On the eve of the NFL playoffs Friday, LB Bobby Wagner was voted to the Associated Press’s All-Pro first team, and SS Jamal Adams and WR DK Metcalf to the second team. This is the most prestigious of the pro football awards given annually, and those selected deserve hearty congratulations.
Now that we’re in the awards season of the most peculiar year in NFL history, I’d like to offer up a new accolade:
Team That Figured It Out on the Fly Award.
My nominee is the Seattle Seahawks. Nominations are now closed. The winner is . . . the Seattle Seahawks.
Rigged election? This time, sure. But since I created the trophy, a 5-foot-tall, solid gold replica of an N-95 mask, on my own, you can call me a homer all you want. My dime, my column.
I offer up the award now because Saturday could be the final game of the season for the Seahawks, although they and the Rams could decide to go best-of-seven. I don’t think either will happen, but the past 10 months have been a bad time to forecast anything, as any of us who are addicted to morning doomscrolling on Twitter can attest (“Man, I didn’t see THAT coming . . .”).
So, before anything changes, here’s the explainer:
Avoidance: No positive COVID-19 tests, and just a few close-contact quarantines
Adaptation: In the absences of rookie camp, OTAs, mini-camp, training camp and exhibition games, and drastically fewer in-person meetings, doing business as close to normal as possible
In-season football changes: Adding players and adjusting schemes and attitudes that transformed a defense from disastrous to disarming; cutting back on the offense’s spectacular, expensive #LetRussCook experience to a taco truck that inexpensively serves plenty of people and moments
Minimum NFL penalties for violations of protocols: $100,000, for Carroll’s poor first-game job of maskery
Entertainment value: Better than any bras-off theme-park ride.
Through the tumult that included local and national protests over police shootings and racial injustice, the grieving produced by the uncontrolled spiral of illness and death from COVID-19, and the despair over the relentless assault by President Trump on the rule of law, the Seahawks won 12 games — after consecutive seasons of nine, 10, and 11 wins — to win the NFC West and reach the No. 3 NFC seed and at least one home playoff game, void of fans as it will be.
A feat of enviable concentration and purpose.
Other teams have figured things out too, and a few will win more games, but none of them will have set a franchise single-season record for points scored and end up relying on defensive dominance to advance.
Since he didn’t know the award was coming, Carroll had no acceptance speech prepared. But after practice Friday in a Zoom conference, he offered a close facsimile after being asked about any “special sauce” that allowed the club to navigate the perils of the pandemic.
“I think we’ve done a number of things really well, and I don’t mind saying that, starting right from the beginning,” he said. “We captured the thought that attitude will be probably the most important part of this whole thing, because we’re going to have to sustain for such a long time . . . to endure the hardships that we knew were going to come in the challenges of changing lifestyles.
“We just utilized the central theme in the program of competition. We’re going to see this is a competition.”
Carroll persuaded coaches, players and staff that that best way to keep the virus out was to reach for a higher standard.
“We did not only go with what the NFL said,” he said. “We went with what we thought was right, doing our own kind of homework and research. Whatever they say is the maximum, we went beyond that. We were advocating testing every day, and stuff we thought early on that would be absolutely necessary, if you’re going to function at this kind of level.
“You got to be tough. You got to be consistent. You need constant messaging. You need leadership from all levels. You have to have a vision for this, what you’re up against. You can’t let up.”
There’s no advanced analytics for this kind of thing. Only results.
“I’m not saying we got all the answers, but I know that we did it, and we’ve done it for six or seven months,” he said. “I would hand (his methodology) to somebody else, and they could do it, if they could find the right attitude about it, and start from the right place.”
Just this week was another distraction, a mob incited by Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol and a Congress in session, an act of sedition that killed five and shook the world.
“It was a horrible day,” said Carroll, who usually has in his office three TV screens tuned to different channels. “You could see it coming and there was awful. I tried not to be distracted by it, but I certainly was aware.
“I do have a little bit of a knack for being able to kind of multitask.”
Apparently. Now he has an award to go with it. Although it certainly won’t be as prestigious, a vote or two for NFL coach of the year might be justifiable.
Rams DT Aaron Donald said Sunday after the matchup became known that the Seahawks were “the ones we wanted.” That’s understandable, given the Rams’ success against Russell Wilson. This time, Wilson has his original offensive line together for the first time in more than two months, plus the full complement at running back and tight end. LA has two quarterbacks, one hurt, one green and none named Wilson. Seahawks 20, Rams 16.