Cliff Avril will always be one of the key players of Pete Carroll’s tenure with the Seattle Seahawks, having much to do with their defensive dominance that started in 2013 when the team signed him and Michael Bennett to play on the d-line. In his four mostly-healthy seasons with the Seahawks, Avril had 33.5 sacks, 19 passes defensed, and 14 forced fumbles, as Seattle went 45-18-1, with four playoff trips, two Super Bowl appearances, and one ring.
On Wednesday, Avril reaffirmed what some other former Seahawks players have already said: that the second Super Bowl loss — rather than bring the team together because of how close they came to repeating as champions — started to tear the team apart. In talking to Dave Dameshak, Avril said players questioned Carroll’s belief in his own philosophy when the team chose to pass on the goal line against the New England Patriots rather than run:
The relevant piece of what Avril said, first noting that he thinks the Seahawks would have won a third Super Bowl in the following two seasons if they had beaten the Pats: “I do think that the team would have bought in more to what Coach Carroll was saying instead of going the opposite way of — this is what we thought the foundation of the team was and that’s not what happened in that particular play. So I think guys started questioning him a little more — rather than following his lead if we had won the Super Bowl.”
“A lot of guys got turned off by the message.”
Back in March, former Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman voiced this opinion on Carroll and his philosophy wearing thin over time:
“I think it was kind of philosophical on [Carroll’s] part. A lot of us have been there six, seven, eight years, and his philosophy is more built for college,” he said during an appearance on Uninterrupted’s “The Tomahawk Show,” which is hosted by retired NFL players Joe Thomas and Andrew Hawkins.
”Four years, guys rotate in, rotate out, and so we had kind of heard all his stories, we had kind of heard every story, every funny anecdote that he had. And honestly because he just recycles them. And they’re cool stories, they’re great for team chemistry and building, et cetera, et cetera. But we had literally heard them all. We could recite them before he even started to say them.”
Carroll responded to Sherman’s comments two weeks later:
“So what else is new?” the coach said, via the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta. “Sherm has been saying stuff his whole career, so this is nothing different. I’ve been through so much of what he has said, I take it all with a grain of salt. He’s just battling. He’s just trying to figure it out.”
Michael Bennett backed up Sherman’s statements, saying that he started reading books in team meetings because he had heard it all before. Said Carroll: “Sometimes, guys can’t hang with what’s expected ... and the best thing I can tell you is that they’re not here.”
And that is another important part of all this drama: Avril, Bennett, Sherman ... they are not Seattle Seahawks anymore. Carroll’s message may be tired, the 2014-2015 versions of the team may have started to question him, but many of them are gone. The franchise has seemingly invested its resources and sided with quarterback Russell Wilson, a player that is expected to be the only one who is still around in 10 years. I think that’s the only guy that the team wants to consistently be on-message with, while they can just bring in young guys and jaded veterans who haven’t won many games in their careers to start buying into Carroll’s philosophy anew.
How many starters remain from the 2014 team? Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Justin Britt, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Earl Thomas, and maybe Kam Chancellor. That’s really it. We’ve yet to hear any of them complain. Maybe that’s because they’re still attached to the Seahawks. Maybe it’s because they’re still fine with Carroll’s messages.
Not that the points aren’t valid, because surely their point of view is corroborated by multiple sources, but it’s easier to speak out when you’re no longer expecting checks from the team. And we don’t really know how much of the problem was the sender of the message and how much blame falls on the receivers of it.
Carroll’s probably happy that his message is not potentially being muted by some of his veterans anymore, and the veterans sound happy to no longer have to hear it.