BY Art Thiel 07:00AM 08/05/2011

Thiel: Carroll’s Seahawks practice scene means little

First practice was rich with mysteries and distractions, but even Chuck Knox could appreciate that it’s all about the talent, not the trappings.

Pete Carroll, Charlie Whitehurst

When Pete Carroll smiles and speaks, Disney animals emerge. / Drew McKenzie/Sportspress Northwest

RENTON — Long will the Thursday practice live in local sports media lore.

That’s right, Allen Iverson. Practice.

The Seahawks were finally allowed to practice, full gear, full speed and fully compliant with new NFL law, throwing away the silly ballcaps they had to wear for a week waiting for lawyers to permit them to clobber one another wearing their standard warrior chapeaus.

The scene at the VMAC facility was memorable: Amped hip-hop and rock music (live DJ, no less), kids frolicking in a play area on the berm, Blue Angels swooping through the sky (a practice worth watching), and dudes and dolls in powerboats ogling from Lake Washington.

Weirdly,  practice for the newly signed free agents was delayed about half an hour until the final documents on the new collective bargaining agreement were signed (players were uninsured against injury until the ink dried, for which your premiums just went up $100 a year).

There was also a huge blistering of media types unprecedented in anyone’s memory for an event that meant, in the sweep of American sporting culture,  absolutely nothing. But on a perfect weather day coupled with the first opportunity for the Seahawks’ purveyors of horse flesh to trot out the new thoroughbreds,  the happening was irresistible.

Before he departed early for his 3 p.m. shift, KJR radio host Mike Gastineau had time to wonder aloud what former Seahawks, Chuck Knox, son of coal country in western Pennsylvania, would think of the scene which seemed only a Sodom or two short of the full Gomorrah.

While the stylistic contrast between Knox and current head coach Pete Carroll is immense enough to require multiple time zones, my suspicion is that Knox would fall back on one of the creakiest of his bromides:

“Football players,” he liked to say, “make football plays.”

Cringe-worthy as it was, it was Knox’s way of telling his view of the truth: Doesn’t matter much what the coach does or doesn’t do. Matters what the players do.

Coaches certainly have influence on game outcomes, but the manner in which they pursue results is far secondary to the talent on hand. Coaching is overrated.

It’s likely that when Bill Belichick growls or Bill Parcells sneers, SEAL Team Six would snap a salute and everyone else would dive under a bed.

When Carroll speaks, Disney animals show up.

But whether either way is a better way is unknowable. What is knowable is that either style gets fired for insufficient W’s.

Knox was tougher than a gravel breakfast, but that didn’t stop owner Ken Behring from moving him out. Tom Flores won a Super Bowl coaching the Raiders, but was 2-14 in Seattle. Buh-bye. Another former Seahawks coach, Dennis Erickson, was said to be a player’s coach, and the players indeed ran him over and he was fired.

Mike Holmgren was a coach’s coach, as long as he was both coaches.  The Seahawks’ most successful coach had a Manitoba-sized ego and couldn’t get along with his superiors –should there be any —  and despite his success and local status, he was eventually eased on down the road.

So don’t get too excited or dismayed with Carroll’s superficial trappings of practice or meetings as barometer of his potential success. Author, raconteur and mad tweeter, he seems apart from his more stereotypical coaching peers. So was Tony Dungy. So is Rex Ryan, for entirely different sets of reasons.

What matters is whether Carroll can manage his enterprise. Given all the new, key players, as well as the brevity of practice time until the first preseason game Thursday in San Diego, Carroll is running a tightrope between mayhem and chaos.

Because of the delayed CBA, Carroll couldn’t even get his new players to their first practice. With the exception of the replacement players hired after the 1987 strike, there hasn’t been a stranger first day of practice in NFL history.

“We thought we were being pranked for a minute, with everybody just standing out there with their pads on,” said Sidney Rice, the new wide receiver who was forced to stand down because of paperwork.  “We kept waiting on phone calls from the coach’s people, the NFL and also our player reps.

“Once we finally got the word, we got our first full-team breakdown.  So it was great.”

Zach Miller, the new tight end, wasn’t really all that put off.

“Considering what happened in the last six months,” he said, “it wasn’t all that odd.”

It is, after all, 2011 going on “Blade Runner.” Loud music, ballcaps, tweets and temporary disorganization in August will be, by late December, forgotten as well as forgiven if the Seahawks are 9-7. Then again, 7-9 means Carroll isn’t disciplined enough to manage in the big time.


  • Love the coach, love the team. Let’s go play some football!

  • Love the coach, love the team. Let’s go play some football!

  • Ken

    Thanks, Art—you just outdid yourself. Terrific writing, witty, biting, and insightful. Don’t share, however, your harsh views of Holmgren–can’t you see the halo over his head!  

  • Ken

    Thanks, Art—you just outdid yourself. Terrific writing, witty, biting, and insightful. Don’t share, however, your harsh views of Holmgren–can’t you see the halo over his head!