A recap of the activities on Day Two of NFC divisional playoff game week:
Happy Anniversary. The marriage of Pete Carroll and the Seahawks is one-year old. That’s right; it was Jan. 11, 2010, that Carroll was introduced as the eighth coach in the 35-year history of the franchise.
And what a year it has been. An NFC West division title, despite the team’s 7-9 record. Saturday’s upset of the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in the wild-card playoff game at Qwest Field, which catapulted the Seahawks into Sunday’s divisional round game against the Bears in Chicago. Enough trades, transitions, signings and releases (284) to last the rest of the decade.
So, what do you get a coach on his first anniversary? How about all of the above, plus the respect of the players Carroll and general manager John Schneider have gathered from here, there and seemingly everywhere – an eclectic group that Carroll and his coaching staff have molded into a team.
“It was a different experience for me,” said defensive end Raheem Brock, who signed with the Seahawks in September having playing eight seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. “But we found a way to jell at the right time. With the injuries we had, a lot of guys going down; and then we had guys coming in and out, new faces every couple weeks.”
So the buying-in process was never-ending for Carroll, who was making his return to the NFL after a ridiculously successful 10-season stint at the University of Southern California.
“I know guys have bought in, because if you didn’t buy in you’re gone,” said quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, one of seven players remaining from the 2005 Super Bowl team and 11 left from the last playoff team in 2007.
“So I know guys have bought in. I think what makes it easier to buy in is that it’s legit. It’s not just a rah-rah thing. The way he explains stuff, it seems to happen quite a bit.
“He has been very consistent. And as a player when your coach is real consistent and steady, it makes your job a lot easier.”
That’s part of the difference between the Pete Carroll who coached the New England Patriots in 1999 and the Pete Carroll who is coaching the Seahawks in 2010-11.
“I’m way different than I was,” Carroll said. “I mean I’m the same person and all, I just know more about what’s important to me – and what’s important to teach to represent what’s important to me as the head coach. That’s truly been the change.
“It took me a lot of years in coaching – I don’t know how many it was – but it took a lot of years in coaching before I kicked myself in the butt and got my act together and figured it out. I thought I was figuring it out. I thought I knew. But I didn’t really know until the year that I was out (2000) between New England and going to USC. That was the time things changed and I haven’t been the same since.”
It’s those tough-to-learn life lessons that Carroll has brought to his marriage with the Seahawks.
“I’ve just been more clearly focused on what the issues are, what the philosophy is, where I come from, the decisions I would make, the teachings that we stand for in handling all of the things we deal with. It’s just become different to me.
“The message is more clear, because it’s more clear to me. That’s kind of the essence of the whole thing. I figured it out better so that I could teach it and explain it better and stand for it more consistently.”
Losing a job – or getting divorced, if you will – can do that to a coach, and a man.
“Sometimes you have to feel the pain, and after the last time of getting fired I don’t want to do that anymore,” Carroll said. “I’m kind of done of getting fired.”
Offensive line. On a team that has been in almost constant transition, this unit has led the way. Ten different starting combinations. Four different starters at left guard. Three each at left tackle and right guard. Only center Chris Spencer has started all 17 games.
But, like the rest of the team, the O-line has come together at the most opportunity time. Hasselbeck was sacked only once against the Saints on Saturday. The running game has produced 141 and 149 yards the past two games – after breaking into triple digits five times in the previous 15 games.
“We found some consistency here the last couple weeks – more so than we had,” Carroll said. “I’m hoping that’s part of just growing together. It’s taken us seemingly forever to see some continuity and some growth in the positive direction with the running game.
“We’ve been spotty at best, but the last two weeks when we needed it most it’s been there. So we’ll try to take that with us to Chicago.”
That’s where the Seahawks will run into a Bears defense that allowed an average of 90.1 rushing yards to rank second in the league.
DARE TO DREAM
Or at least fantasize. As crazy as it might sound, the Seahawks could host the NFC Championship game. If the Seahawks beat the Bears in Chicago on Sunday, and the Green Bay Packers beat the Falcons in Atlanta on Saturday night, the conference championship game would be played Jan. 23 at Qwest Field.
PRACTICE SQUAD RE-SIGNING
Linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka has been re-signed to the practice. The rookie linebacker from Arizona was originally signed to the practice squad on Dec. 22, but then released last Tuesday, when running back Andre Anderson and tight end Nick Tow-Arnett were signed.
STAT DU JOUR
With his sack against the Saints, Brock has 10 – one less than fellow defensive end Chris Clemons. The last time the Seahawks had a double-digit sack tandem was in 1996, when Michael McCrary led the AFC with 13½ and Michael Sinclair had 13.
YOU DON’T SAY
“For me, I want to be on the field; I want hit the quarterback as much as possible. Yeah, it helps us. But my mindset is I want to hit the quarterback as much as possible.” – Brock, when asked about the offense controlling the ball more being good for the defense