Recently I asked Pete Carroll on Zoom about whether there was someone or something he has relied upon when it comes time to fill vacancies on his Seahawks coaching staff. Since the NFL’s annual Black Monday of coach firings was pending, I figured it was a good time to learn about methods and practices.
I guessed Carroll might have a story from his two previous NFL head coaching stops, or USC, or had visited with some psychologist/oracle who provided bullet points on how to tell if someone is more or less likely to solve an insect infestation with a sledgehammer.
He seemed a bit surprised at the question, as if I had asked whether at dawn, the sky gets darker or lighter.
“No,” he said. “I don’t have anybody other than John I talk to, about everything. I mean, we just try to figure it out. I don’t know where I would go.”
He was talking, of course, about general manager John Schneider. Most Seahawks fans who’ve been around since 2010 understand that the degree of trust and collegiality between the franchise leaders has been an important part in sustaining franchise success.
But on the occasion of news Tuesday morning that Schneider had his contract extended through the 2027 draft, it seemed a good time to share Carroll’s response about hiring practices as an illustration of how most everyone, including Carroll and Schneider, probably take for granted something that has been almost impossible to replicate among other franchises in America’s favorite pastime, besides shopping.
Now, it’s entirely possible that behind the scenes, the two go at decision-making like two WWE clown-master rasslers, flying off turnbuckles to body-slam one another. Which, just like you, I would pay immense coin to watch. My guess is the franchise could erase the pandemic-induced financial losses in one main event: Big Two at the Loo.
But if that isn’t the case, it’s worthwhile to take a moment to appreciate the steadiness at the Seahawks helm. Since Carroll’s recent extension through 2025, that means the club has booked five years of continuity at a high level.
That doesn’t mean we all still can’t second-guess, nit-pick and tweet-storm every move and non-move they make. That’s a cottage industry in every NFL market, where games are played just once a week, leaving six days for losing fans to scream, Whatinhell-Were-You-Doing!?
When you think about it, it’s wonderful therapy. You dare not scream the question to bosses, spouses, parents, sibs, kids, cops or store clerks. Especially these days, when any one of them might believe that satanic bunnies directed by microchips are perched upon doorsteps, waiting for our sleep to nibble our souls.
But in Seattle, sports fans have a favorite team that smiles politely at the criticisms, snickers privately and goes on about its business, secure in the knowledge that secrets will be kept because there are no sides.
Consider that as you watch NFL clubs out of the playoffs make their fires and hires. Most times there’s some sort of palace intrigue that has coach against GM, GM against owner, veteran players lobbying for someone to stay or go, and all other manner of dyspepsia.
The 49ers for several years were a classic example of perpetual internal strife, like an Ottoman Empire sheikdom with coach Jim Harbaugh at its comedic center. But the hires of GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan have put out the fire, and helped them get to the Super Bowl.
Schneider’s current deal was up in 16 months, and Seahawks owner Jody Allen, along with Bert Kolde, the late Paul Allen’s longtime friend and vice president of the Seahawks, were aware of the rumors that the Detroit Lions were seeking his services for a franchise turnaround.
— Bert Kolde (@bertk) January 12, 2021
Planted or not, the rumors served their purpose, likely nudged along by Carroll.
With another team, Schneider likely would have been given keys to an empire, including final say on all football matters. That power rests in Seattle with Carroll. To stay, Schneider might have wrested away some bauble from Carroll, like a little brother’s first dibs on the Porsche convertible on Friday nights in a Seattle summer.
But they both seemed to have agreed that, after five division titles, two Super Bowls and one title in 11 years, their chances for big success were better together in Seattle than working apart at franchises where an owner needs a big helping of self-aggrandizement to supplement his or her wealth, which apparently is not the case with Jody Allen.
In a statement released by the club, she wrote, “For the last decade, John and head coach Pete Carroll have formed a tremendous partnership and the Seahawks have established a successful, unique, and truly winning culture respected throughout sports. I know we are all excited to see that continue.”
Regarding the hiring of assistants — at the moment, he has to replace his son, Brennan, who left his position as running-game coordinator to become the offensive coordinator under new coach Jedd Fisch at the University of Arizona — Carroll does consult with others.
“I’m constantly drawn to talking to people that I know well the people we’re dealing with, and to try to glean as much information as we can about an individual’s makeup, background, history, demeanor, mentality — all that kind of stuff,” he said. “Then there are coaches that I have faith in, known for a long time and really trust. I’ll listen to them carefully as well.”
Then it comes back to a check-in with Schneider. When they exchange headlocks, airplane spins and crack-backs.