If there was ever one quote that defined the success of Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, this was it: "It makes my heart soar." Sure, a lot of factors go into compiling the best record in Seahawks' history. To me, empathy for his players is number one.
It isn't exactly breaking news that Peter Clay Carroll is considered a player's coach. It's safe to say there hasn't been a coach as empathetic with his players since Dick Vermeil, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame just last year. Like Carroll, Vermeil was a solid Xs and Os man, in his case on the offensive side of the ball. But like Carroll, it was his ability to motivate his players that set him apart from the rest. Carroll has that same quality but to an even greater degree,
That's not to say no player has ever been at odds with Carroll. Michael Bennett had more than his share of issues with Carroll. Bennett famously said that he read in team meetings just to ignore Carroll. For his part, Richard Sherman said of Carroll, "his philosophy is more built for college." As for Carroll, while he always empathized with his players, if matters ever got to the point where it disrupted the team he was quick to show them the door.
"It just makes my heart soar" defines Pete Carroll and the Seahawks
Yes, it's true that both Bennett and Sherman were sent on their respective ways in 2018. It's also true that their comments came out after they left the Seahawks. I'll leave it to you, 12s, to determine how much those comments can be ascribed to a tinge of sour grapes. As Lee Vowell wrote five years ago - wow, they've been gone five years - Pete lets players be themselves. But it's always team first in Seattle.
Bennett and Sherman were easily two of the Seahawks' most outspoken players. Not only were they allowed to speak their mind, they were encouraged to do so. In an interview in 2016 as reported by Les Carpenter for The Guardian, performance psychologist Michael Gervais had this to say about Carroll's philosophy regarding his players' outspokenness: “Allowing is not the right word,” Gervais says. “It’s a deep, deep commitment to figure out who they are and celebrate it.”
It's worth noting that both Bennett and Sherman are back on the sidelines for the Seahawks, invited by their old boss to coach up the young guys. Oh, and Cliff Avril seems to enjoy his role as professor emeritus, too. I think that philosophy "built for college" is really built for people, and it simply took a couple of guys longer to truly see it. I suppose what matters is that even if it took them a while, they get it now.
While Sherman was focused on the "rah-rah" aspects, Pete Carroll's core philosophy remains the same. He celebrates his players, unlike any other coach in the league. Sure, Sean Payton will high-five his quarterback after a touchdown pass. Heck, Bill Belichick might even crack a smile once a season. But Pete Carroll is the only coach that seems to celebrate his players as people. That quote, "It makes my heart soar," was in reference to the rookies' energy for their first NFL game. Here s a deeper cut of that quote from the Vikings postgame press conference, as reported by seahawks.com:
"It's really important. It just makes my heart soar. To see them go out there and have them have that much fun playing, see the finish come to them... And the guys on the sidelines were going crazy for them. That's what I hope they would feel. I mean, if I could tell you what I hoped this game could be like, that was the game...Like (Ty) Okada said, he couldn't believe how much fun football was for him tonight. Go a little further. We dedicate this first game to the young guys. We make a big deal about that in the meetings during the week. Veteran guys talk to them, told them about their first game, gave them a little bit of advice. We just had fun... We wanted to make it memorable. They ain't forgetting this first game. They'll know this first game forever. That's all I could ask for."- Pete Carroll
Now tell me you wouldn't give everything to play on a team like that, for a coach like that. I do have to add that Sherman was right in one aspect; the Seahawks had lost their way in evaluating talent. That much is clear from some of their drafts. It's also clear from 2022 and 2023, they found their way back. But as for the core philosophy, that's never changed, and never will. Pete Carroll absolutely empathizes with his players like no other. Truly, he knows This Is the Way.