Pete Carroll’s Prime Directive for nearly half a generation of Seahawks players is simple: Always protect the team. Don’t say or do anything that jeopardizes the group’s welfare.
Did Russell Wilson’s first-ever public complaints about the team, abetted by his agent’s public, fully attributed suggestion of four teams to which Wilson would agree to be traded, violate the directive?
“The subject matter teetered on that topic, for sure,” said Carroll Wednesday. “Because it looked like there was a problem. But, there really wasn’t a problem. I think that we’re very clear about it now.”
Wilson’s criticisms didn’t come in a post-game outburst. They were part of a carefully planned media tour, organized by agent Mark Rodgers, after the Super Bowl. Laments about playcalling, pass protection and other shortfalls were cited, which sunk his chances for the MVP award, even though the Seahawks finished 12-4 and champs of the NFC West. The unprecedented critique by the game’s most vanilla talker rocked the NFL almost as much as the Seahawks’ 30-20 playoff face-plant against the Rams rocked Seattle.
The criticism “wasn’t a problem for us,” Carroll said, “because we knew the truth.”
But after an hour-long Zoom interview, along with general manager John Schneider at their annual pre-draft media session, it wasn’t a whole lot clearer what that truth was to the rest of us.
More obvious was the eagerness of the pair to blow past one of the more convulsive episodes in their tandem tenure, and look ahead.
“Right now he’s as jacked up as he’s ever been,” Carroll said of Wilson. “He’s in the process of turning over our new offensive stuff that is different from the past, and things that we need to learn. He’s totally after it and doing a great job. His mentality is strong and his conditioning is right. He’s doing a great job.
“So things were said, things were said. Sometimes you have to deal with stuff, and that’s how we take care of our business. We’re in a fantastic place right now and really excited about this team and this season and this draft.”
Schneider tried to play down the episode’s gravitas by saying the club has gone through disruptive times with other players.
“It’s not like our first go-round, you know?” he said. “We’ve dealt with a lot of drama.”
Carroll invoked club history more evocatively: “Maple bars and Marshawn.”
He was referring to an episode when former Seahawks WR Golden Tate was busted for stealing maple bars. And of course, Marshawn . . . well, if you don’t get the reference, there’s not enough pixels in the digital world to explain it.
But this was the franchise QB. How do you bust his chops? Carroll offered a revision to the apparent violation of the Prime Directive.
“If anything happened, it wasn’t a rule number one violation,” he said. “It might have been a rule number two violation, which is no whining, no complaining, no excuses — where you say something that kind of gives you something that could be challenged.”
If you’re getting a little lost here in the sports-speak weeds, let me attempt an act of clarity.
Quarterbacks are held to a different standard. A double standard.
It’s been a fact of NFL life at least back to Johnny Unitas, and likely will be, to infinity and beyond.
The relative handful of guys who can do what Wilson does are an exotic species for whom room is made for eccentricities, tantrums, habits and peccadilloes. Whether it’s hiring dozens of masseuses, guest-hosting Jeopardy!, believing in nano-water or having nine children with the same wife, they are different than normal football players, and indulged like no other.
Carroll and fellow coaches never admit such a thing, but Wednesday he sort of excused Wilson away from serious consequence.
“I think the speculation in the media was really an obvious factor in how his words were portrayed,” he said. “We don’t always say the right thing. We don’t always do the right thing.
“What I do, whenever things come out, whether it was Russell or anyone I’ve dealt with as a high-profile player in high-profile situations, we addressed all of it immediately. He knows exactly where I was coming from. I told him early on, this could be really a long issue that we’re dealing with in the media, and I wasn’t going to say a word. Because I knew what the truth was.
“We had communicated clearly. I knew right where Russ was coming from. Unfortunately, for the people who were following it, reading the articles and whatever people were saying, you didn’t have the benefit of what I knew and what Russ knew. I have never played to those kinds of situations and tried to smooth them out.”
That’s an elaborate way of saying the Seahawks knew right away they weren’t going to be coerced into trading Wilson. Nor were they going to sanction or scold him for 2½ months of turbulence. The Prime Directive remains for sub-immortals, and if fans and teammates don’t like exceptions, you must not like Ken Griffey Jr. or Gary Payton.
Besides keeping Wilson, they kept him happy by hiring a new coordinator he likes, Shane Waldron, a veteran guard, Gabe Jackson, and a veteran tight end, Gerald Everett. And there seems to be a commitment to help the pass protection by throwing more quickly, the one weakness in Wilson’s game.
“A big focus of that is about the rhythm of the ball coming out,” he said. “It’s the reads for the quarterback. It’s the mix of the protection that we use, so we can’t get zeroed in on. It’s the utilization of the players so they’re ready for the ball to be out quick.
“Russ has always been good at all rhythms. But I’ve always felt he’s at his best when the football is coming out of his hand in a hurry. Then he has those enormously long plays that he extends with his movement. It gives us a real great variety and style to our game.
“We’re trying to accentuate the rhythm part, and how that fits with the play-actions and things we love to do down the field and be explosive with.”
Carroll also did a less-visible thing, for Wilson and himself. It may pay off in inscrutable ways.
He re-hired his old friend, Carl “Tater” Smith, as associate head coach.
Smith, 73, was Seahawks QB coach from 2011 to 2017, and associate head coach in 2018 before leaving in 2019 to join son Tracy in Houston coaching with the Texans. Here is how Wilson described Smith to the Seattle Times in 2016.
“For me and him, over the past four years, we’ve been through some amazing times. We’ve won a lot of football games, and a lot of that is credit to him and how he helps prepare me in such an amazing way.
He positively affects everyone around him in everything he does. And that’s the best thing I can say about Tater: He positively affects everyone he knows and everyone around him. I just really believe he’s a true difference-maker for our team.”
Here’s how Carroll described Smith Wednesday:
“It’s like getting the other part of my brain back. I really appreciate him being part of this. Carl is the kind of guy that will tell me stuff like other people might not say it. He has a way of doing it and a way of making the point to me that’s extremely valuable, to keep me from being crazed and half-made out there some of the time. I’m really thrilled he’s back with us.”
Hard to say for sure, but Smith might be the part of Carroll’s brain that will keep the head coach from clock and red-flag mismanagement, data-resistant fourth-down decisions and fear of passing the ball.
Good as Wilson is, it’s not his place to tell the head coach when he’s crazy. Now someone else can help protect the team.
.@PeteCarroll and John Schneider will speak with the media at 12PM PT for this afternoon’s 2021 #NFLDraft pre-draft press conference.
Listen live ⬇️ https://t.co/cbjXKR5FTB
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) April 28, 2021
A Florio wanna be…..Thiel trying hard to create a major story out of a minor discussion. I felt Thiel’s personal conduct during the interview with Carroll was disrespectful.
The story was major before anything I wrote about it.
I enjoy occasional banter with Carroll and Schneider, who each have a good sense of humor. That’s what you heard.
Could not agree less. It is not Art’s job as a journalist to be “respectful.” It’s his job to get information. I thought his question was artful, so to speak, in that it was couched in terms of Carroll’s own supposed precepts. And, content aside, it was stated genially. I also thought the answer was quintessential Pete–evasive and genial. It actually begged another question–if Directive No.1 is “protect the team,” does that extend to evasive half-truths when speaking to the media? If you can’t “protect the team” without propagating such half-truths to the media and by extension to the public, which obligation–to the truth or to the team–takes precedence? Pretty clear what the answer to that one is…
Thanks for the objection, counselor. Sustained.
You’re right about the priority of team over truth. All teams in all sports practice some forms of deceit, ambiguity, dissembling and half-truths. I get that part of it is protecting company secrets, and avoiding giving away advantage. But it does become tiresome.
Hey, somebody has got to ask the tough (disrespectful? -nah), questions now that Jim Moore is missing… :-)
I thought the question about what ‘philosophical differences’ meant, regarding the departure of Shotty, was way more edgy -and it got the predictable non-answer as you’d expect.
Even when he was working, Jim never was a Zoom room kinda guy. None of the talk-radio guys participate. Odd.
I count on Michael-Shawn Dugar to be fearless.
The difference that I see in comparing RW’s comments to those of past payers is theirs were more of the personal attack type, while RW was complaining about the system he is playing in.
Let’s all hope these moves come together for a successful post season. This one and out stuff is not excusable.
Wilson wanted Carroll to improve personnel and playcalling. Both may happen in the fall, but it will be by Carroll’s choice, not done by force in public.
What Wilson actually said was only minimally inflammatory in objective terms. What caught the eye was the fact that there was no precedent for it in Wilson’s previously sunny angelic behavior. And it was a clearly calculated provocation, not a spontaneous outburst. The surprise is what made it a story.
But Carroll seems to have decided to look past the odd context and focus on the mildness of the actual words. That’s not an implausible position for him to take. Further breathless speculation at this point feels like flogging a dead horse.
It’s true that Wilson’s claims were not outrageous. It’s just that he, and most other Seahawks, haven’t gone public, partly because of the culture Carroll has created.
The book gets closed when Wilson speaks.
Wilson should have super bowl rings from 2012, 2014 and 2020.
He is the Seahawks. He, DK, Lockett and the rest just want the rings.
The same spurious claim can be made of numerous successful teams who came up short of a title. Doesn’t count for anything.
It speaks to your comment below about play calling and protecting the quarterback.
You also nailed the conflict.
Beating the pass rush is group endeavor, including OC playcalling. Keep in mind that few O-lines stay together anywhere more than one season, and the pool of good pass-blocking linemen coming out of college shrinks annually.
Sigh.. didn’t the entire offensive line for Oregon go into the pros the year Dan Fouts threw three touchdown passes in the last 4 minutes of the game to come from behind and beat UCLA 41 to 40? Guess I’m just longing for the good old days.
No one north of Astoria remembers or cares about the Dux.
Fouts? Rashad? Catch-Up Road for you is long.
To take it a step further, there’s QB’s and then there’s star QB’s. If Geno said the criticisms that Wilson said the situation would be handled differently. Russ really didn’t say anything the coaches and front office didn’t know. But how this is being handled is exactly what Richard Sherman complained about. I imagine at some point all parties will clear the air but for me it’s sad that Wilson has gone all Hollywood. And if the Seahawks Super Bowl window continues to close I don’t see him sticking around.
Wilson’s laments about playcalling and sacks were also offered by media and fans. His remarks were still manageable until the line was crossed when Mark Rodgers baited the NFL with the four teams.
“to infinity and beyond”.
Buzz Light Year as the Hawks next QB?
I wondered if anyone would notice.
So Russ speaks out, Carroll chews his butt, than does exactly as Russ requested. But the Hawks stay away from re-doing his contract so a trade is less odious next year. They can’t afford to give him that extra leverage. Interesting relationship.
Is Russ getting bad advice from his agent?
Carroll may have done many or all of the moves without Wilson’s public prodding.
Regarding the Seahawks’ view of Rodgers, they certainly think so. Rodgers and Wilson so far have been loyal to each other, and it’s paid off to date. The Seahawks’ playoff shortfalls have thwarted Wilson’s lust to be MVP, and he must have believed he could do better elsewhere.
But, it’s that apparent/supposed bloodlust for the regular season MVP that concerns me. I get nervous when the “Let Russ Cook” crowd start chirping. If it means what I think it means, I don’t think it’ll lead to another Lombardi. It’s certainly not how the franchise got the first one. And, it’s arguable that it’s what prevented them from getting the second one. As a sports fan, it’s rare for me to really give 3 you-know-what’s about individual awards. I just wonder why the “Let Russ Cook” crowd (and maybe their hero) are so fixated on the regular season MVP award rather than the SB MVP award. It’s still a team sport, no?
It’s possible to thread the needle for a regular-season MVP to win a Super Bowl, but it’s more likely the MVP dominates play for a lesser team. Wilson fantasizes out loud about being the best ever, and surely that requires an MVP or two. I get your point.
It struck me that Pete said he was ‘never going to get traded’. Sounds like a very public statement of who is in charge
Don’t recall the word “never.” Certainly not this season.
Kumbaya Lord, kumbaya……
Film at 11.
While Wilson’s religious devotion is well known Carroll never struck me as being particularly religious. I always pegged him as more secular. Don’t really know though. But a lot of NFL players seem to come from religious backgrounds.
When Wilson speaks about wanting the MVP, and wanting his legacy to be the GOAT, I begin to wonder how well Wilson can see himself. He has never deserved a single vote for MVP. Not unless the vote is taken after 5 games. And there is nothing wrong with having a goal of being the GOAT, but that ship has sailed for Wilson, and it is as much his fault as anyone’s.
If Wilson and Pete were truly on the same page then his contract would have been reworked with void years to reduce the salary cap. I’m still keeping an eye out for late round QB’s.
Entering his age 33 season, Wilson’s MVP ship is still in port. But wondering how he sees himself is fair. For the premier team athletes, they often have choices between what’s best for the team and what is best for his stats.
Good point out not reworking his contract. If Wilson has another postseason pout, dealing him works better after June 1.
All good reporting and good questions, Art. I still wonder about the “double standard,” though. If, say, Chris Carson had made similar comments about OL deficiencies, don’t you think Carroll would seek to smooth it over in a similar way? What would we want Carroll to do in any case? He said he told Russ to zip it, and he did. I agree the releasing of “acceptable teams” was a bigger deal, but even that was a one-off. I wouldn’t necessarily blame it on the media, but it seems plausible that in-house this never got anywhere close to a crisis.