Carroll ready to start as Seattle hosts 49ers
SEATTLE – Before Pete Carroll can “Win Forever” in Seattle, he might want to figure out just who is on his team.
Consider it the price of conducting a major overhaul.
Earlier this week, the Seahawks’ new coach mistakenly referred to offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus as “Troy” throughout his weekly briefing. It was an innocent mistake, but was amplified by the possibility that Polumbus could be Seattle’s starting left tackle on Sunday when the Seahawks open the season at home against division favorite San Francisco.
After months of revamping the Seahawks roster, and whether Carroll knows all his players or not, he’s about to make his return to the NFL 11 years after he last coached a professional game.
Unlike his previous stops with the New York Jets and in New England, Carroll isn’t taking over a known commodity with a direction.
Seattle is a clean slate, the result of 23 losses in two seasons.
“It feels much different. It does feel different. Different teams, different personalities makes it that way and different settings for the clubs, where they’re coming from. All of that has something to make each one of the situations really unique,” Carroll said. “This is a very exciting time. This is just the first game though. It’s only our first opportunity.”
For Carroll, Sunday is his reintroduction to the NFL and an opportunity to move forward from the mess left behind at Southern California.
The Trojans will already be two games into their first season with Lane Kiffin at the helm when Carroll’s Seahawks take the field against San Francisco. In his attempt to revamp Seattle’s roster, Carroll has created enough noise to drown out the sanctions that dog his former employer.
Less than half of Seattle’s 53-man roster for Sunday is returning from last year. A total of 180 roster transactions were made this offseason by Carroll and general manager John Schneider.
A half-dozen players – mostly reserves – were brought in last weekend as cuts were made around the NFL. Backup safety Jordan Babineaux got booted on Monday, only to be signed back at a lesser cost a day later.
“We could have sat status quo with what we had and we thought we had a chance to get better so every one of these moves was designed to help us and to get better right away with guys that have played, guys that have done things, guys that can contribute very, very soon, if not immediately, particularly some of the guys that are going to play in this game and contribute right away,” Carroll said. “I’m really excited about that – that we continued to work to help to find our roster. This is a roster that needed help.”
Even his players are waiting to see just how all the changes are going to mesh on the field.
“I wouldn’t involve anxiety, but we’re all excited,” said linebacker Aaron Curry, one of the few holdovers from last year’s 5-11 team under Jim Mora. “We all believe in everything and all the decisions that we made upstairs and the changes they made in the locker room. We believe in our system, we believe in our coaches and we believe in each other.”
While the Seahawks are waiting to see if their belief in what Carroll is selling will translate into success, the 49ers have seen the results of accepting coach Mike Singletary’s approach.
It began when Singletary took over midway through the 2008 season and continued last year when the 49ers’ 8-8 mark was the best for the franchise since 2002.
Now the expectation is that the mediocre NFC West is the Niners’ for the taking, even with the difficult task of playing three of four on the road to begin the season, the one area Singletary has yet to solve.
“We don’t look at what the media talks about who’s favored to win. You still have to play the game. A lot of the games we lost last year we were favored to win,” 49ers cornerback Shawntae Spencer said. “It’s one of those things that it’s the little things, focusing on the little things and finishing games out, competing for 60 minutes. Last year on the road we didn’t do that very well, as far as finishing games. We were always close. When you’re at somebody else’s stadium, you have to find a way to pull away. When it’s close you have to find a way to finish games, and we didn’t do that last year.”
Getting wins away from home seems to be the final obstacle for the 49ers to overcome. They were just 2-6 last season on the road, and open at Seattle, come home for Super Bowl champ New Orleans, then are at Kansas City and Atlanta.
Offensively, they’ve settled on Alex Smith as the quarterback to move them forward. Frank Gore remains their battering ram ball carrier with a history of torching the Seahawks, while Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree cause problems downfield in the passing game.
Defensively, Patrick Willis led the league in tackles last season and was joined at the Pro Bowl a year ago by defensive lineman Justin Smith.
Singletary knows what Carroll is going through, determining the best ways to get players to accept a different voice and different attitude. Smith said players accepted the attitude Singletary brought when he took over as interim coach during the 2008 season.
“You’re always fighting to help your guys understand how important it is to go out every day and pay the price to be a good football team or a great football team,” Singletary said.