BY Art Thiel 06:51PM 07/28/2016

Seahawks reach rare pinnacle of franchise calm

The orderly extensions given coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider are the latest examples of a franchise that runs so smoothly you can almost hear it hum.

The Seahawks’ success starts with Paul Allen. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

RENTON — Now that Paul Allen has done the deed critical for any successful pro sports owner — spend big money wisely, then head to the yacht — feel free, Seattle sports fans, to gaze upon a feature often invisible elsewhere in the convulsive landscape.

Serenity.

The Seahawks over the past six years have had great success in football and business. This summer they have no holdouts, hang-ups, harangues on internal hostilities. Yes, they have some injured players in recovery, but this is football, not antimacassar tatting. And they are a lot healthier than they were at this time a year ago.

Allen this week extended the contracts of the franchise wizards, GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll, by five and three years, respectively. And as training camp opens Saturday, the Seahawks are a consensus top-four pick for Super Bowl LI.

When you look around the NFL, are you feeling lucky, Johnny S?

“Oh, all the time, all the time,” Schneider said Thursday during an informal group interview with local reporters. “It always fluctuates and changes with different ownership groups. But this is clearly a top-three/top-five team in terms of ownership in the league. Obviously we’re biased. So we would say it’s (No.) 1.

“Having a strong owner and a strong president is extremely important.”

When ownerships in San Francisco, Oakland, Cleveland, Dallas and Washington, among others, are taken into account, the situation in Seattle is sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. That doesn’t mean there won’t be the annual dramas about such things as DE Michael Bennett’s contract, or who might play the same offensive-line position for two seasons in a row, or what part of his over-explored life Russell Wilson is sharing today on social media.

But those are the mundane daily controversies of sports, sound and fury signifying little. The franchise proceeds with a quiet hum generated by so many people over a long period who seem to know exactly what they are supposed to do, then doing it better than most.

Allen is the richest owner in sports, one of the shrewdest and a devout shunner of the mainstream spotlight. Carroll is in the conversation as best coach, Schneider same among GMs. What the Seahawks have is what business professors draw up in PhD classes to explain premier organizational culture.

“When you have a head coach, and strong ownership, strong president (in Peter McLoughlin),” Schneider said, “the relationship between us is special. Having that core together to have that consistent, solid foundation . . . that continuity is huge.”

Why?

Schneider told a story about meeting a leadership coach years ago on a plane flight as he returned from a scouting trip.

“He gave great advice (about where) industry was going in terms of leadership; top-down leadership doesn’t exist,” Schneider said. “The pitfalls come when you do things for the wrong reasons, personal reasons. Of course you’re doing everything you possibly can to take care of your family.

“That being said, you’re looking out for the organization first and foremost. That means you’re communicating with people in an impeccable manner, making tough decisions and being a good listener. Being a good listener is 80 to 90 percent of my job.”

In their first meeting in 2010, Allen didn’t ask Schneider about zone/man defensive principles, or the trips-wide offensive set or whether he could steal away Aaron Rodgers from Green Bay, his previous employer. He wanted to know whether he could work well with a coach who had just hired him, a very non-NFL kind of thing.

“He wanted to make sure Pete and I were compatible,” he said. “That I was going to be a forward thinker, able to think on your feet. It wasn’t like Pete and I knew each other especially well at the time.

“(The collaboration) was the attractive part of the position. We were going to strive for uniqueness and greatness. We’re going to work together and it’s not going to be about ego, about who gets credit for this or that.”

It starts with Allen, who has been a pro sports owner since 1988 with the Portland Trail Blazers. There is nothing he hasn’t seen. He has made his share of impulse decisions, believed he knew the games better than he did, and has run over some of his hires. He is a wiser man now.

Allen “is extremely intelligent . . . you can bounce ideas off of him,” Schneider said. “He asks you great, intense questions. Like I said: Impeccable communication.”

What happens when that impeccable communication ends in disagreement?

“We just put everything on the table and not let things just drift for a while — be able to address those things as quickly as you can, talk through it,” he said. “With Pete, it’s basically about just spending the extra time. Like, ‘OK, let’s just clear our heads, sit down and start watching the film again,’ or, ‘Let’s just start our conversation over again, keep an open mind and be respectful of each other.’”

Perhaps much of this seems like well-known modern business psychology. But remember, this is a franchise that went from 1984 to 2005 without a playoff win, longer than the Mariners’ much-lamented current streak. This is a franchise that was moved by its weapons-grade idiot owner for two weeks in 1996 without permission or rationale. This was a franchise on its third coach in three years when Carroll was hired.

One doesn’t have to look around the league for examples of dysfunction and dystopia.

The current Seahawks operation is better than it ever has been here, and a match for the  best in any sport.

Serenity is pro sports is a rare, splendid thing, never to be taken for granted. If you’re a good listener, like Schneider, you can hear the hum.


YourThoughts

  • Tian Biao

    wait . . . yes . . . i think i can hear it, yep there it is: the quiet hum of serenity. lollipops and rainbows. having a good owner is under-rated but a key aspect of franchise success. now i’m off to do some, uh, antimaccasar tatting. hint: it isn’t what you think. and without Art Thiel, we would never know such things. thanks Art! (i think)

    • art thiel

      Glad you enjoyed.

  • Paul Harmening

    Antimacassar tatting…my computer doesn’t compute that one. Neither do I. Another word gem. By the way Art, what are the odds you still write this piece if you had known of Clemmons retirement when framing this heavenly state of the franchise report ? Earth shaking.

  • jafabian

    I’m surprised Paul has not one a championship with the Blazers. They’ve been a solid franchise under his watch but have yet to get the brass ring. He’s been a godsend for Hawks fans and the organization after the turbulent ownership of Ken Behring and is setting the foundation for another Super Bowl run.

    I wonder if he’s had any of the Hawks aboard his yacht, the Octopus? That’s where his next Super Bowl party should be for the club.

    • Kirkland

      Far less parity in the NBA than the NFL. Also some bad luck, like with Greg Oden’s knee.

      • art thiel

        Then there was the Jordan-Bowie thing. But that pre-dated Allen.

        • jafabian

          Blazers have had horrible results drafting centers going back to LaRue Martin. They drafted Mychal Thompson to replace Bill Walton and he pulls a Nick Collison and misses his rookie year. They should always pass on drafting a center at his point.

    • art thiel

      Happy to be pool boy for that one.

      Allen had some good Drexler teams in the early Nineties, but I think early he got in his own way. He’s more circumspect today,

  • Xman

    Let’s hope Michael Bennett is on board with the franchise serenity thing.

    • art thiel

      When he thought about a year ago, his wife kicked his butt into camp. She’s still in charge.

  • John M

    OK, Art, I know you loved writing antimacassar tatting. You and 11 other Americans know what this is. Now we all know since you drove us to our dictionaries and the link. I won’t remember it, but I like knowing it briefly.

    Insightful article, and it is true. This is the best time we will ever have with the Hawks. It is a rare situation. I intend to enjoy every minute and I think Mr. Bennett will be in camp. As for the O-line, well, they are starting with an upgrade in talent . . .

    • art thiel

      I write for a living. I enjoy words. Every once in awhile, I like to find words that inspire people to do what you did.

      You made my day. English, she’s a beaut.

      • Howie Seago

        Ha!

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