After the dramatic conclusion to Super Bowl XLIX, when the pendulum swung sharply toward an inevitable Seattle win (after the latest uncanny catch on a potential game-winning drive in a title game against the Patriots) and then flew just as sharply the other way with an uncanny interception at the goal line, it was clear that the Seahawks would have a hard time getting over it.
It wasn’t nearly enough for coach Pete Carroll to display his usual effervescent confidence within the locker room after the game. Carroll took his case to the Today show, in the apparent hope that family members of players to whom he would have no access until the middle April would understand why Carroll did what he did — and in turn would prevail upon players having a hard time getting over the decision to pass instead of run to put it behind them.
In March, quarterback Russell Wilson did what Carroll couldn’t do. Wilson organized a large group of veteran players and took them to Hawaii for informal workouts.
Everyone knew about the Hawaii trip when it happened, thanks to the social media accounts of some of the players who went. Greg Bishop of SI.com has provided more details that reveal how bad it had gotten.
“[T]here was tension,” receiver Doug Baldwin told Bishop. “People thinking we should have done this, we should have done that [in the Super Bowl]. There were a lot of questions that needed to be answered. And a lot that needed to be asked.”
First, Wilson had to convince players to go on the trip. He persuaded Baldwin to help, and they then recruited safety Kam Chancellor.
“Kam was pivotal,” Baldwin said. “He’s like the godfather of the locker room. Any problems, any issues, you go to him.” (By the way, Chancellor is currently holding out, with no end in sight.)
Chancellor helped persuade more defensive players to attend the carefully-planned retreat that included daily workouts, outings, and dinners. As Bishop explains it, however, “the tension endured” throughout the trip, with some of the players skipping “a handful” of workouts.
On the sixth day of the trip, a bus took the players to the edge of a cliff for what the Seahawks now call a “come to Jesus” meeting. The 45-minute session included comments from all players in attendance, with “harsh words” uttered and “all grievances” being aired. Players who thought that the decision to pass the ball was aimed at delivering the Super Bowl MVP trophy to Wilson said so, per Bishop. Players who thought teammates had not taken responsibility for their role in the outcome said so, too.
Wilson said the meeting gave him “chills,” but that doesn’t mean all is well.
“We didn’t know if the trip was going to work,” Baldwin said. “We still don’t.”
The Seahawks won’t know whether it worked until the pressures of a new season threaten to refresh the tensions of February. Will the defense be more inclined to grouse about the offense if the offense struggles in a given game, half, quarter, or drive? Will defensive players resent Wilson’s $21.9 million-per-year extension, especially with the Wilson deal (and the one given to linebacker Bobby Wagner) sparking the decision to cut defensive tackle Tony McDaniel and contributing to the refusal to re-work Chancellor’s deal?
Is Marshawn Lynch, who didn’t attend the trip to Hawaii, OK with what happened? He’s the guy who went on TV in Turkey to espouse the notion that someone didn’t want him to be the MVP and, in turn, the “face of the nation.”
Last year, the Seahawks overcame plenty of internal strife to return to the Super Bowl. This year, it will be even harder to do that, since the Seahawks will be trying to overcome disappointment of a magnitude that no NFL team has ever previously experienced.