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On the Seattle Seahawks, Organizational Rebranding, and the Draft

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Former CEO Tod Lieweke describing his initial job interview, as a team with Pete Carroll, of John Schneider back in early 2010, "...the most compelling (thing for me) is the amazing energy I saw between the man on my right (Carroll) and the man on my left (Schneider). They connected, they saw eye to eye, they had a similar philosophy for how we're going to do this...we wanted to create a team approach where everyone was connected and unified towards the same goals."

John Schneider and Pete Carroll's easy-going, almost friend-like relationship was on display yesterday, and yet again the duo showed - as they have shown consistently since their first presser together in 2010 - that the harmony developing between the two men atop the Seahawks front office is consistently real. Carroll's "always compete" mentality combined with Schneider's shared philosophy of buying in, creates a collective willingness to collaborate; an organization and front office that is diligent, aggressive, flexible, and cerebral.

The fact that they've continued to be relatively competitive on the field - one division title in 2010 and a 2nd half resurgence in 2011 is certainly nothing to scoff at while re-building the roster - I believe can be partly attributed to the toughness and positive outlook through the process used to overhaul the organization; they understand having strong talent is a vital part of any formula for creating a winning organization, and their ability to simultaneously keep records respectable and raise the talent level is admirable. PC/JS were clear from the start they didn't know how long this process of becoming a perennial championship contender would take, but they weren't going to sit around and wait for it happen. In conjunction with Paul Allen's premiere ownership, they were actively working towards something special from the start.

When Pete Carroll stepped up to the podium for his intro presser in 2010, he invited, in fact urged, the 12thman along for the ride and openly embraced shooting for unrealistic expectations and I've been on the bandwagon for a few years now. I'm excited for the this draft, because it's the first where this organization's dedicated directive, competitive and tough culture, crystallizing communication, growing inner trust, organizational flexibility, diligent evaluation process, up-tempo atmosphere, willingness to accentuate the success of self-actualization, standards and commitment towards building a winning organization is no longer new, and they are not hindered by the lockout.

Now entering a stretch of normalcy, this free agency period and draft is perhaps the first step they will take functioning as the organization they intended to be from the start, one that would "compete like crazy," maybe like one we've "never seen" before.

After the 2011 draft there were some negative opinions about the Seahawks' unexpected decisions, starting with James Carpenter in round 1. Amidst an uncertain offseason where the Seahawks never stopped competing and continued to put in the effort to win, I had a different view towards their draft efforts. I felt the Seahawks were doing the best they could to represent their changing way and improve the organization in tough times, referencing the idea of the Totem:

If you're familiar with the idea or remember it from the first time around this explanation will be redundant:

The Totem is a symbol of expression. "It is a flag. It is the sign by which each clan distinguishes itself from others, a visible mark of personality and embodiment." The people who represent their given totem are a physical embodiment of the practices and beliefs of their group. This idea can extend to a religious group, territory, country or team. Thus, a group of "totemic principles" drives the clan that is represented through the symbol; the totemic principles represent both a physical force and a moral power. In theory, every NFL team has a Totem and abides by its principles; "In theory" can only go so far.

The theory of the totem needs to be implemented; just because it exists doesn't mean it works. There needs to be a leader that inspires the effort to abide by the principles - the Seahawks struggled in the two years before Pete Carroll. The totemic principles can only go as far as the effort, energy and leadership of the administration. A coach needs to get his players to play with energy, effort and conformity that help the team more than the individual.

Durkheim: "An individual or collective object is said to inspire respect when the conscious representation of it is endowed with such power that it automatically stimulates or inhibits behavior, regardless of any relative consideration of its practical or harmful effects. When we obey someone because of the moral authority we recognize in him...a psychic energy immanent in the idea makes individuals bend their will and incline to compliance."

To continue the idea, "Since society can exist only in the minds of the individual and through their actions, it must penetrate and become organized inside us; it becomes an integral part of our being, and in doing so elevates us and enlarges that being."

Where I concluded, which will apply in a moment, was:

"...there are those crucial moments where the energy of external forces tips the balance. The Seahawks are building their will to win internally and freely extend that will on Sunday's to the 12th man; it can help, but it can also hinder...As the Seahawks organization attempts to elevate itself to the next level, the 12th man should, in theory, follow in its footsteps.

Not necessarily agreeing with whatever the organization decides from a personnel perspective, but understanding that Carroll, Schneider and the Seahawks embraced the 12th man's effort and energy to the fullest...Now, with all the effort the Seahawks front office has put into improving the coaching staff and roster, it's up to the 12th man to return the favor and celebrate at the 50."

(Celebrate at the 50 a reference to as the Seahawks did on their logo after Week 17, 2010, like Pete Carroll said they would the night before the game, to represent that they took ownership of a championship situation and represented their program.)

Then, this was a still developing organization that was dealing with uncertainty of both a re-build and broken league; yet their focus was on controlling only what they could, their own efforts. They remained focused, confident in their process and prepared. They picked some pretty nifty players from that draft that immediately carved out roles; not to mention Doug Baldwin, and the other undrafted free agents or draftees that are yet to make an impact, as the lockout potentially hindered the physical and mental development of rookies.

The Seahawks 2011 season felt the impact of the lockout early on as they struggled to find their style on the field, but the second half of the season helped show there is a brighter future ahead.

Along with their internal process becoming smoother, the organization as a whole is becoming more dynamic; not too long after the 2011 draft they unveiled plans to give their image a dramatic overhaul with the unveiling of new Nike jerseys, this creating talk of throwback jerseys and a general buzz among Seahawks' fans. I was under the impression then that change to the uniforms " the organization's effort at furthering their dedication towards re-empowering the meaning of the Seahawks' symbol, a subtle effort at creating future opportunities to share the success of the franchise with the fans...The Seahawks' culture is in the second year of being re-made into an ahead-of-the-curve operation, both on and off the field. There is a focus on the representation of the "Seahawks way;" they care about their image and a strong relationship with the 12th man..."

Fast forward to early April 2012, just after the new uniforms were unveiled. Below are the thoughts of Field Gulls reader CMoney87:

"The NFL released it's new Nike uniforms today and the new Seahawks gear is getting a lot of mixed reactions. The major design change that seems to be polarizing Seahawks Nation right now is the inclusion (preponderance, maybe?) of the Salish, Native American, feather patterns in recurring sets of 12, on the shoulders and ghosted into the numbers. Whether or not you think it's aesthetically pleasing or executed correctly this is something that every Pacific Northwest resident, Native American and Seahawk fan should take pride in.

Although not everybody in the PNW is Native American (as some have enlighteningly pointed out) symbols of the Salish culture are prevalent everywhere. We have the cities of Seattle, Tacoma, Puyallup, Issaquah and Spokane. Who around Seattle hasn't heard of some or all of Duwamish, Skykomish, Nisqually, Tillamook, Quinault, Snohomish, Deschutes, Tenino, Tulalip or Stillaguamish? The Salish culture is an integral part of our regions culture.

The Seahawk head logo is inspired by the same Salish carving style type of design and the city of Seattle itself is named after the Salish Chief Si'ahl of the Duwamish people. Seattle also has one of the largest populations of urban integrated indigenous people in the country and many well developed areas of major Washington cities are actually reservation land. There is actually an official movement to rename the Puget Sound the "Salish Sea". The cultural and geographic ties between the region and it's native peoples is stronger than almost any other and is an integral part of our region/city's image. The new patterns totally fit the theme and intent.

What this is to me is a show of commitment and loyalty from our football team to our region and us the fans. What other team has done this? These design elements are uniquely Northwest and wouldn't work anywhere else, but they do work here. We have a team that is proud of it's city/region and takes pride in representing aspects of the culture unique to here (even if it is just South Alaska!). The new design actually makes me feel a stronger level of personal connection to my favorite sports team and that can't be a bad thing. I love this team and to me this is the team saying "I love you" back. Other fans around the league might not know what it's supposed to be, but so what, THESE ARE OUR SEAHAWKS!

To me it's the idea behind this and the show of tribute to the 12's and the region that makes this so awesome and really, what do you think represents Seattle better?"

His take on the new uniforms was one of the most highly rec'd articles on this site, and I'm under the impression his thoughts represent a similar sentiment that a lot of 12's felt on varying levels. I'm not of native decent, but I take tremendous pride in the fact that the organization went to the level they did in trying to connect with the fan base, that they have taken a step to physically represent the shift in the organization. The symbol that embodies the Seahawks now has added meaning and perhaps an added mystique as well. As said above; the organization is showing commitment and loyalty to the region and in return the personal connection of some (or more than some) fans are stronger than it already was. I think his comments and the positive response reflect the jersey re-design as confirmation that the power of the Seahawks' Totem is strengthening.

Since this new regime took over in 2010 we've seen a form of rebranding to the Seahawks organization. From Carroll and Schneider all the way to the bottom of the organization, the identity has been overhauled and it continues to show up in the way this organization operates; whether it's shown in a small snap shot like a press conference or through a much larger example such as a uniform alteration, their relentless pursuit of the competitive edge stands out.

The draft represents one of the few recurring events when their pursuit hits a crescendo. The draft, the final day and undrafted free agency in particular, is like a celebration for them because they take tremendous pride in effort and preparation leading to results; Bill Walsh, a mentor to Pete Carroll, was a believer in the adage "the better prepared you are, the luckier you get" and I think this organization eyes the draft with a very similar mantra in mind. They relentlessly and diligently work year round and when this time comes, they are confident in the fact their acquisitions through the draft process will be consistent and yield dividends over time. We can't expect them to crush the draft every year, but the goal is consistency and so far they've done well finding guys from the first round to undrafted free agency and beyond. And to think, with all that they've done on and off the field in just over two years, their operation is now on the cusp of truly hitting its stride.