The NFL has become so large it typically dominates sports headlines for 52 weeks a year. However a story that caught my attention this weekend has been quickly swept aside. This weekend Seattle Seahawks defensive end Bruce Irvin was suspended four games for violating the league’s Performance Enhancing Drug policy (PED). He becomes the seventh Seahawks player since 2010 to have been linked to PED’s; joining Brandon Browner, Winston Guy, Allen Barbre, John Moffitt, Vai Taua (all suspended) and Richard Sherman (who got off on a technicality much like Ryan Braun in baeball, due to improper handling of the specimen). Who has been at the helm of Seahawks during this time, none other than Pete Carroll.
Carroll, who was the talk of the NFL last year after guiding his team to an 11-5 record and the playoffs and is one of the more outspoken coaches in the league, has remained quiet…..as is his typical stance when violations and trouble arise under his watch. Which is nothing new. Carroll has a history of programs in trouble and seems to have brought the tradition from USC to Seattle. Some people may not like his attitude or the way he does things. But this is more to the point that trouble seems to follow the man and he does not own up to it.
After allegations occurred at USC he claimed “his staff and administrators never knew of any violations.” Now the much quoted coach is silent about his Seahawks team that has the most PED suspensions in the NFL since he took over. The Seahawks have seven players linked to PED’s. That is 7 of 50 players since 2010, with 10 teams having no issues. With his team making up such a large portion of the suspensions you would think he would come out and say something. However his lone quote is “I am not going to talk about this. This is a league issue.” Yes Pete it is a league issue, and the league is dealing with it by handing out suspensions. However for a coach that calls his team a family and one that constantly talks about caring for his players, it seems that all that matters is your job and making sure you are not linked to any scandal.
Carroll and the Seahawks had an impressive season last year, sparked by the controversial touchdown/interception call against the Packers. And the Seahawks are among the early favorites to win the Super Bowl this upcoming season. The Seahawks went all-in this off-season with their trade for Percy Harvin, and signed Cliff Avril and Antione Winfield. People are excited about the Seahawks.
But I tend to see something else. How often does the big trade for top-name Wide Receiver work out? While Russell Wilson had a remarkable season as a rookie last year isn’t it likely he may have a sophomore slump? The Seahawks defense which led to their surge last season will have a new Coordinator. The PED’s are not the only off-field issues with Seahawks players; Marshawn Lynch is still facing DUI issues and most recently Seattle’s backup quarterback faces similar charges from this weekend. Lynch has also been missing from OTA’s this offseason. Lynch is also coming off his top two seasons in carries, as he nears the dreaded 30-year old mark for RB.
My guess is that these latest allegations, and the other issues, will play a large role in the 2013 season. I know that a four game suspension is relatively minimal. However combine that with an ACL injury Chris Clemons, a 31-year old end, is coming off of and with a defense that lacked the ability to pressure quarterbacks last year. That is alarming. As is a new coordinator, a RB with off-field issues and career high mileage for two straight seasons, a sophomore quarterback and an atmosphere that just may be out of control like at USC.
Carroll is largely seen as a “rah-rah” coach. One that brings a player-friendly and collegiate atmosphere to his team. He bucks the trend of head coaches because he is a player coach, a “friendly” coach and not a disciplinarian. But let’s not forget that last year was his first winning season with the Seahawks, after two losing seasons. Remarkably winning does have a way of making people forget problems. What happens if the Seahawks fall back to earth? But even if they they do stay atop their game, if his players continue to get caught up in PED’s and off-field issues no matter how much winning comes; people will not ignore the issues. At USC Carroll guided the Trojans to some remarkable seasons, but jumped ship immediately before numerous sanctions were handed down for violations. He doesn’t have that luxury now that he is in the NFL. He will have to face the music with the Seahawks. Will Pete Carroll’s lack of discipline come back to haunt him?