BY Art Thiel 03:00PM 01/08/2021

Thiel: Seahawks, the NFL team that figured it out

Wagner, Adams and Metcalf were named All-Pros. The Seahawks also deserve an an award: Team That Figured It Out on the Fly. It’s Carroll’s best coaching job.

Pete Carroll had a plan for the pandemic, as well as fixing the Seahawks’ offense and defense./ Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

On the eve of the NFL playoffs Friday, LB Bobby Wagner was voted to the Associated Press’s All-Pro first team, and SS Jamal Adams and WR DK Metcalf to the second team. This is the most prestigious of the pro football awards given annually, and those selected deserve hearty congratulations.

Now that we’re in the awards season of the most peculiar year in NFL history, I’d like to offer up a new accolade:

Team That Figured It Out on the Fly Award.

My nominee is the Seattle Seahawks. Nominations are now closed. The winner is  . . . the Seattle Seahawks.

Rigged election? This time, sure. But since I created the trophy, a 5-foot-tall, solid gold replica of an N-95 mask, on my own, you can call me a homer all you want. My dime, my column.

I offer up the award now because Saturday could be the final game of the season for the Seahawks, although they and the Rams could decide to go best-of-seven. I don’t think either will happen, but the past 10 months have been a bad time to forecast anything, as any of us who are addicted to morning doomscrolling  on Twitter can attest (“Man, I didn’t see THAT coming . . .”).

So, before anything changes, here’s the explainer:

Avoidance: No positive COVID-19 tests, and just a few close-contact quarantines

Adaptation: In the absences of rookie camp, OTAs, mini-camp, training camp and exhibition games, and drastically fewer in-person meetings, doing business as close to normal as possible

In-season football changes: Adding players and adjusting schemes and attitudes that transformed a defense from disastrous to disarming; cutting back on the offense’s spectacular, expensive #LetRussCook experience to a taco truck that inexpensively serves plenty of people and moments

Minimum NFL penalties for violations of protocols: $100,000, for Carroll’s poor first-game job of maskery

Entertainment value: Better than any bras-off theme-park ride.

Through the tumult that included local and national protests over police shootings and racial injustice, the grieving produced by the uncontrolled spiral of illness and death from COVID-19, and the despair over the relentless assault by President Trump on the rule of law, the Seahawks won 12 games — after consecutive seasons of nine, 10, and 11 wins —  to win the NFC West and reach the No. 3 NFC seed and at least one home playoff game, void of fans as it will be.

A feat of enviable concentration and purpose.

Other teams have figured things out too, and a few will win more games, but none of them will have set a franchise single-season record for points scored and end up relying on defensive dominance to advance.

Since he didn’t know the award was coming, Carroll had no acceptance speech prepared. But after practice Friday in a Zoom conference, he offered a close facsimile after being asked about any “special sauce” that allowed the club to navigate the perils of the pandemic.

“I think we’ve done a number of things really well, and I don’t mind saying that, starting right from the beginning,” he said. “We captured the thought that attitude will be probably the most important part of this whole thing, because we’re going to have to sustain for such a long time . . . to endure the hardships that we knew were going to come in the challenges of changing lifestyles.

“We just utilized the central theme in the program of competition. We’re going to see this is a competition.”

Carroll persuaded coaches, players and staff that that best way to keep the virus out was to reach for a higher standard.

“We did not only go with what the NFL said,” he said. “We went with what we thought was right, doing our own kind of homework and research. Whatever they say is the maximum, we went beyond that. We were advocating testing every day, and stuff we thought early on that would be absolutely necessary, if you’re going to function at this kind of level.

“You got to be tough. You got to be consistent. You need constant messaging. You need leadership from all levels. You have to have a vision for this, what you’re up against. You can’t let up.”

There’s no advanced analytics for this kind of thing. Only results.

“I’m not saying we got all the answers, but I know that we did it, and we’ve done it for six or seven months,” he said. “I would hand (his methodology) to somebody else, and they could do it, if they could find the right attitude about it, and start from the right place.”

Just this week was another distraction, a mob incited by Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol and a Congress in session, an act of sedition that killed five and shook the world.

“It was a horrible day,” said Carroll, who usually has in his office three TV screens tuned to different channels. “You could see it coming and there was awful. I tried not to be distracted by it, but I certainly was aware.

“I do have a little bit of a knack for being able to kind of multitask.”

Apparently. Now he has an award to go with it. Although it certainly won’t be as prestigious, a vote or two for NFL coach of the year might be justifiable.

Prediction

Rams DT Aaron Donald said Sunday after the matchup became known that the Seahawks were “the ones we wanted.” That’s understandable, given the Rams’ success against Russell Wilson. This time, Wilson has his original offensive line together for the first time in more than two months, plus the full complement at running back and tight end. LA has two quarterbacks, one hurt, one green and none named Wilson. Seahawks 20, Rams 16.


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YourThoughts

  • Archangelo Spumoni

    Mr. Art
    (2 thoughts here)
    You seem to have a knack for this “writing” thing–I encourage you to make your living at it. If you work hard enough, I predict you’ll get pretty good at it and you’ll make a name for yourself this way. . . . . . . . (har har har har har har har)
    2nd item
    Next time you are on the phone or zO0m with the incoming Administration, please put in a good word for Coach Pete. He can lead or at least advise the “How to Whip the Virus’s a** So We Can Get On With Normal Life” department. He seems to have caught something in the proverbial bottle here and the nation can use some leadership.

  • Will Ganschow

    Excellent column Art. At age 71 it is a bit embarrassing to be so unabashedly a fan of Carrol’s. I couldn’t stand him when he was at USC because his approach was so unassailable. He is a few years younger than me, youthful as always however none should overlook, he won’t be here forever. Just savor every moment of his brilliant, effective, good humored very human tenure.

  • Fu Bar

    Not that I’ve been quarantined too long or anything but … where’s that theme park?

  • Ed Walsh

    Another great column, Art. I suspect you’ve nailed Carroll’s and his staffs genuine accomplishments this year. Awesome, really. Just glad that the other clubs managed to hang as well enough that we’ve had a season, Looking forward to playoff victories, but saturday’s result either way, will not change a remarkable job. Pretty amazing.

  • Husky73

    I only wish that the Mariners had just a fraction of the “how to run a major league sports franchise” chops and mojo that the Seahawks have. Can you imagine the Seahawks trying to sell and explain a step back?

    • Olive Muncy

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    • jafabian

      Originally I thought this upcoming season would tell us how the Dipoto/Servais plan is working but with the pandemic still in place anything and everything can happen. The Hawks, Sounders and Storm have been model franchises. I’m sure their success hasn’t been lost on the Mariners.

      • 2nd place is 1st loser

        4, count em, 4 playoff appearances in 43 years for the M’s franchise. As far as other Seattle franchises successes not being lost on the M’s franchise. I would say that “lost” is an appropriate term for that franchise. Hope springs eternal once again.

        • Husky73

          36 days before pitchers and catchers report………(maybe)….

      • Lillian Thompson

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  • 1coolguy

    The Seahawk part was good, the political art completely uninformed

    • 2nd place is 1st loser

      Yet here you are once again with your relentless diatribe.

    • Husky73

      How did January 6th work out for ya? Five dead…..

  • Howie Seago

    Thanks for the chuckles. Now seriously and I hope I don’t put a jinx/curse on Coach Pete: Who would you choose as his replacement for when the time comes? Just one choice…

    • Husky73

      Brian Bosworth.

    • Kevin Lynch

      Abraham Lincoln.

    • Husky73

      Malik McDowell

    • Husky73

      Andre Hines

  • jafabian

    I don’t know if the pandemic worked in the Hawks favor? It seemed that they had less distractions, less drama than in the past giving them more opportunity to focus on football and the results speak for themselves. Adams and Dunlap have been great additions and DJ Reed has quietly developed into a sound contributor. DK Metcalf has been amazing. Looking forward to his second time in the playoffs after his explosion against the Eagles last season.

  • Coop

    Jan. 5 2019.
    Seahawks wild-card game loss in Dallas.
    73 yds total rushing.
    2-13 third down conversions.

    These are the two stats I will be watching today.

    • Coop

      Seahawks today:
      136 yds rushing
      2-14 converting 3rd down.
      Another loss.

  • BB46

    They figured out covid but not the Rams. Offense was pathetic today.

  • Husky73

    Well, that was distressing………

  • Kevin Lynch

    Art, I think you and I had these guys at 9-7 this year. They pulled 12-4. Pretty good. Russell has come precariously close to being the ‘irreplaceable bird’. But Pete has done it. Carroll is not replaceable. And I’m saying that after I saw the game today. I’ve run a business and seen the ‘irreplaceable’ individual. It’s a back-breaker when they leave. 2020 – a good run for Seattle.