By David Krueger Herald Writer
Pete Carroll is known for his defensive prowess, his high energy level and a mantra of competition that keeps his players working hard.
He’s also known for jubilant celebrations.
The Seattle Seahawks head coach can routinely be seen hugging and rejoicing with his players after a big play, whether it’s on offense, defense or special teams.
“When the head guy’s hugging you,” Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said, “you did something right.”
While on the field for Seattle’s final two regular-season games — from warmups through postgame handshakes — Carroll dished out more than 70 hugs to players, coaches, staff, even the officials.
“All that energy that he brings every single game it’s kind of like another player out there on the field,” Wagner said. “It’s fun watching him if somebody gets a big play, him running around and being excited. We feed off of that.”
By The Herald’s count, Carroll tallied 27 on-field hugs in Seattle’s 17-10 loss to Arizona on Dec. 22. It was the Seahawks’ first home defeat in 15 games at CenturyLink Field. With the Seahawks’ offense production down, so was Carroll’s hug count.
The first hug out of the tunnel went to an Arizona player, the second to a microphone operator accompanying a TV cameraman (the mic operator clearly initiated the embrace) and the third to a Seahawks staffer. Hug No. 4 went to Paul Allen, after Carroll literally ran to the sideline to greet the Seahawks owner.
Apparently the guy who signs the checks get high hug priority.
Other notable hugs included “Interception” hugs for defensive backs Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman, a “Let’s Walk and Talk” hug for line judge Mike Spanier, and Hug No. 13, a possible embrace with an assistant coach that may actually have been some kind of blocking drill. But there was definite arm motion and Carroll appeared to pull the coach in, so count it.
“The guys in here act just like him. It’s crazy,” Chancellor said. “We need that type of energy. Doing the same thing over and over, every day, can get repetitive. It can get boring. But to people who love football, like us in here, and a coach that loves football so much, it means a lot. It brings a spark to this program.”
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson received the first of his game-high four Carroll hugs during a timeout on Seattle’s last possession of the first half. Soon after, kicker Steven Hauschka missed just his second field-goal attempt of the season and looked like he could use a hug.
He didn’t get one.
The Seattle players say they enjoy getting hugs from their 62-year-old coach. They know that if they make a big play, it’s likely Carroll will be waiting with open arms.
“The good news is Pete is going to shower you with praises whenever needed,” Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate said. “If you mess up, he’s going to quickly let you know you messed up, but he’s not going to curse you out.”
It’s no surprise that Carroll’s hug count rose significantly in Seattle’s next game, a 27-9, NFC West-clinching victory over St. Louis in the regular-season finale. With the offense and defense posting strong outings, Carroll’s tallied 43 embraces.
Wilson again led the way with four, followed closely by Sherman who got 3.5 — he shared a hug with fellow cornerback Byron Maxwell after a Maxwell interception. Sherman also got a hug after Tate’s fourth-quarter touchdown. The score ushered in a four-hug spree by Carroll.
“It’s just having fun and enjoying the moment, really,” Carroll said. “That’s kind of what happens.”
Carroll said he’s always been an excitable coach, and the outpouring of hugs are a reflection of his enthusiasm.
“I’ve just been myself … having fun with it and supporting guys,” Carroll said. “(I’m) trying to help them perform at their best. Sometimes it’s praising them and all that kind of stuff. That’s just been the way I do it. Not really by intent, that’s just the way it happened.”
The first hug of the Rams game went to FOX television broadcaster Tim Ryan during pregame warmups. After hugs to a Rams player and staff member, Sherman became the first Seahawk to get a hug on the field. A few fans got hugs, followed by two important hugs — Nos. 8 and 9 — to the officials. Soon after came a pair of “Coaches” hugs for offensive-line and assistant head coach Tom Cable, and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
Hug No. 23 was an “Easy There Big Fella” hug to wide receiver Ricardo Lockette after a skirmish with the Rams — of which there were many in a chippy game. Lockette got a second hug after another flag outbreak later in the game.
Tate earned his first hug after his 47-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter helped seal the win.
“I think his personality’s kind of rubbed on us and the way we play,” Tate said of Carroll. “I feel like he’s a very emotional coach and he likes to celebrate with us. That rubs off on us. We make big plays. We’re always looking to celebrate with our guys and have fun. We have a lot of fun out there. And so does Pete.”
The most intensive hugging came after the final whistle sounded. Carroll hugged St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher then unleashed a run of 12 “We’re NFC West Champions” hugs. Players, coaches and Seahawks staff members all got in on the action.
The screen at CenturyLink Field showed three more hugs in the tunnel on the way to the locker room, but those were not included in the official tally because they did not occur on the field.
“He genuinely cares about his players,” Sherman said of Carroll. “Obviously, the NFL is a big business and everybody understands that part of it. But within the business you can have respect and appreciation for your players and he has that and he shows it.”
The Seahawks clinched the NFC West title — and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs — in front of an announced crowd of 68,264.
And most of those screaming fans no doubt would have loved to get a hug from Pete.