Hawks built from high-energy blueprint

Seahawks see extreme makeover under coach Carroll, GM Schneider

Staff writerJanuary 2, 2013 

Imagine Frank Sinatra’s smooth voice floating through the open door of Pete Carroll’s corner office overlooking Lake Washington at Seahawks headquarters.

Like Ol’ Blue Eyes said, Carroll and general manager John Schneider did it their way.

In three short seasons, Seattle’s high-energy duo has been unwavering, making shrewd and unconventional decisions in remaking the team’s mishmash of a roster into a playoff contender.

The two have turned roundly criticized draft selections, including defensive end Bruce Irvin and former defensive lineman-turned-offensive lineman J.R. Sweezy, into immediate impact players.

They drafted the long-term answer for quarterback in this year’s third round, a 5-foot-11 player from the University of Wisconsin that everybody else in the league passed over because he was too short.

“He’s an incredible kid,” Carroll said about Russell Wilson. “He’s doing it. We’re just lucky that we have him on our side.”

And they’ve traded for players who had worn out their welcome elsewhere, such as running back Marshawn Lynch, returner Leon Washington and defensive end Chris Clemons; given them specific roles that fit their skills; and allowed them to emerge as veteran leaders on this team.

“We have a tremendous relationship,” Carroll said about Schneider. “We found kind of the center of what we believe in and what we’re trying to create. … We made a big effort to get together.

“We need to get our heads together so that we can offer this program a clear thought on what we’re trying to do and a clear message and all. So John’s been incredible. He’s had tremendous freedom, and I trust him in every way, and he trusts me in every way, and it allows us to really function at a high level and function quickly and be involved in everything.

“There’s never a transaction that we want to miss. We want to know everything that’s going on and see if we can get involved every time, every opportunity. That’s just a competitive mentality that we share.”

Their relationship is more big brother-little brother than boss-underling; you frequently see them palling around at the team’s facility or practice field.

That genuine interaction is in stark contrast to the underlining and sometimes bubbling-over friction that existed between coach Mike Holmgren and team president Tim Ruskell during the team’s lone Super Bowl run seven years ago.

“Part of the key that we have going on here is we have an aggressive approach to acquisition, and we have a coaching staff that are willing teachers, and willing to play young people,” Schneider said.

He added that there are no barriers and good communication between the coaching staff and the scouting department. And Carroll’s overarching philosophy of competition drives the organization — the best player plays, regardless of age or experience.

“I think there’s a mutual respect both ways,” Schneider said. “We respect the coaching staff and the job they do, and I think they respect our ability to evaluate and put together a free-agency board and a draft board.”

Seattle’s success this season has Schneider’s name being mentioned as a possibility for NFL executive of the year.

Only seven Seattle players remain from the roster Carroll and Schneider inherited in January 2010. Marcus Trufant and Leroy Hill are the lone members of the 2005 Super Bowl team still on the roster.

Only 14 players on this year’s 53-man roster played in Seattle’s 2010 NFC playoff run, when the team made the postseason with a losing record.

“We were 7 and 13 or whatever – I don’t even remember what we were,” Carroll said about his 7-9 team that made the playoffs in his first year in Seattle. “This is a little better.”

And unlike in years past, the Seahawks also have remained healthy, with just six players finishing the regular season on the injured reserve list. Seattle finished with 15 players on injured reserve in 2011.

Carroll’s pleased that his Seahawks are in the postseason for the second time in three seasons, but he regrets that it didn’t happen sooner.

“I wish so much that we had got it done last year,” he said. “We didn’t capture it quickly enough. It just didn’t come around like we wanted it to. But we’ll take it. We’ll take it where we are.

“It’s been three terrific years for us in retooling the program and the roster and the staff and getting everything right. We really feel the momentum in the youth and the hopefulness for the future is there.”

Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 eric.williams@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks

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