Seahawks head coach and executive vice president had a press conference on Wednesday that struck me as extraordinarily interesting (for a Wednesday presser, anyway). Normally, in these things, you'd hear about injuries on the team, a loose game-plan for next week, heaps of praise on your upcoming opponent, and a joke or two. Now, I'm not going to overstate things and tell you it was a glimpse into the soul of this team, but Carroll did talk about some things we bloggers and media members speculate on ad nauseam so I found it to be quite interesting.
One of these matters is the Seahawks' seemingly incongruent, to the rest of the NFL, goal of becoming a run-first, run-stopping defensive-minded team. As Pete alludes to, the current powerhouse teams in the league, for the most part, pass the ball a ton and outscore their opponents in a track meet.
Some people would criticize this gameplan and core philosophy as archaic or obsolete. Pete, well, he doesn't seem to care.
"There has been a big emergence of the throwing game. All of the statistics show you that, all of the 4000-yard guys that are going to do it again this year, and even the young guys being able to be successful throwing the football. I don't know if thats a trend as much as it's just happened.
You can play it anyway you want to play. There's a lot of ways to play this game. The way we're choosing to play is a way that we're really excited about. The overall impact that we can have. We think that the more we can find our way, the more we can become unique -- and that's good! We can be unique in a lot of ways.
We like the attitude that it brings, the mentality that it brings to run the football, to play run defense, and play tough on teams, and play it that way, so I don't care which way the trends are going in the league. What's best for us, is the way that we want to go at it.
Back at USC, when people were spreading the field and doing all different things, we weren't doing any of that. We didn't go that way. We stayed with what we thought was the right stuff to do. Very similar to how we play now. And, there was a time when I felt like we were unique in that, and that's good.
You don't need to be like everyone else. I don't want to be normal, you know?
So, we're working hard at it, and we'll find how it goes. We'll work with the people we have, and we'll work with the talent that we have, and goes the way that's best for us. Matter of fact, right now, I'm really pleased with the direction it's going in.
The way that we want to play, you need somebody on your team [like Marshawn Lynch], carrying the football. Without an "attack guy," it doesn't feel the same. And he fits it just right, and he's taken advantage of the emergence of these guys and the whole scheme, and he's playing great football.
We're always going to continue to look for guys that add that to us, and there's some other guys in other positions that do it as well."
What I see as the identity of this team, is that of a smash-mouth, tough, physical, aggressive unit that eschews 'trends' or new methodologies for what I once heard Carroll say is the "all-time great way to play this game".
And I'm fine with that. Really. I don't really have a choice anyway, I might as well see where this train is going.
The Seahawks may be going against the grain of current NFL trends, - specifically that of spreading things out and passing all over the field, - but I don't think that's a bad thing, when taking into account the personnel involved here. Carroll has always called the quarterback the point guard of the offense, a guy to manage things and get the football to the playmakers. That's what Tarvaris Jackson is good at. That's how he's been effective. If he's consistently throwing the ball 30, 40 times a game do you think the Seahawks would be winning? (*hint, look at the games in the beginning of the season).
That doesn't mean the Seahawks wouldn't like a guy like Aaron Rodgers though. From what I can tell, they're not morons. Look who was a big part in drafting Discount Double Check boy. *(hint - John Schneider)
It also doesn't mean, though, that if the Seahawks manage to find a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, that they won't use him. It just means he'll have a strong run game and solid defense to make him that much better, if and when he does arrive. Complaining about the direction this team is going schematically is a bit of a moot point until or unless the Seahawks have a guy under center that could conceivably carry a pass-heavy team.
Matt Hasselbeck was throwing the football, on average, about 32 times a game in 2010. Tarvaris Jackson is throwing it about 20 time a game this year, on average. Why the big difference? Why does it suddenly feel like the Seahawks can finally run the football? Essentially, it's what I, and many others around here, had guessed:
The Seahawks simply decided to say, "F*ck it. We're going to run the football regardless of the score, down, distance, time, or place. It's on like Donkey Kong, biotch." (I'm paraphrasing).
Pete Carroll, on the fateful day they made that call...
"We did exactly that. We made the decision upstairs in the staff room, and I remember it clearly. I came down here to hear Tom Cable address the offense, and talk to them, and he told them exactly that -
"This commitment is now firmly cemented in. We're going for it, we're going to get back to the things we like so much."
And we left some of the hurry-up stuff behind so that we could focus on it. Even at the expense of taking a couple of steps backwards. We thought and we felt the guys were coming along, and now was the time to challenge them, so we did. And Tom made the comment, that we had talked about, that we had two tremendous challenges in Dallas, then the Ravens coming in the next week. And, if we could battle our way through that and show some progress there, it might set us in motion for the rest of the season. And, it does feel like that kind of has happened.
There was clearly a time when we revisited the emphasis on the philosophy.
I was personally just disappointed that we weren't making progress. I felt like we weren't going anywhere, like we stuck ourselves in the ground a little bit. Not having the success, it was really when Tarvaris got hurt, and we tried to stick with it, and we put it on Charlie, and Tarvaris was a little more adept at being in that situation, from his experience. It just didn't feel like we'd gone anywhere. It didn't take off like we'd thought.
I brought it to them (the coaching staff) and said - "look, let's stop what we're doing. Let's think about the thought of going back, right to what we wanted to do." This is really what it came down to -
"Regardless of what the results are, let's do it the way we want to do it. Let's play the way we feel best about it."
And Tom was totally on board, we've been in concert with that thought - that's why he's here with us, he understands what we'd wanted to do. And, we agreed to do the other things too, you know, but when we took the turn, we were both excited about it. We're excited because we're building for the future with a young bunch of guys, so fortunately it's turned us."
It's actually pretty remarkable. The Hawks were 2-5, having just lost to the Bengals at home. They, at the time, were looking forward to Dallas and Baltimore and, frankly, two probable losses that would have put them at 2-7 and way, way out of the playoff hunt. Now, really, was the time to just let loose, forget about - really - trying to win, and just play the football that they want to play, say, next season. Building the foundation for next year.
It just so happens that the stuff they put in and decided to stick to has actually been working. That's cool!
For the record though, I still don't really think they're playing for the playoffs. I think this year is one big preseason. I think they're putting in their systems, installing their philosophy, and engraining their identity. If they make the playoffs, that's sweet. If not, that's cool too, they're going in the right direction.
It's about the big picture and I'm ok with that. They've shut down Sidney Rice to save him for next season. They've lost 3/5 of their starting offensive line. They've lost two of their starting corners. They've lost all kinds of players but have taken that as an opportunity to evaluate their depth.
They've elevated Golden Tate to the starting lineup. They've activated Deon Butler and Cameron Morrah. They're giving Justin Forsett more carries. They're getting to see Breno Giacomini at RT, Lemuel Jeanpierre at RG, and Paul McQuistan at seemingly every spot on the line. We've seen Clinton McDonald get a lot of snaps. We've seen Chris Maragos in the secondary.
They recently brought up Ricardo Lockette. Really, they're seeing what they have in their depth players in an effort to better know their needs in the offseason.
And they're still in the playoff hunt. Again. It's weird, but nice.