A Sports Illustrated article by Greg Bishop and Robert Klemko detailed the divide in the Seattle Seahawks locker room prior to this offseason when the team moved on from many of their top defensive players. One of the key points the piece makes is how much Russell Wilson was resented by some of his former teammates, in part, because he was perceived to be receiving preferential treatment from head coach Pete Carroll.
The majority of the story cites anonymous former Seahawks players discussing the decline of the franchise and the mistrust of Carroll’s tactics. Sports Illustrated detailed one occasion when Carroll approached defensive players, and asked them not to criticize Wilson in practice.
The dismantling of a great defense dates back to one random 2014 practice, which ESPN first reported last summer as a catalyst for the Seahawks’ rift. That afternoon, Sherman intercepted Wilson, the two traded words and Sherman yelled “you f—— suck” as he flipped the ball back at the quarterback.
The pick itself wasn’t as important as what happened afterward, when several players who spoke to SI said Carroll gathered his offensive and defensive leaders and told them they needed to protect Wilson, to treat him more gently than they would their other teammates. Those same players had been indoctrinated into the NFL the exact way they were trying to teach Wilson, with merciless competition as the way to bring out the best in each other, by never letting a lapse slide, by talking s— after interceptions, even in practice. In the meeting, they told Carroll exactly that. “This is making him one of our own,” one player said, while several others nodded, according to two who were in the room. “He’s got to go through the process.”
No, Carroll told them. Not Wilson. “He protected him,” one Seahawk says. “And we hated that. Any time he f—– up, Pete would never say anything. Not in a team meeting, not publicly, never. If Russ had a terrible game, he would always talk about how resilient he was. We’re like, what the f— are you talking about?”
The Seahawks Never Recovered From the Team Not Giving Marshawn Lynch the Ball in Super Bowl XLIX
This is not the first time an in-depth profile of the Seahawks has pointed to the rift between the offense and defense. Seattle opted to move on this offseason from several of their top defenders including Michael Bennett and Richard Sherman. Some of this tension dates back to the Seahawks decision to pass the ball on the one-yard line during Super Bowl XLIX, rather than handing the ball off to Marshawn Lynch. Sports Illustrated suggested that former offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell made the call, but some of the team held the decision against Carroll.
Many who lamented how Wilson was treated differently now believed, truly believed, that Carroll had called a pass play to give Wilson a better chance to win the Super Bowl MVP award and decrease Marshawn Lynch’s chances, perhaps conveniently ignoring that offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell might have actually called the play. Regardless, the players say, that call contradicted what Carroll always said publicly: that he wanted to run the ball and play great defense, that that’s how he built the Seahawks—to be tough and stop foes and let Lynch bulldoze Seattle to victory after victory. Again, several players felt that Carroll said one thing and did another, and this time it had cost them a repeat Super Bowl title.
Carroll Denied Locker Room Tension
Since the article was published, Carroll and Wilson have said little about the story, except for their desire to move on from disgruntled former players.
“Only that obviously I didn’t do a very good job of teaching, because one of the main principles in our teaching is that we’re not going to worry about what’s happened; all our focus goes on what’s coming right now,” Carroll told Sports Illustrated. “And so that’s a discipline that we learn, and I just haven’t taught it well enough. Whether you win or whether you lose or whatever happens, you need to move forward and leave stuff behind and go. So other than that, I don’t care about it.”
Some former teammates did not agree with some people’s assessment of the situation. Former Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril believes all quarterbacks are treated a little differently in the NFL.
“You’re not going to talk crazy to Tom Brady at practice,” Avril told Sports Illustrated. “You’re not going to talk crazy to Aaron Rodgers at practice. You might get kicked out of practice if you do that. To me it’s absurd to think a quarterback will be treated the same all the time. There’s a hierarchy in every thing. So why wouldn’t they expect the same for this guy?…The problem is, at one point we were allowed, people were allowed to talk trash to him.”