With 5-plus hours still to go until the NFL season kicks off with Seahawks-Packers at CenturyLink Field, I wanted to share online The News Tribune’s special Seahawks preview section that ran in the newspaper this morning.
Tons of great stuff in here. This should tide you over from now until kickoff.
It sure beats working this afternoon:
–In my main story I wrote my impressions of Pete Carroll now to the one I covered in 2010 during his first months as Seahawks coach and vice president. The news in it is at the end, when I asked him in sit-down interview a couple weeks ago inside the VMAC in Renton if Seattle was his final coaching stop. He laughed.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Oh, yeah. Yeah. They said, ‘(Old soldiers) never die they just fade away.’ That will be me, I guess.”
And get this: He says he’s up for doing this with the Seahawks for another decade, until he is … 72? That’s Marv Levy-like, except more chic and hip; Marv Levy never wore such cool shades.
“Yeah, I am. I don’t have any problem with the energy part of it,” he said. “We’ll just see. Really, it’s just one lifetime at a time.
“I love this team so much, and I love this formula, the support that we have and the way Paul has structured it for John and me. The wonderful players that we have.
“It’s just too much fun.”
The story also details how Carroll is so far different than in his first NFL coaching stops, in the 1990s with the Jets and Patriots. He said it wasn’t until 2000, his only year out of coaching since 1973 when he was a 22-year-old graduate assistant at the University of the Pacific (two hours east of where he was born, San Francisco), that he had an a-ha! moment and found his coaching philosophy. It was by studying the teachings of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.
I find him to be much more delegating, a CEO-type, on the field during practices now. He said that’s because then he needed to instill his “always compete” philosophy into every player on the roster. Now, they have internalized his messages and philosophy to the point of self-policing and correcting during meetings and practices and even games, freeing Carroll for a more global approach to the team.
And I detail the free-throw shooting contests he still conducts before meetings. Turns out, wide receiver Bryan Walters is the best shot on the team. He was an all-league basketball guard in high school in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, by the way.
–I also wrote a story about Richard Sherman saying absolutely nothing has changed for him or for his “Legion of Boom” secondary since winning the Super Bowl — even with the new NFL emphasis on illegal defensive contact this season.
–TNT columnist Dave Boling writes why it is so hard to repeat as Super Bowl champions in today’s NFL. He leads with Mike Holmgren remembering the words he got from Bill Parcells after Holmgren won his first Super Bowl as a head coach, with Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXI: “Good… now let’s see how you handle the next challenges.”
The first glimpse of how the Seahawks are handling theirs comes in a few hours.
–Boling also writes how in this age of no-huddle, pass-all-the-time offenses in the NFL the Seahawks, Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell remain grounded in old-school thinking of running the ball inside first. That is despite Percy Harvin’s revitalization and speed and what looks to be a more explosive Seahawks offense this season.
–Fellow TNT columnist John McGrath says Russell Wilson is already on track as the best quarterbacks in NFL history, after just two seasons. McGrath puts Wilson head-to-head with Montana, Elway, Marino, et al.
–Colleague TJ Cotterill tries to define just how fast Harvin really is. ““It’s like if a Lamborghini and a Maserati had a baby, that would be a Bugatti. If a Bugatti had a baby with a Ferrari, that would be Percy,” said fellow Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse.
–Craig Hill’s got a great story on The Beast: A rolling 12th Man cave. It quotes a mega-fan known as the “SeaPope.”
–Here are five questions I was asked to give and answer on the Seahawks this season:
1. Can they defy the odds the league – and everyone else – has stacked against them?
There are reasons, many reasons, that only one franchise has repeated as Super Bowl champions over the last 15 seasons. A weighted schedule full of playoff-caliber teams — which for Seattle this season has it going to Kansas City, playing both its division games against San Francisco and Arizona plus going across the country to fast Philadelphia, all over a brutal, six-week stretch starting in mid-November. There are free-agent departures. Inevitable injuries. A sense of entitlement, if not complacency. Yes, repeating is plain hard to do. Yet the Seahawks have dedicated themselves to two words for 2014, uttered in the locker room at the Meadowlands moments after they won the Super Bowl: “What’s next?” As Pete Carroll told The News Tribune during the preseason: “It’s to stay on top. That’s the challenge. I think it’s a great accomplishment to win a championship. But it’s a greater accomplishment to demonstrate that you understand how to do it, how you did it – and do it again.”
2. Is the offensive line indeed improved? And will it hold up?
Let’s face it, the Seahawks won it all last year at times despite their offensive line. Now they have a rookie second-round draft choice at right tackle, Justin Britt, who is going to face squadrons of edge rushers specifically targeting him. They have a starting right guard, J.R. Sweezy, who three years ago was a coming out of college as a defensive lineman. Fifth-year starting left tackle Russell Okung has yet to play a full NFL season and is coming off toe surgery. Left guard James Carpenter has yet to show consistency over his three seasons in Seattle. And there are unproven backups at guard and tackle in Stephen Schilling, Alvin Bailey and Garry Gilliam. History shows the Seahawks will need to play some or all of them. Good thing quarterback Russell Wilson is so elusive.
3. Can anyone catch Percy Harvin?
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell seems intent to find out. Fly sweeps. Go routes. Dig routes. Bubble screens. The only play the now-supersonic wide receiver may not do this year is “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Harvin had offseason hip surgery and says the last time he’s felt this fast and healthy was “before college.” That was a decade ago. His increased speed could wreck the plans opponents have spent the winter and spring constructing to stymie the Super Bowl champion. No. 11 alone could be the Seahawks’ biggest game-changer, and the reason this team isn’t those run-Marshawn-Lynch-and-rely-on-defense Seahawks anymore.
4. Will those so-called “Legion of Boom” rules change the Seahawks’ thudding secondary?
Most around the league – including, most pointedly, Dallas owner Jerry Jones and veteran Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall – see the NFL’s new points of emphasis on illegal contact downfield and defensive holding as reactions to the in-your-face pass defense last season of Seahawks Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and friends. Those guys are what made Seattle the league’s top-ranked defense, the one that limited Peyton Manning and the Broncos to a mere eight points in the Super Bowl. Now, the flags are flying around NFL defensive backfields. Yet the Seahawks are adamant nothing’s changed for them. “We didn’t adjust anything,” Sherman said of Seattle in its exhibition season. “We’ve been playing the game the right way. We continue to play it the right way. Everybody just complains and whines about us breaking the rules, etcetera, etcetera.”
5. Will Byron Maxwell be up to the challenge?
Because he has one this season. Every quarterback that faces the Seahawks will be finding and targeting No. 41 simply because he plays the opposite side of the field from the All-Pro Sherman. The sixth-round draft choice from 2011 is on the spot with Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond now gone. Carroll didn’t like the physical condition Maxwell was in when he reported this summer to training camp but says “he’s a terrific football player … we love the way he plays.” They will get ample opportunity to see how he plays this season.
–And because some of you asked, here are my predictions for the NFL season, as published in today’s paper: