The Seahawks win the Superbowl, draft day approaches and everyone wants to know the secret ingredient. Where does coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider find their hidden gems? 21 of the 53 man roster is made up of undrafted free agents, and many lower draft picks. Guys like Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor were drafted in the 5th round. Superbowl MVP Malcolm Smith drafted in the 7th. Is the secret to drafting getting long, lanky guys at corner? Or is it speedy linebackers? There must be some sort of…mathematical formula right?
In the book/movie Moneyball, GM Billy Bean had a pretty out of the box philosophy in his approach to putting together his Oakland Athletics baseball team. If you haven’t seen the movie, basically Billy, or Brad Pitt as he’d probably like to be called now, believed that players who got on base a certain % of the time (On base percentage), were just as valuable as guys who had a high batting average. He also looked at how a player plays on defense, and how he can affect the game with his range. There was a certain, beautiful mathematical strategy behind it all. The A’s never won the World Series with Bean, but it sort of revolutionized the way GM’s look at baseball players.
Forget Moneyball when we talk about football though…here is the real story of how the Seahawks were able to achieve success (and are likely to continue having success in the future).
If the rest of the league is looking to copy the Seahawks blueprint in terms of their physical attributes, they are not going to find similar success. They need to not look at just the players physical traits, but also what they can bring to the locker room. I believe the Seahawks were assembled out of players that had the right MENTAL attributes, who just also happened to have unique physical features.
Don’t get me wrong, Pete Carroll loves bigger, faster, more physical players…who doesn’t? But the Pete Carroll/John Schneider combo places a higher value on guys with a certain mental makeup.
So for the all of the draft scouts out there, if you really want to copy the Seahawks, here is the blueprint! You need a structure of players with certain mental attributes, starting with….
Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Red Bryant, Michael Robinson
These are the guys that provide the leadership. These are obviously the most important guys on the team, because they set the tone every day. They dictate how hard the other 53 players practice, compete and play. If the best players on your team aren’t leaders, or who don’t appear to be putting in the work, what kind of expectation do you have for the rest of the team? It’s just like working in a company. If the employees see that the top level executives aren’t doing much in terms of productivity, why should they?
There is no one on the team, and possibly in all of football, who works harder and prepares harder than Russell Wilson and Earl Thomas. These guys are unique because while they don’t fit the prototypical NFL build for their positions, they more than make up for it with their other skills, and the ability to set an example for the team.
If your team’s best players in the key positions aren’t these kind of guys (ahem…Dallas and New York Jets!), then sorry, your team is going nowhere. I highlighted key positions because I think its very difficult to win a title if you either A. don’t have a quarterback that’s also a proven leader, or B. have leaders on both sides of the ball. The Seahawks nailed it on both of these.
The Chip on the Shoulders Guys
Angry Doug Baldwin, Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril, Jermaine Kearse, Tony McDaniel
The thing that Pete Carroll values more than anything is finding guys who play angry. Guys who play like they are out to prove the world wrong, are guys that bring out the best in terms of their ability and talent. There is no greater motivation than feeling scorned, and probably no better feeling than proving people wrong (at least in football). The guys on this list (and likely more than this) on this football team is really what separates them from the pack. All of these guys have felt slighted for either not being drafted, drafted too low, or not being recognized as a top player at their position.
These guys not only bring out the best in themselves, but also in their teammates, when you have a culture of competing for everything.
The “Bout that Action” Guys
Beast Mode, Percy Harvin, Chris Clemons, Kam Chancellor, KJ Wright, Russell Okung
By now, you all know of the Beast mode words heard around the world. These are the guys that are just about that action. They don’t speak much, they just do. They let other guys on the team do the talking, while they just go out there and kick some ass (and play a little football too).
Sometimes you just need these guys to balance out the eclectic personalities of the Richard Shermans, Earl Thomases, and Golden Tates of the team.
Breno Giacomini, JR Sweezy, Brandon Browner, Red Bryant
These are the guys you don’t want to meet in a dark alley. Red Bryant is best described as a cave troll, and Brandon Browner just looks like the meanest guy you’d ever want to meet (and plays like it too). Giacomini and Sweezy are probably not the meanest guys off the field, but on it, you won’t find many guys who are much scrappier.
You need these guys to bring toughness to the team, and let the opponent know who is the bully and who will be bullied. The Seahawks will never be the bullied as long as these guys are on the team.
Kam Chancellor gets a special mention here, because while he’s definitely not a dirtbag, he is certainly the enforcer on the team. Every team needs a guy that the other team does not want to mess with. Kam is that dude.
The Swag Guys
Golden Tate, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett
Sometimes you just need guys that can talk the talk and walk the walk. Is it bragging if you can back it up? I know most football fans want their players to be nice and humble, speak with a low voice and carry a big stick. But the reality is, there are different personalities in the world, and football is no different. To play at the level these guys play at requires a certain moxy, confidence and sometimes a borderline narcissistic personality.
I don’t mind these kind of guys on the team, unless they are supposed to be at positions of leadership (Hi 49ers, Bears, and Chargers!), because these are the guys that will instill confidence in the team. If your team does not have guys who are overly confident, I doubt they will be able to simply muster it game after game. Richard Sherman reminds his team who has the confidence every single game and his teammates and fans love it.
Malcolm Smith, Byron Maxwell, Bobby Wagner, Brandon Mebane, Max Unger, Zach Miller, Derrick Coleman and pretty much the rest of the team.
Pete Carroll is a players coach. Players love playing for him. He is full of positivity, and loves his players like they are his children. But Pete is also the ultimate competitor. He’ll give guys a chance, but he won’t give guys any favors. These guys have stood out because they simply competed harder than other guys at their position for a chance. Zach Miller made John Carlson, a promising young tight end, expendable. Mebane has locked down the DT position since he got here. Maxwell made us remember that the Legion of Boom is more than just 4 guys. Malcolm Smith made it more and more difficult for coaches to keep him off the field. Bobby Wagner made himself a starter from day one, going up against more experienced and tenured linebackers in the league.
NFL teams hardly ever have 2 fullbacks on their roster. Derrick Coleman made the Seahawks make an exception.
On the flipside, Pete Carroll isn’t afraid to shake up the roster to favor the more competitive. In Carroll’s wake are guys like Matt Flynn, LenDale White, Mike Williams, Chris Harper, John Moffitt….guys who had talent, but did not have the right mental makeup to get a chance to play for Carroll. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you’re not willing to compete and grind for this team, the chances are slim that you will be a part of the Win Forever mentality.
There’s a lot of advanced stat guys following football now. These football geeks have a lot of time on their hands, and love to crunch stats like DVOA, football efficiency, passer rating, etc (I’ve been guilty of using advanced metrics also) but the thing that everyone needs to remember is that football is not a game of statistics and numbers. Football is a game of wills, focus and preparation. The most advanced stats in the world cannot account for games like the Superbowl, because that game went beyond numbers. That game was about imposing one’s will against another, and which team was tougher mentally.
The Seahawks team has the perfect makeup of a team with the right leaders, the right blue-collar guys, the right competitors, to make for a melting pot of players who play together and play hard for each other. It’s a rare thing for an NFL locker room to be so close, but Pete Carroll and John Schneider have found it. These guys have genuine respect, and even love in some cases, for each other, and that is something that cannot be coached.
If the rest of the NFL wants to duplicate the Seahawks success this season, they need to look beyond the measurables, and perhaps look at their front office first. If they don’t have a coach and GM who preaches a similar philosophy as PC/JS, they are likely looking at a bottomless pit of despair.
Categories: NFL and Seahawks
Tags: Advanced Statistics, Beast Mode, Doug Baldwin, Earl Thomas, GM, John Schneider, kam chancellor, legion of boom, Malcolm Smith, michael robinson, moneyball, NFL Draft, Pete Carroll, Red Bryant, richard sherman, Russell Wilson, Seahawks Blueprint, Seattle Seahawks, Superbowl Champions, Win Forever