BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 11/04/2014

Carroll at Seahawks midseason: ‘We survived’

Seahawks coach has advice for fans thinking it was going to be easy: “Suck it up.” Giants, Sunday’s foe, offer evidence how hard it is, and they won two Super Bowls in 4 years.

It’s been a trudge so far for Richard Sherman and the Seahawks. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Any notion having vanished that the Seahawks would have the same swash in their 2014 buckle they had in 2013, coach Pete Carroll has taught himself to lower his week-to-week ambitions.

“We got through the game and the quarterback didn’t get killed,” he said Monday after the 30-24 win over the Oakland Raiders.

Playing at times with three offensive linemen making their first NFL career starts — Alvin Bailey, Garry Gilliam and Patrick Lewis — Carroll knew more than most that losses of the game and Russell Wilson were distinct possibilities. So fans who wanted a blowout triumph over the NFL’s only winless team, to restore confidence in the season’s second half, well . . .

Here’s what he said Sunday to media after the game: “I know you all like it easier, and smoother and cleaner and all that, but it’s a battle. So, suck it up.”

I was expecting something a little more inspiring from the leader of the defending Super Bowl champions. Imagine Carroll, played by Sean Connery, astride a massive white stallion, swinging a large blade above his head, shouting, “Our swords shall run with the blood of the infidels!”

OK, maybe not. But . . . suck it up?

I asked him Monday if he would elaborate. After all, we in the media often tell him how to coach, so it seems only fair that we allow him to tell us how to do our jobs.

“That was just having fun with the message that games don’t always go like you want them to go,” he said. “Most fans would like to see the game over in the first quarter, and they can kick back and not have to fret through the outcome.

“It’s not like that. The league is so tough, each game is so hard and the challenges are every single week. For the most part, if you’re with us, games are pretty darn close.”

For the most part, Carroll is right; ask the Broncos and 49ers about life in the NFL after their losses Sunday. But the expectations in Seattle created by a 13-3 regular season and a 3-0 postseason, and the relative youth of the roster, have warped the sensibilities of the 12s lusting for a repeat.

Several times in the uneven first half of the season, Carroll has made his case that the Seahawks had eight close games last season, lost three, and the other five were tossups. So the Seahawks could just as easily have been perhaps 8-8 in 2013.

Pure speculation of course, but plausible, given the NFL’s legislated parity and the frequent randomness of outcomes. What hasn’t been said directly by Carroll or his players, because they are loath to admit it, is that since being crowned, hailed and paid, they have lost their championship edge.

It’s human nature.

Carroll has spent his entire coaching career fighting the worst in human nature and appealing to its best. He’s won many more battles than he’s lost. But this is the toughest fight of his career: Working around the inevitable attrition in manpower, health, cohesion and salary-cap funds that are mandated by the laws and customs of the NFL.

Finally, Monday, he made a reference to the lost edge. And its potential recovery.

“There’s a fine line between that crazed mentality that you see, and when you think you’re trying really hard,” Carroll said. “But there’s a difference. The energy of it and the emotion of it was so obvious.”

That’s it.

For reasons easily understood, the energy and emotion aren’t the same as they were in the aspirational year. Despite the denials of Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman at press briefings following their big paydays that things wouldn’t change, things have changed. So have they. Can’t be helped.

The Seahawks are neither as talented nor as driven as a year ago.

Doesn’t mean they can’t succeed. It’s just so much harder.

Carroll said in the Oakland game and the 13-9 win at Carolina, the defense had regained most of its edge.

The guys have really captured it,” he said. “I’m hoping we can keep going. It will make all the difference to us.”

We’ll see. Much again depends on health, but it borders on silliness to keep pining for “getting everyone back” when it’s just as likely other players will be injured. Like LG James Carpenter, whose recovery from an ankle sprained Sunday was not known Monday. If he’s out, the Seahawks line still isn’t well, despite the potential returns of C Max Unger and LT Russell Okung.

Even if all are back, the O-line was average at best before the injuries.

What Carroll is hoping for is that the experience gained by backups now, at a manageable 5-3, will serve him well later.

“I think we’re making progress,” he said. “We’ve survived some really hard games and we’ve won some really hard games. We’re battle tested and we’re ready to go. The fact that we can make this (seasonal) turn with young guys prepared to play, with some guys coming back to their health — we’ll get a second wave of returnees as well —  I’m feeling pretty good about our chances to go out and win this game this week.”

Speaking of this week, Sunday’s opponent, the New York Giants, who were belted Monday night 40-24 at home by Indianapolis in a game not nearly that close, are the NFL’s best example of how one year’s results have little bearing on the next year’s results.

Consider the past seven years:

The Giants won the Super Bowl following a 2007 season of 10-6. The next year they were 12-4, yet were knocked out in their first playoff game. The next two seasons were 8-8 and 10-6, neither good enough for the playoffs.

In 2011, they were 9-7, yet won the Super Bowl again. In 2012, they were 9-7, but didn’t make the playoffs. Last season, they were 7-9. Now, despite high expectations following big free-agent investment in the defense, they are 3-5 and on a three-game losing streak flying across the country to face a team that whipped them 23-0 11 months earlier.

If you can make sense of that pattern, you’ll certainly delight in a tumble through a commercial clothes dryer.

Let’s add another wrinkle to your brow: Throughout this eight-year run of two Super Bowl wins and four (now likely five) seasons without playoffs, they have had the same general manager (Jerry Reese), coach (Tom Coughlin) and quarterback (Eli Manning). That’s exactly the blueprint the Seahawks are working on — continuity among the three most vital positions in any NFL franchise.

All three were geniuses in two seasons and destined to be idiots in six.

The Giants are the epitome of an essential truth of the NFL — whatever you think you know about games, teams and seasons, fugeddaboudit. The Seahawks in 2013 were a rare exception to the rule: Forecasted to win the Super Bowl by many, if not most, media outlets, bookmakers and fans, they did exactly as predicted.

Hard as that was, they are embarked on an even more formidable task. So, to the 12s, pay heed to the wisdom handed down from on high:

Suck it up.


  • Jamo57

    Good read, Art! Yes it seems like in the League nowadays, a team has to have a few foundational pieces and then has to assemble a new team each year from draft picks, free agents, etc. Going on a consistent run looks darn near impossible. I wonder how many different RBs and WRs, etc. have plugged in around Tom Brady by the Pats over the years that tend to be forgotten.

    But if we look back in a few years and see the Hawks won two titles over 5 years or 3 over 7 years, the team will be seen as a dynasty and the team of the ‘Teens’ (decade).

    Here’s hoping..

    • art thiel

      It’s been 10 years since Pats won back-to-back. But you’re right, two in 4-5 years is a tremendous feat. Giants testify to how fast it evaporates.

    • 1coolguy

      The Niners are a good example in the division – 3 NFC championship games in 3 years is a real accomplishment, and winning 1 of them. Yet this year, because of attrition and injuries (sound familiar?) they are 4-4. Same GM, coach and QB.

      • Paul Maggard

        I’d hardly say being in three NFC back to back make them great especially when they have nothing to show for it that would be like saying the bills were great back when they went to the super bowl 4 years in a row only to lose each and every one of them

        • art thiel

          I don’t think anyone suggest greatness. But many teams would to be thrilled to have the 49ers achievements.

        • 1coolguy

          Re-read my post – you missed my point.

        • 1coolguy

          Hey, even if the team loses, 3 years in a row to the NFC championship is a real achievement and as to the Bills, 4 years in the SB is awesome. After all, that indicated they were the #2 team in football 4 years in a row. I’d say that is a level of success very few teams have achieved. I’d rather be there than watching it on TV, as the rest of the league did.

        • Bruce McDermott

          Actually, making the Super Bowl four years in a row is a tremendous achievement.

  • notaboomer

    football is a sick, violent game. people get hurt by design. players get drugged to play. fans pay too much for beer. suck. it. up.

    • art thiel

      Well, glad you’re not watching/reading/buying souvenirs.

      • notaboomer

        channeling my inner pc.

    • 1coolguy

      What an odd post………..

  • Matt712

    3 major influences toward this more difficult Seahawks season – in this order:
    1.) injuries; 2.) attrition (loss of veterans to free-agency); 3.) philosophical shift in offense away from the run.

    The first and (by far IMO) most influential condition is simply up to the football gods. The second: up to the demi-gods known as the NFL. In other words, these first two are, to a large extent, beyond any team’s control. But the third influence… is subtle but statistically undeniable. The Hawks’ high ranking in rushing offense is misleading because of Russel Wilson’s legs. But, designed plays out of the backfield are down from last year. One might say, “So what? The end result is the same.”

    But the problem is multi-fold. The single best football player on the team is not getting the ball as often. There’s not enough talent developed at the receiver positions. And the overall ‘toughness’ factor is affected by proxy. I understand why they’re doing it… If Marshawn isn’t gonna be around next year, then the rest of the team needs learn how to zip up their big-boy pants. However, given the team’s state of health, the transition becomes much more difficult.

    I say, throw this year’s playbook away and go back to feeding the beast. He’s as hungry as ever. Worry about life without him when he is no longer a Seahawk.

    • art thiel

      You’re mostly right. Regarding No. 3, the Seahawks returned to Lynch Sunday. But giving it to him 25 times a game won’t work because defenses will load to stop that. And the Seahawks pass pro isn’t up to countering. Lynch works best when defenses have to worry about the pass, which is why Harvin was so valued.

      • Bruce McDermott

        Perhaps, but the evidence showed he was woefully OVERvalued in that regard. The best laid schemes of mice and men….

    • 1coolguy

      It’s the result of no O-line. No line play = no holes. In addition, there is less time to pass, which the opponent knows, so they crowd the line. Why play deep when the QB only has time for a 10 yard pass? This will not change until we get our starters back on the O-line, which is hopefully this week. We will be in even better shape when Miller gets back, maybe for the Arizona game.

      • If you give a hang about my comments (and there’s no real reason to), I believe that most of the money a team should spend on players is in strength and depth on the O-Line. I’ve said it before. If you look at the best quarterbacks (and running backs) in history, you will find that without variance, each one had a great offensive line in their stellar years. A lot of potentially great quarterbacks never got great protection. Dave Krieg springs to mind. If you check the numbers, an awful lot of the passes caught by Steve Largent were thrown by DK, but he had lousy protection for most of his career and spent WAY too much time on his tuckus in the backfield.

  • dharmabruce

    From the audio of Carroll’s media interviews it sounds like he’s been defensive responding to your questions, Art. I may be wrong (you can’t hear reporters that well) or projecting (I find myself defending the Hawks when reading your articles lately). In any case, he has been defensive answering many of the difficult questions over the last few weeks. I’ve interpreted it as denying or minimizing the media storylines while putting his messages front and center. His messages have seemed more believable, especially regarding Lynch and the supposed locker room division. But if it were simply that I wouldn’t expect your continued critical articles. Is there something ineffective or controversial about how Carroll is handling the recent media storm? Or is he fundamentally missing something or not addressing something with the team?

    • art thiel

      We’ve had a couple of spirited exchanges. I’m just seeking honest answers to honest questions. Pete is understandably defensive about locker room secrets, but the Harvin trade and the uneven start have opened the team to intense scrutiny. For reasons he thinks are good, he will dodge and avoid direct answers to the controversy he started — the media didn’t start it.

      I know he doesn’t want to trash another team’s player publicly. But the Seahawks leaked the stuff about Harvin’s fights; the club can’t have it both ways. The quicker the Seahawks own up to what happened, the faster it goes away. But a couple of wins helps.

  • 1coolguy

    Excellent column Art – it should put a few of the 12’s into the zone of reality they have missed, given their exuberance over last year.

    The NFL is just a tough, tough league to stay at the top in. Those that do have really accomplished something and is why so few do.

    Add in the loss of 8? from last years roster to other teams, numerous injuries that have reduced the starting lineup by another 7 and you do not have near the team that we had in the SB. The roster all came together last year AND the lack of injuries at the end of the season was a really big deal.

    One position I have been concerned with is our receivers: Granted, Wilson has almost zero time, yet I do not see our receivers getting much separation. It’s as though they don’t run crisp enough routes, don’t have the speed, etc, so when they do catch a pass the defenders are almost always very close. I think this is an area we do miss Tate, in addition to his return ability.

    Pete’s quote: “We got through the game and the quarterback didn’t get killed” is honest and right on the mark. I am very impressed we won the Oakland game, given the injuries. I look forward to the Giants game where we will see 6 or more players back, especially Unger and Okung, which should result in a much better offense.

    • Paul Maggard

      last year we lost 3 games and no one cringed this year we have lost 3 games and everyone is on the wagon of they won’t make it they are not good enough BS when they win out the rest of their games and again go to the super bowl you all will look exactly the way you are like big fat banwagon fans

      • art thiel

        It’s not so much the number of losses as infrequency of playing well for long stretches. Happened last year too to some extent, and not shortening the game field with turnovers.

      • 1coolguy

        Except for the Giants, ALL of the remaining games are ball-busters. If the Hawks win 5 of the 7 it will be a great accomplishment. An 11-5 record will get them into the playoffs but all bets are off until we see what their injury list looks like.
        Paul: Did you proof your post?

    • art thiel

      The O-line was such a mess I wouldn’t put much on the Sunday results for passing.

      Carp may be out, so be wary of the optimism.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    This is our reward~a tumultuous season.Judging by history its par for the course…suck it up can be wisdom parlayed to both sides of the fence. SB champs never have it easy and Im sure all us of when scanning this brutal schedule were a skosh uneasy. I predicted a 6 loss season given all of the play off competition they would have to endure but now it looks like that record in a fortunate light might be worth a wild card ~maybe.
    You would hope they play inspired football and beat the Red Birds( with the best record in the NFL)to allow a fighting chance for retaining the division. Art pointed out that Seattle simply isnt as good as last years “talent and perseverance” bunch but neither is SF. I think that nemisis will shoot itself in the foot and fail to make the play offs this year so 2 wins against those guys would help immensely too.
    For sure Carroll is right about last years record. The Tampa game?Biggest comeback in their history?Nobody has any business winning a game you are down 21~0 to.
    Or a game on the road in which Richard Sherman loses his shoe running one back to the house in the 4th qtr. That Houston game was amazing in the fact we DID not succumb to certain defeat.Seattle just found a way and won all of the games that played out like this years Ram game. The Hawks didnt let anything stop destiny from happening.
    Our articulate scribe also pointed out we can still do this thing without the same gaudy talent level we had last year. We simply have to work with what we got or “suck it up”.
    That could mean it will be imperative to beat AZ home and away. Can we do it? If inspired play meets a belief that destiny could again be ours then they will suck it up and do just that. Rollercoaster ride here we come.

    • art thiel

      SF may get a bit of a re-set with Aldon Smith returning.

      Your six-loss forecast is looking good.

  • Paul Maggard

    the Hawks will prevail they are the defending super bowl champs and will win their division and make another super bowl win donuworryboutit lol

  • I tell all my depressed-Hawk-fan-friends, “They lost three games last year and it seemed to work out okay. Relax and enjoy the football.”

  • Gerald Turner

    Pet C is having the time of his life this season. Did you see him
    on the sideline? Skating on the edge, his coaching talents being
    pushed to the limit, back up personnel picks playing out in
    front of him. He loves the extreme focus of juggling another group of
    castoffs and misfits into a finely honed playoff juggernaut. Will he
    pull it off again? The NFL is all about reinventing yourself on a
    year by year basis. Pete is a master plan and roster smith. Win
    forever! Differently each time. When I saw the formerly hapless back
    up DB Simon perfectly break up that long pass, and that future all
    pro Norwood catch that ball, I knew everything was going to be all
    right this season. The cyclone will re converge soon, domination will
    coalesce, disparate parts will seamlessly fit together. Repeat is
    right on schedule..,Peat’s way.