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Sunday Six: Carroll's vision is 20-20 for red-hot Seahawks


Week 16 demonstrated how Pete Carroll's vision of constant competition is working in Seattle. Just ask the 49ers. What else? The Jets backed themselves into a corner with their QB issues and Andy Reid deserves a shot -- one he likely won't get -- to develop some young Eagles.

1: The team in the Great Northwest

Every city in the NFL considering a new stadium for the past 10 years should use the blueprint for Seattle's CenturyLink Field to build a great home field advantage. Not only is the stadium a stroke of genius but so is the construction of this franchise by Pete Carroll and his right hand man, John Schneider. I worked with Pete Carroll for six years and we've remained close friends over the past 22 years. At times I have been reluctant to write about him and his vision for a football team because of it. But after watching the 42-13 win over the 49ers, it's a good time to share what Pete looks for when building a football team.

Carroll preaches competition 24/7. Coaches and players who can't handle that constant opportunity usually conclude his team isn't for them. For those who thrive in an environment that feels like there's a scoreboard on all the time, it becomes just what they were looking for -- a fair chance to excel. Russell Wilson is a perfect example of the true competition that goes on day in and day out at the Seahawks' complex.

Week 16 in review

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Carroll's program is as transparent as an NFL system can be. While some coaches and front offices operate like they care for matters of national security, Carroll is an open book. Crowds at practice and media access are part of the deal. Example: while on last summer's training camp tour with Sirius Radio I stopped at one team facility that wouldn't let us watch practice. Up next was Seattle, where all the practice videos were made available so we would be prepared to watch practice. Not only that, we also were invited right out in the middle of the drills. Also, I had a camera crew from CBS which was given access to the practice field, weight room and any coach or player they wanted to interview. Coach Carroll sat down with the video crew for 30 minutes to talk about his football philosophy. If you haven't been to a Seahawks practice you haven't experienced the essence of Carroll's program. There is music blasting, the speed of the practice is a blur as players get in twice the reps of some other practices. Carroll also is obsessed with trends in the game -- leading to him collecting the biggest secondary in NFL history.

Carroll recognized receivers were getting bigger -- including more basketball players gravitating to high school football because of the growth of the shotgun spread packages. Pete told me he was looking for different types of secondary players to match up with receivers. Carroll has strong beliefs about man coverage skills, and procured big, athletic corners and safeties to pull it off. Now the Seahawks have a stable full of secondary players that can cover, mirror receivers, catch the ball, and most of all hit.

"We play man to man or Cover 3 -- not much more than that," Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor said. "It's not a secret."

At USC, Carroll learned that freshmen could play major college football if you got them to play fast and free of over-scheming. When he returned to the NFL in Seattle, Carroll stuck with the principle: Rookies and young players could perform if he followed the same formula. Right now there are more than a dozen Seahawks playing a lot who have three or fewer years of experience. This team is being built for the long haul and they are going to have significant salary cap space next year.

And Schneider is the perfect guy to run Carroll's draft and target veterans for trades and free agency. These two don't flinch when a deal is to be made.

On offense he found the perfect pilot in Wilson. The football world thought the 5-foot-10 QB was a late-round backup. Perfect! Pete took him in the third round, opened up a true QB competition and the rest is history. When you watch Carroll's offense you see commitment to the run game, which means running when the team is winning or losing. Run it against every defense he faces and that's why the Seahawks have the highest first-and-10 run-to-pass ratio in the NFL. The Seahawks run the ball 65 percent of the time on first down. Most coaches are trying to be 50-50 on first down. In fact, league-wide, teams are 52 percent run, 48 percent pass on first down.

On Sunday vs. San Francisco, the Seahawks ran the ball on seven of the first eight first downs for 49 yards and finished the first half with 10 runs to four passes on first down -- averaging 6.2 yards per carry. That is a commitment to the run that leads to play-action passes and bootleg plays that are big reasons the team has scored 150 points in the past three games.

The influence of the late Bill Walsh can't be underestimated, starting with the speed at which a Walsh team played and is very recognizable when watching the Seahawks. I will never forget the first time Pete and I faced a Bill Walsh team. As I once told former Walsh center Randy Cross, we weren't nearly ready to play a team that played that fast. Pete never forgot what a fast team can achieve.

The second Walsh influence -- Carroll learned to take deep shots in the passing game. Walsh may have made the West Coast offense famous but he also threw downfield plenty, and there was a significant number of deep post routes by the Seahawks on Sunday night.

Finally, I have been in many Carroll team meetings and they are always enhanced with videos to make a point, entertain, or reinforce a theme. There's very little time spent on negative reinforcement, yelling or threatening. If a player is mature and wants to stay in the Seahawks program, opportunity exists for guys who go 100 percent all the time.

2: Jets quarterback issues

The Jets have made a mess of their quarterback situation. They weren't satisfied with Mark Sanchez after two years in championship games (2009, 2010) followed by an off year in 2011.

Along came Tim Tebow, but it didn't take long for coaches to figure out he wasn't really competition for Sanchez. Soon after they traded away a fourth- and sixth-round picks for Tebow -- plus paying the Broncos a few million bucks for Tebow's services -- they extended Sanchez's contract.

That extension makes it virtually impossible to cut or trade Sanchez in 2013. Then there's Greg McElroy. He was quietly sitting on the roster in 2011 as a developmental prospect. At the end of last season he told the story of some of the chemistry issues in the Jets locker room. This year he made a short appearance in a game and the Jets won. After Sanchez struggled the next week he was benched. Tebow was activated Sunday, but McElroy was handed the start.

CBS analyst and friend Bill Cowher said the Jets never had a QB plan. Well, McElroy was sacked 11 times in 35 pass plays or roughly once every three pass plays and the Jets only lost by 10 points. Should the Jets go back to Sanchez? Should they let Tebow play a whole game? Should McElroy get another game? No matter what they do, it's clear the QB situation looks like a rudderless ship.

3: Some odd stats

Some stats stand out each week.

 Cardinals QB Ryan Lindley threw another 30 passes this week, raising his total to 171 attempts without a TD pass. It may be time to move on.

 Six NFL teams managed to produce more than 400 yards of offense and lose. Detroit (522 yards), Kansas City (507 yards), Dallas (446 yards), Jacksonville (436 yards), Tampa Bay (429 yards) and Philadelphia (411 yards).

It's hard to imagine how these six teams moved the ball that way, yet managed only 18.5 points while going 0-6.

 Thirteen receivers have more than 100 receiving yards but only six running backs rushed for 100 yards.

4: Let the young Eagles fly

The Philadelphia Eagles may be a game away from making a coaching change after 14 years of quality work by Andy Reid.

I think it's a big risk to take for a franchise that has a proven winner in Reid. So the Eagles have had a few poor seasons. But did you watch the game this weekend against the Redskins? There is a lot of promise on that roster right now as Reid and his staff develop a young group of new players.

Rookie QB Nick Foles threw for 345 yards. Run his numbers from his six games out for a whole season and he would be projected for 4,500 yards, 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. There's something to develop in Foles.

Also, Riley Cooper, Colt Anderson, Brandon Graham, Dennis Kelly, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Brandon Boykin and Bryce Brown are a very interesting group of young men who could be the core to rebuild this franchise.

It's going to be a shame if someone else gets the opportunity instead of Reid.

5: Rookie QBs are for real

I have been tracking the class of 2012 quarterbacks all season and it has moved beyond impressive.

Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to a dominating win over the 49ers with four TD passes. The class of 2012 has thrown 102 touchdown passes with a week to go. Three of these young men are likely to all make the post season (Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Wilson). Picking the rookie of the year is getting harder to figure, and that's a great thing for the NFL.

6: No sacks, no chance

Heading into this weekend's games I talked about how important sacks are to the Giants' success. New York spent their money on a group of elite pass rushers -- so this team goes as the pass rush goes.

Since 2009 the G-men are 23-5 when they record three or more sacks. When they get one or none, they are 5-15 after never getting to Joe Flacco in 36 pass plays.

Flacco took a lot of deep shots against the corners, including a number of double routes that should have given the Giants time to recover -- but they did not.

Last season, the Giants recorded a sack once in every 13.5 pass attempts. In the past three games they had two sacks in 94 pass plays.

Pat Kirwan has been around the league since 1972, serving in a variety of roles. He was a scout for the Cardinals and Buccaneers, a coach for the Jets as well as the team's Director of Player Administration where he negotiated contracts and managed the team's salary cap. He is the author of Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look, and the host of Sirius NFL Radio's Moving the Chains.

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