Pete Carroll will begin the new NFL season as the oldest coach in the league. His Seattle Seahawks have been the darling of the NFL for the last half-decade, as their unique blend of smash-mouth defense and creative play-calling have vaulted them to the status of perennial conference favorites. Under his tutelage, Russell Wilson has emerged one of the best quarterbacks in the game, known for his blend of agility and accuracy.
When Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants was relieved of his coaching duties after the 2015 season, Carroll became the oldest coach in the NFL. He just signed a contract extension that will keep him in place for the next 4 years, so his shadow will continue to loom large over the Seahawks organization and their prospects for future success.
If you don’t know much about Carroll, he’s known for his unorthodox coaching style. He often brings in motivational speakers to energize his team, from Navy SEALS to pop psychologists. He also adorns team facilities with upbeat messages about the importance of team, hard work, and rising to accept new challenges. People that follow the game often say that teams mirror their coach’s particular style, so it’s no surprise that the Seahawks play with confidence and passion.
What the casual fan may not know about Carroll, though, is that he shares a close bond with General Manager John Schneider. While Carroll was signing his contract extension, Schneider was getting one as well, ensuring that they will work together to continue what they’ve built so far.
Fans tend to focus on players, so front office relationships only get attention when there is strife or animosity between the two. Schneider and Carroll, however, have managed to keep a consistent core together through sustained success, which is one of the most difficult accomplishments in the NFL. It isn’t hard for teams to catch lightning in a bottle for a year or two, riding the performance of a few exceptional players, but it’s almost impossible to maintain a winning culture for multiple years. Success tends to breed overconfidence, and players all want to cash in on the success, so a toxic blend of complacency and entitlement constantly threatens to dismantle even the slightest run of success.
Carroll tries to combat complacency and entitlement through a relentless team approach. This particular offseason he has dedicated himself to reconnecting with his team. Many of the players have had him as a coach for more than 3 years, so to avoid stagnation, he’s made it a priority to strengthen the team’s bonds.
According to a Sports Illustrated article by Greg Bishop, one of the ways he’s trying to re-establish connection with his players is through telling his own story. He’s spent time in team meetings going back through how he got into football, what he has learned, and why he still loves the sport, using personal high and low points through his life to illustrate where he is today.
We won’t be able to tell how the team responds to his efforts until the season gets underway, but it’s interesting to contrast the Seahawks with other teams in the league. While other teams are heading into training camp with distractions galore from wayward players, the Seahawks biggest hurdle is not overcoming dysfunction, but in finding a renewed purpose and identity after years of success.
Pete Carroll is turning to a well-worn model of leadership in his efforts to renew the success of his team. In the Bible, Nehemiah, as he was encouraging the Israelites to help him rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, spoke from his heart: “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.” (Nehemiah 2:17)
Instead of moving swiftly to the nuts and bolts of his strategy, however, he continued to speak to them from his heart: “I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king’s words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, “Let us arise and build.” So they put their hands to the good work.” (Nehemiah 2:18)
Each one of us has a story of God’s faithfulness and providence in our lives. Others need to hear it. Whether you have the attention of an entire organization or a friend at a coffee shop, God designed us to need connection, and that connection starts by sharing from our hearts.