Even for Pete Carroll, a coach with vast experience, not to mention the fame, fortune and clout to get into just about any big event he chooses, this weekend’s Super Bowl will be a first.
Sometime back in his first go-around in the NFL, Carroll decided he wouldn’t go to the Super Bowl as a spectator; instead, he would wait until he earned a trip.
“Never,” Carroll said when asked if he had attended the NFL’s biggest game. “I really had the thought a long time ago that I’m not going until we’re playing in it. Fortunately, we’re finally going.”
Just as it will be for Carroll, Super Bowl XLVIII will be a new experience for Seattle’s players. Barring a surprise last-minute roster move, the Seahawks will become the first team since the 1990 Buffalo Bills to play in the Super Bowl without a single player on its roster who has past experience in the big game. With an average age of 26.4 the Seahawks are the second-youngest Super Bowl team in history, just a bit older than the 1971 Dolphins, who lost to Dallas.
So the obvious question is, does experience matter? Does the fact that Denver quarterback Peyton Manning is playing in his third Super Bowl while Russell Wilson is in his first mean anything? Or does it simply mean Manning is older and was on some good teams in the past?
Seahawks players don’t really know for sure, but they’re approaching the week as if nothing is different.
“It’s just another football game,” safety Kam Chancellor said. “At the end of the day, it’s football, it’s running and hitting.”
Added fellow safety Earl Thomas: “I’m just doing what I’ve been doing all season. I haven’t changed just because we’re in the Super Bowl.”
Yet even if the Seahawks plan to treat Sunday’s game like any other, the buildup certainly will be different. From the circus that is Super Bowl media day to spending an entire week in a hotel to being hit up with ticket requests from relatives they never knew existed, players face challenges that simply don’t come with other games.
“I think the more veteran team you have, the little bit easier it is,” said former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, who guided Seattle to the 2006 Super Bowl. “The more times you’ve been through it, it’s easier because there are not a lot of surprises … There is nothing like it, so you have to talk about it. You have to talk to your team about it.”
Oh, and that quote above, Holmgren was talking about the NFC Championship game.
“It gets worse if you go to the Super Bowl,” he continued.
While this year’s Seahawks may lack Super Bowl experience, Holmgren said he thinks they have the mental makeup to overcome any potential disadvantages.
“It strikes me when I go over there, they are as loose a group as I’ve been around,” he said. “But, having said that, I think it’s pretty controlled. They understand that. They handle it pretty well.”
These inexperienced Seahawks came into Super Bowl week hoping they can put all the distractions aside, yet they’re also aware that there’s no way to know for sure until they live it.
“I really don’t know what to expect for real, being that it’s the first time in the Super Bowl,” Chancellor said. “I know it’s going to be a ton of media and a ton of people out there. My family is going to be out there, but I’m just blessed for this opportunity to make it to the Super Bowl and get a chance to compete against one of the best. I’m just looking forward to it and can’t wait.”
And if you don’t think the emotions of a first Super Bowl are different, just ask Holmgren about one of the pictures hanging in his house. In the old black-and-white photo, Holmgren, then the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach, is sitting in a folding chair facing head coach Bill Walsh going over the game plan.
To this day, Holmgren has the same reaction to that photo.
“Every time I see that picture, my heart starts going thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump,” he said. “I go ‘Wow, I remember that.’ I was nervous. When I was a head coach, I wasn’t so nervous.”
So maybe past Super Bowl experience matters a little, though if it does, it’s not exactly like the Broncos have a roster full of it. While Manning won one title with the Colts, no one else on Denver’s roster has a championship, though receiver Wes Welker, tight end Jacob Tamme and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have all played in Super Bowls.
If the Seahawks have one thing going for them this week, it will be a bit of familiarity. Having played the New York Giants this year, the Seahawks have already played, and won, at MetLife Stadium. Carroll even made sure to find out what would be the NFC team hotel for the Super Bowl so his Seahawks could stay there for their regular-season trip to New Jersey.
“I always like using those illustrations … where we have been there before and we’ve done that,” he said, noting the possibility of a return trip wasn’t something discussed publicly before Seattle won the NFC Championship game. “We just try to hold back on that at the time thinking it was too presumptuous, but we’re fortunate now. We’ll be in the same hotel, we’ve been in that locker room, we’ve played well at that stadium, so hopefully we’ll utilize that some. It’s just about being comfortable.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.