Note: I haven’t been commenting much on the Seattle Seahawks so far this season. With the year ending injuries to key defensive stars Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, plus the problems with the offensive line and the running game, I have been, more or less, in “wait and see” mode as regards this […]Read the Rest →
Note: As Seahawks fans all know, Seattle’s All Pro strong safety Kam Chancellor is in the midst of a now three week long holdout, stating he will not return to the team until his current contract is re-negotiated. Chancellor’s stance has the potential to disrupt what could be another Super Bowl run for Pete Carroll’s team, and on another team it probably would. It won’t for the Seahawks, and here’s why…please read on…MA
In my opinion the single most difficult thing to accomplish in team sports, or in any group activity really, is the creation of what is called a “true group” or a “true team.” Certain breakthroughs that have been made about the nature of life have led also to a much higher understanding of the dynamics and laws of group activity. By “group” I am of course referring to a number of people working in concert with one another to accomplish a goal or purpose; and in that simple definition may be found also the fundamental elements of a “true group.” For any group to arrive at “true group” status is a unique and special thing for it is when that status is approached or attained that seemingly magical accomplishment takes place, big goals are realized and history gets made. Any organization, group or team is fundamentally a union of beings around a common purpose and it is held together by the communication lines connecting the beings to each other. A “true group” would be one centered around a good, survival oriented goal or purpose and in which the workers or group members as well as the managers and executives all had a high level of agreement about the goal and the strategies the group was employing to achieve it. In other words they would be united behind a common purpose and they would generally agree, like each other and would get along great. Such a group would be most productive and would have high morale. Their accomplishments when compared to groups not so composed would appear miraculous; for when all of these group factors become so aligned the productive power of the group exponentializes and all kinds of things start to catalyze in its favor that otherwise wouldn’t.
It is an unfortunate fact that the circumstances of our current society operate so as to prevent the creation of “true groups.” Such things as labor unions seek to make a group out of all labor or classes of labor and too often pit them against the management of the very companies they work for. CEOs, corporations and management will often adopt policies or practices that alienate the very workers and group members their companies depend upon. People with hidden and selfish motives will often exploit these labor/management disputes to their own gain. Looked at against the standards of a “true group” you would think such people would be at best a bit nutty and at worst suicidal; for it can easily be seen that the survival potential of a “true group” or a “true team” far exceeds that of what passes for groups, teams or organizations in today’s world.
Now, you may be wondering what all of this “true group/team” stuff has to do with an article ostensibly about the Seattle Seahawks and Kam Chancellor. The connection becomes apparent when you understand that I believe the Seattle Seahawks of the last three years are the closest thing to a “true team” that the NFL has seen in quite some time. Though most of us did not realize it when he was hired, Pete Carroll came to the Seahawks with a clear cut and established goal: he did not want to win just one Super Bowl—he wanted to create a dynasty and win multiple Super Bowls. He had already established his personal philosophy of coaching and life as detailed in his book “Win Forever” and this formed the basic tenets of his and GM John Schneider’s strategy to achieve their goal. Because he is a great communicator Carroll was able to get the players to “buy in” to the goal and the plan, and to an exceptional degree the “true team” of the Seattle Seahawks began to manifest. Coincident with this came the stellar play of the last three seasons with consecutive Super Bowls the last two, while winning one. It isn’t necessarily easy to get a group consisting of 53 unique and individual players, an entire coaching staff, trainers, front office people and even the fans all doing their part to make the Seahawks great and achieve their goal; but Carroll has and that is what we have witnessed over the last three years. Typifying this was his handling of the Seahawks last year after Percy Harvin’s divisiveness and the “Russell Wilson isn’t black enough” flap threatened to tear the team apart. Recognizing their mistake in acquiring Harvin in the first place, Carroll and Schneider quickly moved him off the team and rallied the Seahawks’ player leadership (a significant member of which is Kam Chancellor) around the agreed upon goal; whereupon the team won their last 6 games of the regular season and made another Super Bowl run. Carroll’s leadership through that situation was exceptional.
A huge part of Carroll’s and Schneider’s strategy of greatness was and is to use the NFL draft wisely to acquire the players they needed for what they wanted to do and the style they wanted to play; augment them with astute trades and free agent signings; then isolate those they would need for long term success and sign those players to long term deals. They had to be smart in this as with the NFL’s salary cap rules they could ill afford mistakes; and for the most part they have implemented their strategy flawlessly. In this fashion they have signed for years into the future Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin, Earl Thomas, Cliff Avril, KJ Wright, Michael Bennett, Marshawn Lynch and, ironically, considering his current hold out, Kam Chancellor. Because Chancellor was among the first players that Carroll and Schneider drafted after arriving in Seattle (5th round of the 2010 draft) he was the first to be rewarded with a long term deal for his exceptional play when he signed a four year, $28 million ($17 million guaranteed) contract extension in April of 2013. At the time Chancellor was ecstatic about the contract, stating that he felt “great”, and that “the Seahawks organization has blessed me.” Since then the Hawks have awarded Chancellor’s “Legion of Boom” mates Sherman (4 years, $57.4 million, $40 million guaranteed) and Thomas (4 years, $40 million, $27.75 million guaranteed) with mega-deals that dwarf Chancellor’s. In addition middle linebacker Bobby Wagner just signed a 4 year $43 million extension ($22 million guaranteed). No doubt Chancellor now feels that as a player as important to the Hawks league leading defense as anyone, he is underpaid.
On the face of it, to anyone who has watched Chancellor over the last few seasons, it is hard to disagree with him. Who can forget his brilliant play against the 49ers in the 2014 NFC Championship game, or his monster hits and interception of Peyton Manning in the 2014 Super Bowl, or his game clinching, 90 yard pick six against the Carolina Panthers in last year’s playoffs? For my money he is the pre-eminent strong safety in the NFL, and I think Carroll and Schneider feel the same way. But in evaluating this you must also realize that Chancellor isn’t making chump change. Currently he is the 8th highest paid safety in the NFL in terms of average annual salary at just over $7 million per year (out of over 200 safety contracts); and for his position of strong safety he is essentially tied with Reshad Jones of the Miami Dolphins as the second highest paid. (For whatever reason it seems that free safeties like Thomas are more valued by teams, resulting in richer contracts. Shutdown corners like Sherman are the most valued defensive backs of all and are paid accordingly.) Carroll and Schneider have other concerns they must take into account as well. They, no doubt, pegged their salary cap figuring on Chancellor’s current contract and then went ahead and negotiated all of the subsequent contracts for the other players based on that. Re-negotiating Chancellor’s deal now would throw all of those calculations off. Also it would open the door for other recently re-signed players who are now dissatisfied with their contracts (like Michael Bennett) to demand new deals. In the salary cap restricted world of the NFL that’s bad business, and something NFL teams are NOT inclined to do.
Understanding all of this, you can see what a challenge it is to Carroll and Schneider to maintain the Seahawks as a “true team.” Unfortunately labor strife is kind of built in to big time sports—what with the money involved, sports agents, collective bargaining agreements and player’s associations. None of these things are conducive to “true teams.” It is upsetting to “twelves” to see a key player like Chancellor holding out and threatening the success of the upcoming season. It is impossible for us to know what Chancellor’s agent is telling him; or if, as I have recently heard, it is true that the Seahawks promised they would re-work Chancellor’s deal in light of what they did for Thomas, Sherman and Wagner. Should Chancellor continue to hold out he will force Carroll and Schneider to alter the face of the Legion of Boom and come up with a replacement for him at strong safety. At this writing that possibly could be a proto-typical Carroll-Schneider undrafted, second year free agent out of USC named Dion Bailey, who by all accounts is having a fantastic training camp.
No matter what happens, Chancellor or no, I think the Seahawks will continue to win. I also think we can be assured that Pete Carroll will continue to communicate and do all that he can to maintain the Seahawks as the closest thing to a “true team” to be found in the NFL. Nobody in the league understands its essential elements like he does, and no one is more effective at realizing them. After all, there is another Super Bowl to be won, and an NFL dynasty to be created.
So enjoy the ride you “twelves.”
I know I will.
Copyright © 2015
By Mark Arnold
All Rights Reserved