Doug Baldwin saluted Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable as men and mentors. But Pete Carroll knows the only way to stay ahead of being ordinary is to start with pain and loss.
As most in the Seahawks fan base celebrate the firing of assistant coaches Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable, WR Doug Baldwin brought up something about the pain of breaking up the Super Bowl gang.
It’s hard to be objective about the people in your life who first believed in you.
The Seahawks still have a small number of players from the 2013-14 seasons who thrilled Seattle fans and delighted many others in the NFL with equal parts talent, toughness and brashness. Much of the charm came from the low-round draftees and undrafted free agents who were integral in the success despite the absence of a gleaming football pedigree.
Many of us have had in school or the workplace an experience similar to what players felt at that time when you realized the teacher/boss/coach you admired came to believe in you.
It’s not something readily talked about, but if you ask, most people can recall vividly the moment, the circumstances and the feelings when the mentor, by word and deed, signaled your legitimacy.
Baldwin, on ESPN’s First Take show Thursday, was the first player to speak about coach Pete Carroll’s decisions to fire the offensive coordinator and the line coach after seven mostly successful seasons. He carefully avoided passing judgment on the decisions, but talked about the two people who believed in him.
“They were great human beings in the time that I got to know them,” he said. “They were great people. I really enjoyed my time with them and got to know them as human beings, as men. They really helped me, and Russell Wilson, obviously, in our development, so they’re part of that.
“You take a third-round quarterback who a lot in the media said was too short to play the position, a receiver (Baldwin) who they said was too short to play the position — undrafted, at that — and we went out there and played some spectacular football for a stretch.
“So I give a lot of credit to Darrell Bevell and to Tom Cable for their work, their development of players that they had that was available to them. They did an extraordinary job . . . Bevell was our offensive coordinator when we broke every record that the Seahawks had offensively, so there’s a lot to be said for that.”
Baldwin owes a big part of his standing in 2017 as one of the NFL’s top 100 players (as voted by players) to the patient development work by Carroll, Bevell and Cable. Of course he would be gracious and supportive of them. That doesn’t make him wrong about the contributions of Bevell and Cable to the greatest run in club history.
By the same token, it doesn’t make Carroll wrong in letting them go. The two positions are not mutually exclusive.
Sometimes events overtake the best people and plans.
Aside from any behind-the-scenes personal drama that has not been publicly known to exist, Bevell and Cable are the same guys who were hired by Carroll in 2011 to collaborate on the offense while Carroll oversaw the defense.
Bevell was the OC and Cable was the line coach, with the additional title of assistant head coach. In the tandem’s first year, the Seahawks opened with the third-youngest O-line in the NFL, and in the season’s second half, had 1,202 rushing yards, fifth in the NFL in that span.
Then in 2012, they came upon Wilson in the third round of the draft, one of the most unusual, dynamic athletes not only in football, but in all of American team sports. Subsequent events established that in Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch, Seattle had in the same backfield two massive outliers that made the offense harder to defend than any team in the NFL.
Lynch and Wilson made up for deficiencies in the line, but not in the spectacular way that most of us remember their greatest plays. One of Lynch’s lesser appreciated virtues was the remarkable ability to convert an imminent three-yard loss into a two-yard gain. Similarly, Wilson had a knack for converting a potential sack into a five-yard scramble rush.
The individual feats were a combination of instinct and intellect beyond the reach of coaching as well as defenses.
Then Lynch became hurt and unmanageable, and left. Wilson remained, and good as he was, became less efficient late in 2017. The cumulative psychic impact of two years of thumpings and the belief that he had to be Superman every game, instead of getting time off as Clark Kent, compromised his play.
The offensive output of the December games, particularly the losses to to the Rams and Cardinals, was so abysmal that the Seahawks, despite a still-valiant, wounded defense, were reduced to ordinariness.
Sure, if kicker Blair Walsh does his job, the Seahawks are 12-4. But they still would have finished the season 15th in offensive yardage and 11th in defensive yardage (13th in points allowed).
A 12-4 finish, aided by a soft schedule, would have kept Bevell and Cable in their jobs. But that would have delayed a reckoning that the Seahawks’ shortcomings overtook the coaching staff’s ability to devise a renaissance with many of the same players.
If the rumors prove true that Carroll would like to see defensive coordinator Kris Richard move on to another job so he can avoid firing his longtime protege, the Seahawks will have two new coordinators and likely many new assistants.
Carroll’s seven-year Seattle coaching tenure is tied with Jason Garrett of Dallas as the seventh-longest in the NFL. Nearly all of the guys ahead of him — Bill Belichick, Marvin Lewis (?), Mike McCarthy, Sean Payton, Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh — have done what he’s trying to do.
Stay ahead of being ordinary.
A proven way to do that is to draw fresh eyes to problems unseen or unmanaged by the founders of the empire. At the moment, after the firings and before the hirings, it’s impossible to know how that is going.
We do know it starts with pain and loss. As Rick Blaine says to Ilsa in Casablanca, “We’ll always have Paris.” Then he turns to his one-time rival: “Louie, I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.”
Another reason Casablanca is the best football movie ever.