Seahawk Korner: the Zebras
there are no strings on meeeeee, Dept.



It's not that this annoys me; it doesn't.  It baffles me.  No matter how skilled a league is at fixing a sports event, the hardcore fans of that sport are even more skilled at denying any funny business.  Shrug.  If that's what Italian soccer fans want, it's okay by me.  I just can't RELATE to it.  When I suspect a game could be fixed, I lose interest in it.

You'd think some day some renegade referee would come out and write a book and tell all.  Oh, wait a minute - that happened, in the NBA.  The league makes a few noises about how the ref is a dubious character, and the fans practically thank them for it.

Shrug.  It's mystifying.



Maybe you didn't see the game.  If you did, you saw Nazair Jones intercept an Aaron Rodgers pass at midfield and run it back for a TD.  During the return, one of the Packers face-mask-tackled a Seahawk; the ref threw a flag on the Seahawk and called the TD back.  Oh, right, here's the play; Jeremy Lane was even ejected for it.  

On THIS play, don't give me that trite "Second responder gets flagged;" on THIS play, there is no way for a ref to see the very end of it, where Lane was on top with an elbow triangle, and think much about what happened.


Later in the game on 3rd and goal, Russell Wilson threw an Alley Oop to Jimmy Graham in the end zone and two Packers mugged Graham.  The NFL head came on and said "I wouldn't wanna take Pete Carroll's call on THAT one tomorrow.  That's pass interference."  Here's that play, a referee standing two yards away staring at the whole thing, very obviously deciding the play based on jersey color.  The NFL head and the announcers ruled out "uncatchability."

Two TD's called back in a 9-17 loss.  Shrug.


One thing has interested me the last couple of years:  the announcers themselves will remark on one-sided refereeing.  They had started remarking about pro-Packer ref'fing even before that call on which a Seahawk was flagged for being face masked.  It goes to the broader issue we started with, which is that the league has realized the fans aren't going to do anything about it anyway.

I have a minor question if somebody like Silentpadna wants to take a crack at it.  Back in the day, a Steve Rudman or Art Thiel, or a Dr. Zimmerman nationally, woulda taken this on.  NOBODY would consider doing so any more, crusading against it.  Or maybe I've just spaced out about it.  ... why would that be?



He has firmly insisted that --- > since his days at USC, his supervising leagues have rigged game after game after game against him.  (In terms of heavy thumbs on the refereeing scales, not in terms of pre-arranging set scores.)

He provides the data, privately and publicly.  The reaction?  See the first section, "Puzzlement."  Fans smile and continue to believe their sport is fair, because they like to believe that.

Here is my major question to the Think Tank.  What in the WORLD would the NCAA, the PAC-12, and the NFL have against Pete Carroll?  Give me any answer except, "Parity."  It goes way beyond that.  And Carroll's a whale of a nice guy, especially by NFL standards.  He's good for his sport, right?  What, does he break code against rival owners or something?  What's going on?

It's pretty rare for Dr. D to have absolutely no inkling about this or that sports situation.  Like Gene Hackman, he enjoys the sensation.  Clear him up, would ya.



It says here the Seahawks face a -13.5 point spread, and here's a readable Times article that crowdsources the "spread" question.  I imagine they'll cover it, even though it is a Miami vs Grunt State two-TD spread.  From my cheap seat, this is the kind of game the NFL won't put any ref'fing thumb on the scale whatsoever.  They'll be glad for the Seahawks to stomp the Niners 42-3 and set up the TV games later.

Ah well.  Just thought I'd get your takes.  :- )

Be Afraid,

Dr D




So I'm not sure how much I can offer here, but to your question of 'what does organized sport have against Pete Carroll?' I'd venture to say that it's an issue of him being a rebel, playing culture-wise (baseball 'purists' STILL complain about contemporary bullpen usage, even though it's clearly the superior methodology compared to letting the starter face the lineup four or five times a night); a renegade tactician who, like Billy Beane, only wants to get the job done and is fine with doing it in an ~ugly fashion on a shoestring budget (or with year-in, year-out, league-leading UDFA density on the roster); and, finally, that he IS charismatic and therefore seriously dangerous to the Establishment.

Billy Beane was sneered at (still is?) by many in baseball, but it rarely went beyond that because tactically speaking he's got inferior terrain (a club based in Oakland, regardless of how well-run, can NEVER compete with one based in a major metroplex on a long-term basis).  If he had been in charge of a team like, say, the Mariners back in the early aughts when they were top 10 in payroll, I think the systemic pushback would have been far, FAR worse than it was with him in Oakland.  But since he, unlike Carroll, wasn't overly 'charismatic' or 'influential' culturally within the game, the pushback was less (blatant) than it is for a guy like Carroll.

Nobody really likes change--especially not the people who have benefited from the status quo.  I think Pete Carroll represents existential threats to the status quo wherever he goes.  That's how the world treats revolutionaries and trend-setters: a mixture of revulsion and outright hostility.  Carroll simply views life differently than most people, and his views appear to be superior in the aggregate once they are applied to a broad range of situations.


Of course the league's referees have nothing against Carroll.  He's a sort of classy guy.  Does the league have anything against him?  No clue, but unless you're  suggesting that the league actually sends inferior refs WITH a bias vs. Carroll, the the collusion thing doesn't work.

i have never seen Carroll as a revolutionary, just a darn good coach, wherever he's been.  There is a lot of self-hype to him, but he hasn't revolutionized the game in any fashion, really.  Even his imagery stuff is normal.  His, "We are Family" schtick wears thin, especially because Seattle always seems to have internal issues.  ESPN The Mag had a terrific article a while back about the Offense vs. Defense dissension, fueled by the favoritism the defense thinks Wilson gets.

He runs a conservative offense, usually with a thundering RB,  led by a mobile QB, and backs that up with a smash mouth defense.  From 30,000 ft, that looks a lot like Tom Landry and Chuck Noll.

The two missed calls above?  What coach doesn't think his team got jobbed on two calls, even reviews.  My Ducks won by a ton yesterday and they got jobbed on a review or two.

on the 1st play, if you are the referee AND you miss the face mask on the 1st play, then the end of that play Looks suspicious.  Ejection?  Maybe not, unless there had been a bunch of that stuff going on.  Mostly the refs blew it, especially considering it was trailing the play.  15 yards on the kickoff seems the better call.  

2nd play?  Is it catchable in bounds?  I am not seeing that.  


1) I believe the touchdown was called back because of the illegal block to the back, not the personal foul.  You may say the illegal block call was bogus because it was just a little shove--but technically that's a penalty, either way.

2) I have a lifelong friend who both coached and served as a broadcast color analyst.  His thoughts on this: a) referring is very hard in any case; b) in the NFL, it's almost impossible because of the extent of the rulebook...the 'points of emphasis'...and how often both change.  In his view, refs aren't partisan--just overwhelmed.

3) On Carroll, he wasn't known as Pete the Cheat for no reason.  His sordid tenureat USC is a matter of record--ESPN documented it with a 30 for 30.  You may also remember him during one of the Super Bowl runs a couple years ago admitting he told his defensive backs to hold whenever they wanted--"they're not going to call it on every play"...or words very close to that effect. Personallly, I find him a total fraud--but I guess that's just me.  


As a cheater at USC, hat tip to Diderot, ESPN has documented his tenure there via 30 for 30 viewing.   Briefly, he was suspected  of using questionable, i.e. illegal recruiting enticements in violation of NCAA rules, never adjudicated his personal role in the matter. On that, he conveniently skipped town just as the NCAA began its investigation of the Trojan program that subsequently placed them on probation, restricted TV appearances, eliminated Bowl participation briefly and reduced the allowed scholarships.  Also rescinded and repossesed Reggie Bush Heisman.  Took his job with us at that point in time.  NFL circles dislike,  or resent his so-called unearned head coaching jobs in New York and New England.   NFL coaches are a jealous lot, especially if they believe someone hasn't "paid their dues" before becoming head hombre.  It's all pretty petty stuff, except the NCAA violations,  which many believe he turned his back on the college program and ran into the waiting embrace of Paul Allen. That's my take on his popularity,  or lack thereof,  within NFL boys club.

Personally I'm grateful he's our coach.  I was raised to root against USC being from here and credit him with the Seahawks ascendancy. Also I am genetically predisposed to favor his leadership of the Hawks in my household.  I like him here and can easily overlook his sometimes overblown sense of righteousness. I am certain he is resented in some NFL circles, including the referee brotherhood, probably for reasons only they can fully explain.  The vitriol among other fan bases is decidedly negative towards him and usually is centered on his failure to stay and face NCAA investigators.  He was clearly enemy number one among Husky fans during his tenure in the Pac-12, or 10 while he was there.

Regarding the Lane ejection, the NFL levied no fine in their weekly review of significant plays/hits/penalties.  Although no declaration was made by the official review,  not fining Lane is generally viewed as NFL agreement that nothing egregious occurred, like a punch. In his weekly press conference Carroll declined to elaborate but did say his conversation with the NFL was significant. 


September 22, 2017, 3:01 PM PDT

The previous week, Cliff Avril stuck his finger in the eye of the offensive tackle, David Bakhtiari. When asked about it after the game, David Bakhtiari shrugged his shoulders and said, that’s how the Seahawks play, dirty. Their head coach is a cheater and left USC before the hammer came down and that’s how he coaches them up.

So the $9K fine will likely be just one is a long list of them.


I think it's self-evident that Pete Carroll does, in fact, do things significantly differently from most other head coaches.

I'm not saying that his shtick has never been tried before, but if you read his book you'll find evidence to support the notion that his philosophy drives his team-building and tactical approach to the game of football.  That philosophy is pretty simple: don't try to make someone into something they aren't, simply maximize what they do well and figure out how to incorporate that into a coherent team.

People are always trying to do this, so it's not like the approach is what is different.  It's his successful application of it that separates him from most other proponents of the philosophy.  Like Beane in Oakland, Carroll is more interested in winning than he is in winning a certain (flashy) way.  That's not to say he doesn't have his preferences as to how a football team should be built in order to Win Forever, since obviously he does (pound the rock, lock down the opponents' running game, and win the turnover battle).  

So if you look at the proliferation of passing attacks in recent history, coupled with Carroll's eagerness to go to the UDFA/scrap heap scouring for talent, topped off with Seattle's consistent trading down in the draft (thereby reducing the amount of money they're required to spend on their roster), you see a guy who is standing in as stark contrast as is possible to the direction of today's NFL.  The Player's Union won't like him (because of his shrewdness in roster construction), the league office won't like him (because he swims directly against the current of 'more passing! more passing!' mantra suffusing today's game), the other coaches won't like him (because he is able to do things they aren't)--the only people who will like him are the UDFA's and players who can't seem to find fits in other systems, and, of course, his own players who he actively works to ensure are as comfortable and game-ready as any coach they've ever played for.

He is absolutely a trend-setter, and his trend is one which runs diametrically oppsite the NFL's stated aims.  His shtick is obviously not unique, but his success at the highest levels absolutely is.

And yeah, he's been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  But as the BoSox, Yankees, Bill Belichick, Lance Armstrong, Jon Jones, and just about everyone else who consistently wins at the highest levels would attest if forced to do so: if you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin' hard enough.

Nathan H's picture

Officiating an NFL game is hard. The people who do it don’t even get to focus on it as a full-time profession. If there’s a good reason for that I’ve yet to hear it. /rant

The rule-book is insane. You can’t even define a ‘catch’ adequately, a fairly fundamental function of an NFL game one might think. The tuck rule. Points of emphasis. Forward progress. A lot of it is not intuitive, complex, and has to be decided upon in less than a split second. Not to mention taking into consideration changes that happen to the book every. signle. offseason.

Refs are human, that is to say, fallible. Yep, dude blew the Jimmy Graham PI call. It was clear as day and he missed it. It’s not because his aunt grew up as a cheese-maker on the plains of Wisconsin, it’s because the guy is a *guy* and he got it wrong. Stones and glass and all that. Obvious calls go against a team all the time. While it seems like it happens to the Seahawks more often than other teams, it probably doesn’t.

Is it unjust? Yes.

Is it deliberate? You’d have to make a pretty darn strong case to get me to agree to that and I haven’t seen a strong enough case yet.

That being said, we *know* that biased officiating exists in the NFL. It comes in the form of “make-up calls.” When a team of refs know they’ve messed up, they’ll call a ticky-tack or non-existent foul on the other team to make up for it. This is a known, well-documented phenomenon. This is a limited attempt at justice and lets us know that refs are acutely aware of the issue and take active steps to attempt to balance the cosmic scales *toward* justice, not away from it.

An NFL game is a bunch of manly men doing manly things. Stoicism, sacrifice, and effort in the face of incredible odds are celebrated. Whining about a level playing field doesn’t fit in the mindset. The mindset is, “Overcome, even if the odds are against you. ESPECIALLY when the odds are against you.” You’re unlikely to find football people who empathize with the line of thinking that football is broken because of the refs. Because of the *rules*, yes, but only because those get in the way of people doing things.  The only purchase you’ll likely find is, “The whole world is against you. Strive to show them you will beat them despite it.”

Until egregious examples of bias or rigging appear, this is not an issue that will break the game the way that boxing was broken. A block in the back on a precious, top-tier QB and a non-call on a PI is not such an example.


For me, football would be quite enjoyable if it weren't for refs overturning 30 yard runs for esoteric reasons.  Maybe the refs power should be nerfed, so that they can issue only five or ten yard fines for acts they don't like, instead of negating entire plays.  Then again, the football people seem to really like their sport as is, with the zebras controlling the match.

Here's a thought:

If zebras are the benevolent overlords of football who bestow yards on the worthy, wouldn't Pete Carroll do well to gain their favor?  Why is he on their bad side? and Isn't your answer a glaring deficiency in his coaching?  


Certainly not all discretion, but things can be advanced in the right direction. Sensors in the balls, between the first down markers, under the boundaries of the field, and under the goal lines. Automating calls relating to these would be more impartial than refs, just like automating ball/strike calls in baseball would be. But automating judgement calls and personal fouls would seem impossible to implement.

I think MLB and the NFL should do everything they reasonably can to automate what can be improved with automation. I don't think they've gone nearly far enough. To me if you automate calls that can be achieved through automation that's a lot of boring, time-consuming replay reviews you avoid. 


Hey Doc, this is completely random, but apologies as I don't have a way to reach out more directly :P

I wanted to see if you had come across this Gary Kasparaov Masterclass (very high production online course) about chess. No idea how great of a specific learning experience it would be, but based on what I know about you, the cost might be worth it solely for the entertainment value. Give a watch to the trailer at least. Here's the link:


I'd buy this, but the rumor is that it costs $90.  That's a lot of coin for my free hobby.  Also, I don't think Kasparov has anything to teach someone at my level, that Ben Finegold and multiple other Youtube masters can teach for free.  Still, it sounds interesting, and Kasparov is a final boss.   Maybe we should start an SSI pool for this and then mail the DVD's around after they're watched.  


Wow, lot of stuff got covered here. Some thoughts in response:

  1. Pete may not quite be "revolutionary," in the sense that other coaches have forever changed the way the game is played. But I think it's fair to say his style is about as distinctive as any coach out there, and it's very uniquely his. The 3000ft view of a bland offense and defense are right: that's not where his innovations occur. His defining, unusual traits are: valuing UDFAs (probably #1 in the league at this), trading for star players (he makes ~one big-name trade per year, which is one more than 90% of other teams), trading down in the draft, valuing SPARQ athletes (guys who test ridiculously well in certain specific Combine events), the distinctive "kick-step" CB technique, the rugby style "Hawk tackle" which focuses on dragging your opponent down with torque rather than hitting them like a battering ram, and the "Always Compete “mantra which has caused many a Civic to get supplanted by a surprising scrub.
  2. Is Pete Carroll a cheater? Yeah, his USC time was undoubtedly fraudulent. Should fans care? I don't see why. The NCAA system is so bad that it's practically begging coaches to cheat. Their rules are esoteric, ineffective and arbitrary, and deserve to be abused. Anyone who doesn't like it should stop caring about college football, and watch a real league.
  3. Is Pete Carroll a cheater in the NFL, and is this why his teams get screwed so frequently? No, but that's on the right track. Pete's philosophy, which I happen to agree with entirely, is to play as physically as possibly within the rules. Like, go right up to the line and stand there, leaning over it. As a result, the Hawks accidentally go a half step over the line more frequently than other teams: this is what Pete refers to as "the cost of doing business." He is making a conscious decision in his coaching style to trade an increase in penalties for being the most badass, physical team on the field every single game. For my money, it's absolutely worth it. I think it's why the defense is so vicious, and the only reason the o-line ever finds success: they all play nasty. Unfortunately this causes a natural penalty disparity, and an unnatural one as the refs start to resent how close to crossing the line the Hawks come every play. Opposing fans are fond of howling, "Sherm holds every play!" That's patently, grossly untrue, like saying Trump's inauguration crowd was the biggest in history. Sherm actually holds ~half as often as he is called for it: the other half happen because refs have been watching him like a hawk all game, thinking to themselves "some time he's gonna slip up, and then I'm gonna catch him!" That kind of bias is annoying, but again it's just the cost of doing business for the best hand-fighting corner in the league.
  4. All that said, there was definitely some funky business going on as well back in the 2013-14 seasons. Field Gulls ran an article at one point, looking at the number of penalties called on the Seahawks' opponents. Not us, because I've already laid out the natural conspiracy-free reasons we will always be near the top of the penalty leaderboard. They looked at how often the team playing against the Hawks had been flagged, vs the league average. They found that the relative frequency was so low, like 3.5 standard deviations from the mean, that there were like one in ten thousand odds of it happening naturally. That disparity has since dried up, but I think it is definitive proof that some outside force was trying to keep that team, which was "break up the Seahawks"-level good for those two years, from curb-stomping the league with the ease they should have. Which leads me to my final point...
  5. ... I think the real problem is that Seattle is on the West Coast, and it isn't LA. The axis of the NFL is the East Coast, its ethos is in middle America, and everything farther west than that is viewed by the league commissioner’s office as a weird, unpleasant outpost of civilization. Trust me, I'm from Alaska, so I'm used to watching people's faces as they try to come up with a tactful way to tell you your home is too far in the NW to be a worthwhile place. Now this may usually be a small, subconscious bias, but it can manifest more strongly when an "undesirable" team threatens to dominate the sport. Thus in a game where the upstart Hawks face the legacy-soaked Steelers, and get NBA-style jobbed right out of the building. Or the referees crusade on behalf of opposing teams circa 2013. And, maybe, the weirdness from Week 1 against the legacy-soaked Packers. The good news is, so long as the Hawks keep playing peewee football on offense, they shouldn't be threatening enough for the NFL to bother to rap their knuckles and tell them to respect their betters. *long-suffering sigh*
  6. With that said, I think week 1 is pretty explicable without resorting to the invisible hammer theory. It's just two plays. On the first, the block in the back is what cost us the TD. It was small, ticky-tack, and didn't affect the play at all, but the problem is it happened to Aaron Rodgers, Golden Boy (TM). The league hates when you mess with good quarterbacks, so long as they're pocket passers. The Lane ejection was bogus, but the result of an earlier play where Lane and a receiver were talking smack after a play, so vehemently that the Packer got flagged for taunting. Lane has a reputation as the chippiest guy on the field, non-Sherm division, so I'm sure after that flag the ref told both players "I don't want to see any more of that today, you hear?" Like an umpire issuing a warning to both dugouts after a pitch soars over a batter's head. So the scrutiny was heightened, and five minutes later that caused a trailing ref with a bad angle to make a really poor call. Unfortunate, but understandable. As for the Jimmy Graham play, a friend was yelling for PI during the live action and I growled, "naw, it was uncatchable." Wilson was pretty clearly throwing that ball away, and it was a sheer accident that it ended up anywhere near Jimmy. Could he have made a play unencumbered? It would be a 99th percentile degree of difficulty for him, but I dunno, maybe. Am I okay with the refs holding the flag, given how close to uncatchable it was? Yeah. I would have been furious if someone flagged our DBs on a pass that was a good 12ft over the back of the end zone. Reasonable call.

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