical staff; it just goes on and on.
“Everybody here (is) just good people, and I really enjoy that . . . At the end of the day it was about being comfortable and being in a good situation. Sometimes, going to a whole other organization doesn’t work out the way it worked out for me, coming here and being with these guys. I saw people take a lot of money and they go to other places and that place isn’t what you thought it would be. I know what this place is.”
It is the home of championship football, as well as an exceptional work environment created by coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider.
Bennett’s comments might be dismissed as a natural response after being generously rewarded, along with a desire to encourage other premier players to sign up. But the fact is that nearly every Seahawk feels more or less the same, especially those who’ve been with more than one pro team.
My week in New York prior to the Super Bowl allowed me to listen to a great many players tell a great many media members new to the Seahawks story the same theme: Even beyond the achievement of delivering one of the more lopsided batterings in Super Bowl history was the establishment of a methodology of respect, fairness and a politics-free competition mixed with personal freedom.
All things being equal — and clearly less than equal, in terms of Bennett’s other offers — players will gravitate to this franchise as if it were a loose ball in the backfield.
That is why so many players and others who have watched what has happened over Carroll’s four years in Seattle see more championships in the team’s future.
Carroll repeatedly insisted that one Super Bowl triumph is not the ultimate prize. The prize is the sustaining of excellence. The winning or losing of a single game can come down to a random occurrence — a bounce of the ball or the error in an official’s call. But being in position to win every time is an exceedingly hard feat in a sport where the emphasis on parity and the rewards of free agency are designed limits on sustainable success.
Think of it this way: Dominant as was the Super Bowl win, the Seahawks’ most impressive accomplishment may have been that the largest margin of their three defeats was seven points. That means they were one play away from winning every game on the schedule in a system built to preclude that very thing.
The beauty of Carroll’s methods is that they cost nothing. Sure, the VMAC is a great facility, and it’s wonderful to have as owner one of the world’s richest men who steadfastly butts out of football decisions. But in a ruthless business, treating people honorably and fairly is a free way to create a tiebreaker when veteran players have choices.
What Bennett said.
There is one other thing.
“The fans are one of the biggest reasons I came back,” Bennett said. “These people love their Seahawks. The 12th Man is the biggest thing. They just love the players.
“I really appreciate how much they put into being one of the biggest reasons why we win games.”
Again, a cynic will suggest Bennett is being predictably gratuitous. But the cynic likely has never stood on the floor of the Clink to feel the air vibrate.The cynic hasn’t stood on a curb outside the airport with 20,000 others to wave good-bye. The cynic has not been engulfed on a 10-degree winter day by a civic hug among hundreds of thousands.
Yes, Bennett took a hometown discount. He took it in Seattle, home to the 12th Man, home to Costco, where sports joy suddenly is purchased in bulk.