A Breakdown of Pete Carroll’s Philosophy

A few months ago I wrote an article detailing the decline of the Seattle Seahawks.

I, among many others, was dead wrong.

That being said, much of what I laid out in that last article was true. The Seahawks drafting has not been as strong in recent history as it was at the beginning of this regime’s tenure. There have been major misses in free agency and in trades. Coaching decisions and hires have not been perfect (they employed Tom Cable for about six years too long). However, one thing I did not take into account was the power and resolve of a strong philosophy. Whether it’s in sports, business or a family, a core set of values and a healthy culture is the foundation for anything successful. It gives everyone involved a sense of purpose, direction and something to fall back on in times of turbulence.

And that’s exactly where Seattle found themselves going into Week 3 at 0-2.

Before delving further into the season, I am going to break down some of what Carroll’s philosophy entails, a majority of it coming from his 2010 New York Times Bestseller book “Win Forever”. A personal favourite of mine that gives a lot of transferable advice to multiple facets of one’s life.

Pete Carroll Philosphy

Belief System

From the time Carroll was hired, he established the “Win Forever” matrix into the fabric of the Seahawks, from the staff he surrounded himself with to the players they drafted. The core (bottom of the pyramid) has stayed intact throughout Carroll’s tenure. “Do things better than they have ever been done before.” 

Of the three rules, rules one & two have come under siege multiple times throughout Carroll’s career in Seattle, most notably since Super Bowl 49 when the Seahawks notoriously threw the ball on the one-yard line, resulting in an interception and a heartbreaking loss. Since then, players have been very outspoken, this has resulted in Rule One, being broken.

“Always protect the team”.

After the devastating Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots in 2015, many players have spoken out against Carroll, the coaching staff and the team. Most notably, Richard Sherman in 2016 when he openly criticized the offensive coaching staff for calling a pass on the one-yard line in a Week 15 win over the Los Angeles Rams. More recently, it was reported that star defensive end Michael Bennett would read books during coaching meetings. Bennett was traded to the Philidelphia Eagles this past off-season.

To Pete Caroll’s credit, he never once made excuses for the devastating Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, at the foundation of his philosophy Carroll has stayed true to his core. He protected the team and didn’t throw then offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell or Russell Wilson under the bus. He didn’t make any excuses, complain or whine at the result.

“There’s really nobody to blame but me.”

Central Theme

This is what Pete Carroll is known for, every training camp, practice, pre-season game etc. It’s all about competition. It’s how former CFL All-Star cornerback Brandon Browner became a starting corner in 2011, how fifth round-pick and former college wide-receiver Richard Sherman became an All-Pro cornerback, how a third-round quarterback, many touted to be “too short” managed to find himself as a Week 1 starter in his rookie season in 2012.

Competition.

It doesn’t matter what round a player is drafted in or how much he’s being paid, how hard they compete and what’s best for the team determines how much of a contributor they will be for the Seahawks.

“However successful you may be, there is always some element you can improve on, some achievement to exceed.”

What’s great about this portion of the hierarchy is that it’s the most relatable and applicable to everyday life. No matter what you’re competing at, whether it be sports, filmmaking, writing, working out, school or work is that by having the mindset of doing things better than they’ve ever been done before, you can maximize your potential. Carroll also mentions in his book that he does not see his opponents as the “enemy” but as people who offer him the opportunity to succeed. This is a massive perspective change compared to what we regularly perceive as our competition.

Environment

Pete Carroll cites his final year in New England when asked to evaluate a pair of youth football practices as a moment of enlightenment for him in regards to practice. He witnessed a team in the Bronx practicing but it was unlike what he had seen before, the energy was different, there was more if it and it started with the coaches. From that moment, Carroll promised any team under his watch would practice with more energy than anyone in football.

“But Winning Forever is not about the final score; it’s about competing and starving to be the best. If you are in this pursuit then you’re already winning.”

I'm in

How Carroll runs his practices has had a direct impact on the culture of this team. Music blares at practice, drills are run at high paces and things are generally kept “loose” as per NFL standards. There are different themes for each day of the week leading up to the game. There’s Tell the Truth Monday, Competition Tuesday, Turnover Wednesday, No Repeat Thursday and Review Friday. For the sake of the length of this article, each day focuses on a key component within Pete’s philosophy, that’s what gives structure to his entire program.

Pete Carroll acknowledges that he’s been known as a “player’s coach” which he notes is a label that carries negative connotations such as being “too nice”. However, Carroll puts this to rest with a brilliant quote that all leaders in any position can take a page from.

“If you really care about helping people maximize their potential, then you must try to uncover who they are and what they are all about.”

Performance

Pete Carroll near the end of his book looks at how any person can apply the Win Forever philosophy to their own lives. In short, Carroll believes that by setting up a vision for yourself, staying disciplined and true to your strengths and keeping in touch with said vision, you can maximize the best version of yourself.

“When you truly know yourself, you have the best chance of using your strengths to your best advantage. And when things aren’t going so well, it is so much easier to get back on track when you have a plan for where you want to go.”

This quote is the reason why the Seahawks “rebuild” has taken all of 12 weeks as opposed to the two years or more many thought it would take. From the ground up, Pete Carroll has not only developed a philosophy he believes in, but he was able to get everyone else to buy in. The entire Seahawks program revolves around competition and maximizing potential.

Seattle may not have a hall of fame secondary as they had in 2013 or a running back of the calibre of Beastmode (Marshawn Lynch). Pete Carroll simply gets the most out of his players and this wouldn’t be possible without his philosophy. The fact that the Seahawks have an identity is what is keeping them in the playoff race. Something they sorely lacked in the first two weeks of the season.

Win Forever

Beyond football, it is this book and the joy of watching Carroll coach every Sunday as to why he’s such a big inspiration to me. I would encourage anyone of any profession or walk of life to check out this book or other online resources on Carroll’s philosophy.

It is because of leaders like Pete Carroll as to why I wholeheartedly believe that sports mean so much more than wins, losses and championships. Philosophies like Pete’s and others out there from esteemed players and coaches across many leagues transcends the sport itself. The ability to inspire everyday people like you and me can make a far deeper impact than a Seahawks victory (but you’ll still find me screaming at my TV every Sunday).  I leave you with a poem found in Pete Carroll’s book and I hope you find as much value in Pete Carroll’s teachings as I have.

Always Compete

Always Compete…

As you progress through your sporting life…

Always Compete.

If you want to go for it…

Always Compete.

You’re gonna have to make choices in life and those choices need to be conscious decisions. There’s only one person in control here, and that person is you…

You hold all the cards. You are the master of you. It’s time to admit it…

You have always known this. So if you’re ready, act on it…

Always Compete.

Don’t you dare try to be too cool, don’t you dare be afraid of life,

Just “dare to be great,” and let it rip.

Always be humble, always be kind, always be respectful…

Always Compete.

Everything you do counts and screams who you are. There is no hiding from you.

Act as if the whole world will know who you are…

Always Compete.

Be true to yourself and let nothing hold you back.

Compete to be the greatest you, and that will always be enough and that will be a lifetime!

Always Compete.

Any thoughts on this post, Pete’s philosophy, the Seahawks or just want to chat? Find me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook!

Main image credit:

Embed from Getty Images

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