Seattle Seahawks

What’s different, and most important, for Pete Carroll and Seahawks at this NFL combine

Pete Carroll talks about how Seahawks’ rebound season ended in first round of playoffs, where he feels they are going

Coach Pete Carroll talks about how Seahawks’ rebound season ended in the first round of the playoffs, where he feels they are going for the future.
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Coach Pete Carroll talks about how Seahawks’ rebound season ended in the first round of the playoffs, where he feels they are going for the future.

The difference at this NFL combine compared to the last one for Pete Carroll?

About as different as Indiana is to, say, India.

This time last year the veteran coach had just finished the largest overhaul of his Seattle coaching staff. He was entering the NFL’s annual scouting combine in Indianapolis teaching his coaching staff as much as trusting it to evaluate college players.

He also the coach of a non-playoff team in the middle of breaking up the franchise’s aging, unhappy core that had won a Super Bowl four years earlier. Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril were headed out. Bennett and Sherman would say that Carroll’s system had, after a half-dozen years, gotten stale and that veterans were tuning him out.

Now, after Seattle’s return to the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons, after managing superstars’ egos the past couple years, the 67-year-old Carroll is preaching ethos.

He feels validated that after 46 years in coaching and being a head coach since 1997, his ways still work.

“I’m going to take that challenge on personally,” Carroll said of the 2019 Seahawks, “to do everything I can to find the ways to make sense to these guys of where we’re going and how they, in their individual ways, can contribute to this by figuring out who they are, what they are, what are the possibilities they can venture into to create the most dynamic aspect of themselves for this team. That’s in every aspect of developing them and challenging them and teaching them and challenging them to find their greatness.

“That’s what this is. It’s challenging them to find how deep they can dig and how much they have in there so that they don’t miss this opportunity to be the best they can possibly be.”

Carroll acknowledges “that maybe sounds like a bunch of language to you.” Coach-speak.

“But that’s what this is,” he said. “It’s one guy, an individual. His story. His world. Where he’s coming from. How can he tap into it, and how can we kick him in the ass to push him and then love him up and hug him up — whatever it takes to get that done.

“I’ve got a bunch of guys I’m working with that care in the same fashion. The staff cares that way. They understand this is what we’re all about and want the culture of this building to be obvious. You walk in here (to Seahawks headquarters in Renton), you can tell that something’s going on here. That’s part of it and that means it’s an everyday, never-stop ethic.

“Really, it’s the ethos of this place, that we have to have that intact. And I’ve got to make sure that that happens. To take on that challenge, that’s life’s challenges. That’s what we’ve got to do and see where that leads us.”

“One guy, an individual, his story, his world” is what Carroll and the Seahawks will be learning Wednesday in Indianapolis.

The most important events at the NFL combine are not the Underwear Olympics synonymous with this event, the 40-yard dashes and jumps and bench presses that are so over-hyped by television coverage.

The most impacting events start Wednesday: the 60 interviews each team gets with prospects. They last 15 minutes each, and happen at the Crown Plaza Hotel across the street from the convention center, far away from TV’s glare. Then come important evaluations of the college players by each team’s doctors and medical staffers.

That information is what largely forms the Seahawks’ draft boards. After all, they’ve already seen these guys play. They know how fast they are in a game.

Put another way: How often does an offensive tackle run a 40-yard sprint in a game?

The player interview, plus their own investigations, convinced the Seahawks that Frank Clark had the underlying characteristics to make the pass rusher their first pick of their 2015 draft — even though the University of Michigan had kicked Clark out of its football program months earlier.

That criticized pick worked out wonderfully for the Seahawks, and for Clark. Seattle is about to give its 14-sack man last season a raise from his $943,000 salary last year to $17 million or more for 2019, to keep him from free agency that begins March 13.

The Seahawks’ work here this week is more what of what they did in the combines of 2011-13 while building a team that went on to play in consecutive Super Bowls.

It’s much less of what they were doing this time last year, when they were reconstructing the foundation of the system Carroll still has reasons to trust.

“We don’t feel like there are big voids or big holes, so we’re going to add to,” Carroll said. “To make this roster more competitive across the board is really the intent, and to make guys have to work harder to hold their spots and to keep their spots and to have to get better to do that.

“That’s right at the heart of what we’re all about. So we’re really looking forward to that.”

Extra points

General manager John Schneider is scheduled to talk to the media at the combine on Wednesday at 8:15 a.m. Carroll is to talk here Thursday at 9 a.m.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.