Before last year's Super Bowl, Bill Belichick gravely shook his head on TV and pronounced his own doom. "The Seahawks just play at such a high level every single play," he marvelled.
Which is true, as you might have noticed. The Seahawks sometimes lose a game. Sometimes they even look out of synch. But they never look like they don't care, and they never look like they're afraid. All 11 players, all over the field, are giving one-on-one EFFORTS that look like Kurt Russell playing basketball in Escape From New York. We are blessed to watch a football team that has comPlETEd its own circle of toughness.
What is that record streak they're on, never losing by more than 10 points? You see Seahawks losses, but you NEVER see their chests collapse.
Carroll had a hard time staying chill when he was asked whether the Seahawks were going to rest Baldwin and Lynch & Co. Slowly, in one-syllable words, he re-explained his philosophy of life. The Seahawks will treat the Cardinals game "as if it were a championship game." That means practicing halftime, I guess, but at bare minimum the travel and logisitics and stuff will be NFC CG quality. "It's never a good thing" to teach your players anything else.
Stop a second and think about something.
Nobody outside the Seahawks org expected that. THEREFORE. Nobody outside the Seahawks org -- the reporters, the ex-players on TV, the blogs, nobody -- "gets" Pete Carroll on that phrase. "Always compete."
Always Compete means one thing in the Seahawk organization, and something else in 31 other football org's. We might then ponder whether something as simple as "Control the Strike Zone" might mean something different to Jerry DiPoto than it does to other GM's. Especially since he just quit a GM job in part because he disagreed with Mike Scioscia about it.
You'll want to read this article. By the time you're done with it, you will agree with Jerry.
Schwanke says, in part,
Many skeptical coaches fall prey to the attitude that hitting is uncoachable. They believe the skill is a God-given talent and they cannot help the hitter improve.
Their idea of a good offensive scheme is to swing hard at three pitches anywhere in the strike zone and do not swing at real “bad” pitches way out of the strike zone. To help his undisciplined hitters, the coach with this approach takes control of ball-strike discipline with the take sign.
Ask Greg Maddux if he wants to face a guy who will swing at every strike thrown early in the count and a team that will be forced to take a lot of 2-0 and 3-1 pitches. He will tell you that team is playing right into his hand. How else can you explain the 78 pitch major league complete game Greg threw last year?
If you are going to create disciplined team offense to win championships, extending at-bats and increasing pitch counts are the keys. Your players must have the freedom to take borderline pitches early in the count and not be subject to second-guessing by coaches. It is the best way to build their confidence and confident hitters give your club the best chance to beat a quality pitcher at crunch time.
Also known as Eddie O'Brien syndrome. Since Ball Four, grouchy assistant coaches have been known for this syndrome -- that they are there to give nasty glares to pitchers when they hang curve balls, and to yell "WATCH THE FIRST PITCH ON THIS GUY!" right after Miguel Cabrera blasts the first pitch foul 440 feet. (There can be no next first pitch; this isn't advice, but second-guessing. The coach is trying to justify his existence, not risk his reputation on predictions.)
Let's say that major league coaches don't do this much any more. You think class-A coaches don't? This is what DiPoto is talking about when he wants the minor-league coaches on the same sheet of music. And gives you a sense for just why he has to fire so many of them.
Schwanke gives an example of the discipline he's talking about:
When a team faces an opponent with a dominant fastball, they have to determine what the pitcher brings to the mound. Is the fastball straight? If it is, that is good news for the hitters. Can he throw to both sides of the plate when he wants to? If not, more good news. Can he go up and down in the strike zone? Most pitchers do not have that type of command.
All of a sudden, the guy with the major league velocity can only throw strikes on the outer two-thirds of the plate, down on their lower thighs, and turn it loose. If he locates a pitch somewhere on a corner, give him credit and move on to the next offering.
If he misses, shrink the strike zone. He is coming right back to that spot. Throwing the fastball to that location in the strike zone is where he locates 80% of his pitches. The hitter should expect a fastball right in his wheelhouse.
In the article, Schwanke goes on to point out that a good attack plan -- what the scouts call a "professional at-bat" -- MUST capture what that day's pitcher is capable off. These were the little DiPoto pregame summary sheets that Scioscia chucked into the commode. And that Servais will discuss thoughtfully with his hitters.
Pete Carroll's "Always Compete" philosophy extends to things like:
- Every tackling drill gets a points system, a winner, and a loser
- The coaches compete for best scores when giving pregame talks
- Meaningless Cardinals games are played at 100 MPH, EVEN WHEN THIS INVOLVES CONSIDERABLE RISK AND SACRIFICE
Yes, everybody knows that you have to compete. It is not NFL 101; it's kiddie league football 101. And yet it's NFL 501. Imagine how stupid that would have sounded at Carroll's first press conference in 2010. "We're going to learn to compete."
Oh, wow, Pete, glad we have a genius in town.