Suspensions, Locker Room Drama Won't Derail Pete Carroll's Seahawks 

Tyson Langland@TysonNFLNFC West Lead WriterNovember 28, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 17:  Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks looks on prior to the game against the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field on November 17, 2013 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

When Pete Carroll was fired by the New England Patriots after a 27-21 tenure, he knew it was time to do some soul searching. By no means is a 27-21 record over the course of three years horrible, yet he felt deep down inside that he had it in him to be a better coach.

But how could he be a better leader of men? The last thing any coach wants is to be called a phony. The best organizational leaders stay true to themselves. They don’t let the public opinion sway the way they handle their business nor do they give into peer pressure.

NFL players can tell when a head coach is being genuine in the message he delivers by the way he talks to the players. A group of 53-men will have a hard time buying into what the particular coach is selling if it seems dubious.

For Carroll, the good news is he has always had a profound ability to connect with players on a personal level. The only thing he had to work on was his overall philosophy, which would prove to be helpful on his next endeavor.

However, he didn’t have a whole lot of time to come up with a tangible plan to become an improved coach. Less than a year after he was removed as Patriots head honcho, USC hired him to lead the Trojans back to greatness.

Even though the hire ended up being quick, the well-prepared Carroll had managed to put together a detailed plan to restore success to a storied university. The system wasn’t intended to be complicated or meticulous. It’s actually quite simple when one takes the time to examine it.

According to Joe Posnanski of NBC Sports, there are three levels to Carroll’s win-forever pyramid. In addition to the three levels, there are three rules, a belief system and a certain style of play that is expected.

The first level of his win-forever pyramid focuses on the system’s core beliefs. The second preaches competition and the willingness to always compete, while the third puts an emphasis on the environment of the team. Practice is everything to Carroll, so it’s best for his teams to practice like they play.

The three rules are as follows: 1. Always protect the team; 2. No whining, no complaining, no excuses; 3. Be early. As far as the belief system goes, Carroll educates his players that everyone should be respected, everything counts and most importantly it’s all about the ball.

Moreover, Carroll concludes that his team’s style of play derives from great effort, great enthusiasm and great toughness. That right there, folks, is the quick, simplified version of the “Win Forever” mantra.

Some felt the ideology behind the idea would fail, but Carroll turned the doubters into believers after he lead USC to a 97-19 record in nine seasons. In every one of his nine seasons, the Trojans made an appearance in a bowl game. Of the nine bowl games they appeared in, they garnered seven victories and a pair of national championships.

Yet, Carroll’s time in Southern California wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Even the most sound system in the country will encounter complications every now and again. The problem was Carroll seemingly had a different problem on his hands multiple times a year, every year.

Suspensions, locker room drama and off-the-field incidents dominated the sports pages in Los Angeles. With the help of BruinsNation.com, here’s a list of major events that developed inside the USC football program from the time Carroll was hired until he stepped down.

  • In July 2003, offensive tackle Winston Justice was put on three years probation and fined $300 for trying to solicit a prostitute in Long Beach. 
  • In March 2004, Justice was arrested on suspicion of felony assault with a deadly weapon. He later plead no contest and was sentenced to 60 days of electronic monitoring and three years probation. 
  • Back in August 2004, running back Hershel Dennis was investigated for alleged sexual assault.
  • Starting cornerback Eric Wright was arrested and investigated for sexual assault in March 2005. 
  • In April 2005, tight end Dominique Byrd and wide receiver Steve Smith were involved in a scuffle. Smith walked away unharmed and Byrd suffered a broken jaw. Carroll didn’t take disciplinary action. 
  • Players damaged dorm rooms and threw each other through walls in August 2005. 
  • Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga was arrested in November 2005 after he punched a man twice at an off-campus Halloween party. Carroll allowed Maualuga to play against Stanford the following week.
  • In December 2005, quarterback Matt Leinart had his eligibility revoked temporarily because he appeared in a promotional segment for ESPN. 
  • Running back Reggie Bush was linked to a Yahoo! Sports investigation in April 2006 that found him guilty of living in a house that was owned by a San Diego area business man. 
  • At the end of April 2006, quarterback Mark Sanchez was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a female student. Charges were never pressed because the L.A. District Attorney didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute.  
  • In the early part of February 2007, three linemen and ex-wideout Keary Colbert were questioned after they had improperly tried to take an academic shortcut.

Obviously, these aren’t all of the mishaps that took place under Carroll’s watchful eye; however, those mentioned above are easily the most serious offenses. Furthermore, it’s easy to see his recruits weren’t exactly upstanding citizens.

Yet, it didn’t matter. No off-the-field incident was too much to overcome nor was any scuffle that happened between players. In the end, the Trojans dominated college football for almost a decade, and Carroll verified that his success would not be derailed.

At the conclusion of nine seasons, Carroll reflected on his time at USC and decided that it was time to take the next step in his career based on the fact he had met all of his goals. There was nothing left for him to accomplish at the collegiate level.

So, Carroll jumped at the chance to coach the Seahawks when owner Paul Allen offered him the job. He couldn’t turn it down considering there was a time in his life when he didn't think would ever get another chance to coach in the NFL.

Here was his chance, and he was more prepared than ever. The first thing he did when he was named head coach in Seattle was hire John Schneider away from the Green Bay Packers. Carroll viewed Schneider as an agile-minded guy.

This proved to be perfect because Carroll was an agile-minded guy as well. He was always a bit of a free thinker who thought outside of the box. His unique thinking style and “Win Forever” philosophy translated into immediate success.

In his first year at the helm, Carroll coached the Seahawks to a division title and a playoff win over the New Orleans Saints. Pundits saw his division crown at 7-9 as some sort of joke, while he saw it as a building block to bigger and better things.

Unfortunately, things failed to get better in 2011 when Seattle posted the same exact record it had posted the year before. Yet, Carroll and Schneider never got down on themselves. They rallied, continued to draft well and it paid off the following year.

With one of the best defenses in the NFL and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson under center, the Seahawks finished the 2012 season with 11 regular-season wins and one playoff win. But that wasn’t good enough for Carroll.

The front office staff knew they could do better. Additionally, they knew they had the necessary talent to bring a Lombardi Trophy home to the Emerald City. Nonetheless, there were certain circumstances that would strain the organization along the way.

Amidst the Seahawks' playoff run in 2012, star cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman failed drug tests toward the end of the season. Both players tested positive for Adderall, which meant both Browner and Sherman would have to miss four regular-season games each.

Browner ended up serving his suspension and missing the final four regular-season games of the season, while Sherman successfully won his appeal.

This, in turn, meant Browner would be eligible to return to action when the playoffs started, and Sherman could continue playing without missing any action.

Following the string of positive tests, fans and media members alike started to say the Seahawks had a PED problem. Instead of panicking and making rash decisions, Carroll rallied the troops and stood behind his players. He never allowed the situation to become a distraction.

Then, this past May, pass-rushing extraordinaire Bruce Irvin tested positive for Adderall. The positive test left him unavailable for the first four regular-season games of 2013. Yet, his suspension didn’t derail the Seahawks one bit. They started the season 4-0 in his absence.

At the end of Irvin’s suspension, Carroll finally thought the team’s PED epidemic was finally behind it. For seven games the epidemic was behind it, but things ended up being too good to be true. Why? Because a newfound widespread disease hit the Seahawks hard.

The NFL announced this past week that cornerback Walter Thurmond was suspended for four games due to substance abuse, while Browner was suspended a year for the same exact reason. It is believed that both players tested positive for marijuana use.

Coach Carroll told Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times that he was disappointed with the most recent suspensions but not worried. In all fairness, we can’t blame him for not being worried. He faced a similar situation last year, and the Seahawks finished the season with a five-game winning streak.

At 10-1, Carroll’s club is in an even better situation than it was last year, which means both suspensions are just another blip on the radar. Yet, the organization wouldn’t have the luxury of seeing the circumstances as just another blip on the radar if it wasn’t for cornerbacks Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell and DeShawn Shead.

In extended game action, Lane and Maxwell have both proven that they are above-average players who can turn in top-notch performances week in and week out. Shead is a bit of an unknown, considering he was just elevated from the practice squad, but that’s OK. The coaching staff has plenty of confidence he will bring his “A” game if need be.

According to Condotta of the Seattle Times, Shead says he feels comfortable playing the nickel and that Seattle is a good fit for him. Only time will tell if this ends up being the case, but as it sits right now, one would have to think the absences of Thurmond and Browner won’t be overly detrimental to the team.

Yes, it will hurt a bit in terms of consistency, but the drop-off in play won’t be monumental. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the Seahawks’ deepest position is the cornerback position.

We all know by now that Seattle goes as Wilson goes. As long as he brings his best every Sunday, nothing will derail the ‘Hawks' Super Bowl aspirations.

The “Win Forever” principles are set up to help handle situations like these, so it’s safe to say the Seahawks' historic run has hit nothing more than a bump in the road. From now until the end of the season, Seattle's winning ways will continue despite the selfish acts of two individuals.