With the recent news that the Seattle Seahawks have fired strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle, along with that entire staff, it was a good time to republish this 2011 piece on him and the offense. Hat-tip to Lars Russell for bringing it up on Twitter.
The Seahawks have scored 57 of their 94 points in the last six quarters of football; the change to the no huddle offense seems to be the primary catalyst for this offensive explosion. This small sample of football has made some of us optimistic that Seattle has found a working formula on offense.
I was listening to the FieldGulls/KJR 12th man podcast last week and Scott Enyeart brought up a less talked about, but pertinent observation about the win in New York - he was impressed by Seattle's conditioning and their ability to maintain the no huddle.
He commented that a lot of attention has been placed on the lack of offseason and the varied conditioning for a lot of teams. Thus, watching Seattle succeed in the up tempo, no huddle - as Scott put it, "they didn't dabble in it, they made a living it in it" - was promising. He noted that strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle deserves credit for having these guys ready, then added that Carlisle tipped his hat to Carroll during their conversation earlier in the week.
When the Seahawks practice, nobody walks, even the coaches move quickly. The players are always moving and as a result are in better shape; Scott praised Seattle for looking like the more physical and athletic team against the Giants.
His comments got me thinking about the preparation that goes into installing a no huddle package, beyond just the changes in the game plan. The coaching staff, training staff and players all must be on board. It's not a change that works over night, if it works at all.
Given Seattle's newfound commitment to the no huddle, I think this change is more than just a change in scheme. The up-tempo offense fits Pete Carroll's personality. He talks a mile a minute. He's admittedly impatient. He wants to get moving now and not tomorrow, a win-forever-starts-today type of attitude.
During his weekly Monday morning interview (click to 20 minute mark) with Brock Huard and Mike Salk, Carroll noted that he "relished the opportunity to go no huddle. It's something we can do to make us different. The lineman could feel the difference of being up-tempo."
We know the importance of winning in the trenches. Having the young offensive line feel the positive difference this quickly will help convince the players this is a change worth working for. This group needs to continue to progress in the running game, and stop allowing their quarterback to be both the second most sacked and hit quarterback in the league - the Rams worst in both. Regardless, creating nasty and unity will help the process.
We know that Carroll requires everyone to buy in, building a mentality that maximizing individuals within the whole can be greater than the capabilities of the best individuals. Carroll has no problem setting the bar high, being aggressive and shooting to over-achieve as a group.
Beyond just the offensive line, Carroll likes what the no huddle does for the connection between the players. "Guys are calling plays, and they can give it up to the guy they feel is ready. There is something about that...I like that connection within the football team. [The no huddle] I really think is a cool part of the game. It's something that has been taken away from the players, not in a bad way, but through the evolution. I think going back to it is to reconnect these guys, in a way that is more soulful."
The use of the word soulful is no typo.
Hearing Carroll talk about the soul in conjunction with the no huddle offense was a new one from Carroll. Soulful, in the dictionary, is defined as "full of or expressing feeling or emotion."
For me, his thoughts invoked the notion that the no huddle offense creates a deepened connection to building a strong work ethic and working as a unit. The no huddle limits the communication between coaches and players; does this build the capacity for survival as an offensive unit?
Krazyleggs hit the nail on the head in his post last week; when Seattle was in the no huddle "It almost looked like guys stopped worrying about the whole picture and started zeroing in on their own jobs." The no huddle creates less micromanaging by coaches, more playing by feel from the player. It creates camaraderie and arguably better potential for control by the players, as long as the quarterback is equipped to run the system.
We've seen that the offense responds to the responsibility of an up-tempo offense. Presumably, the players like the results and would like to keep it going; Carroll has high hopes the no huddle will continue. For that to happen successfully, the players must buy into day-to-day rituals that lead to dictating the tempo on Sundays. That's where Carlisle comes in.
In late May Eric Williams of The News Tribune did this piece about Carlisle and the "Seahawk way" of training. Carlisle offered some interesting perspective; he believes his profession is 10% science and 90% an art form, an unorthodox approach; the art being how to get all of the different personalities on the team working at the highest level. His simple goal is to make them all more efficient through movement. He is a cancer survivor. He was hired by Carroll at USC while battling the disease. He has passion for his job and the will to work.
Carlisle's unique methods fit with Carroll and Carlisle sees himself as an asset to Carroll. "I think a value that I bring with Pete is I speak fluent Carroll. And so, being around it as much as I have, I'm his voice to the athletes when he is not on the floor here. We're talking about the same things. We constantly talk about the same goals and the same way of preparing. There's no two ways here, there's one way. And it's a Seahawk way. It's the way we prepare our athletes to win."
As an extension of Carroll, Carlisle trains the players in line with how Carroll game plans from a week to week basis. And given that strength routines can be planned months in advance, it's worth wondering how long ago the plans for the change to an up-tempo offense were drawn up. Whatever those changes in routine are, one would imagine moving to the no huddle requires different methods, at times more taxing training and recovery, during the week.
Simply put, is Carroll using this unique system on Sunday as a way to motivate and create unity during the week? Is he trying to enhance the mind-body connection for these players; pushing their mental and physical limits during the week to create a more instinctual, raw, tough team on Sundays?
My curiosity led me to Win Forever, where I found a brief explanation about one of Carroll's experiences- the proceeding concept fueled his night-before speech for the 2005 Orange Bowl-- with a USC team. He explained the effect of W.G. Roll's (In Roll's words) "long body," a concept that pertains to groups with a focused state potentially developing "a single consciousness and acting at will":
"'The tribe is likened to a body connected where, once connected, it operates as a single entity functioning, sensing, and feeling as one. A Tribal-Mind-Body where members share aTribal nature, a Communal nature, that they instinctively own, a Mental connection, a Knowing, a Long Body.'
When a team can get into that kind of state, the resulting group exhilaration and sense of invincibility allows them to see and reach potential they never would have dreamed of as individuals. It is as if the team shared one heartbeat."
(USC won that Orange Bowl 55-19.)
Is this what the offense experienced versus the Falcons in the second half and versus the Giants? I can't say, but I was very intrigued by this quote as the last piece to this puzzle--after the connection between the no huddle, mind-body and strong conditioning had already began to gel for me.
The big question - is the no huddle sustainable? There can be a downside to this experiment.
The soulful experience on Sunday will be a result of the preparation during the week. Thus, this experience can become negative if the players don't prepare correctly or if they get burned out too quickly down the road. Theoretically, the plan could backfire. And there is the other possibility that teams could figure out the scheme and it could stop working, but that's for another time.
Coming out of the bye and into the weeks ahead we will learn more about the strength of the connection between the ‘Hawks training under Carlisle and the success of the no huddle. This is where it's on the staff to display the day to day urgency; the team must stay healthy. Heading into the bye, injuries were a major factor.
Jackson is nursing a serious Pec injury. Lynch has an ankle injury. Trufant's nursing another back issue (placed on IR on Monday). Zach Miller, Max Unger, Leroy Hill and Lemuel Jeanpierre all didn't practice last week. What's the status of Robert Gallery, Byron Maxwell? Roy Lewis and/or others could be coming off the PUP list. Red Bryant simply wants to "finish what we started, continue to get better and stay healthy."
The bye week was for rest and rejuvenation; how well did this team heal during the off weekend? This was a time for Carlisle to be an extension of Carroll as much as ever, and help keep this team physically able to achieve the desired mindset going forward.
The Seahawks have to get their club healthy and maintain the momentum they had heading into the bye, momentum that was largely built from an offensive explosion via the no huddle. Is the no huddle sustainable and does the "soulful" connection associated with the scheme have the potential to help move the program along?