Jermaine Kearse (wide receiver): Honestly, the team meetings were a sh– ton of fun.
Malcolm Smith (linebacker): His team meetings are honestly what I think sets him apart from other coaches.
Chad Brown (former NFL linebacker and coaching intern): Absolutely, without a doubt, the best team meetings of any team I was on as a coach or a player.
Luke Willson (tight end): I get drafted and come here for rookie minicamp with no idea what to expect. It’s dead silent in the team meeting room. There are a bunch of rookies who don’t even have free-agent contracts, a couple drafted guys and a couple of undrafted free agents. He just storms in the room and goes: “Alright, alright, let’s get this thing started right.” He’s like, “OK, kickers, get up! Who are the kickers here?” We had a couple kickers, and he has them do a basketball shootout, and he goes, “Whoever wins gets to stay; whoever doesn’t gets cut.” He’s totally kidding and I’m just laughing. The next thing we know, we’re shooting basketballs, he’s got a couple of YouTube videos and we go out to practice and music is blaring the whole time and he’s dancing around.
Ben Malcolmson (Carroll’s chief of staff): Barnum and Bailey’s three-ring circus here.
Willson: I was like, “Dude … this guy is kind of crazy.”
Justin Britt (center): He would do what he called “the safe place.” Everyone had a bullsh– story about them and none of it was true, but if you didn’t know, it seemed believable.
Uchenna Nwosu (outside linebacker): He tells all these stories other guys went through … selling the hell out that story, making it sound really good and believable.
Britt: He had people believe that my mom had this anger towards me and resented me because of how large my head was at birth. I had to play along with that for like four years.
Golden Tate (wide receiver): One team meeting he gets up there and says: “Hey, we’ve got this new Gatorade. Why don’t you guys make sure you try one out before practice? They’re supposed to hydrate you really well. We don’t want you out here pulling anything.”
Shaquem Griffin (linebacker): Pete Carroll is just in a land of his own.
Tate: We would open up the cooler and this fake snake would pop out. We’d all jump and some of us would scream. He had a camera in there. Of course, the next day in the team meeting, he selected all the good ones and premiered it to the entire team.
Britt: He would have a set amount of time in the day allocated to just having pure fun.
Malcolmson: He hosted scooter races in the coaches’ offices. There was a loop that he set up, and he would do timed scooter races.
Brown: I was excited every day to go to work because, what is Pete going to do today? What fun thing is going to happen?
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) August 18, 2023
Britt: By the time we got to the serious stuff, we were all like: “I’m awake, I’m ready, my senses are right. Let’s go.”
Brown: I’ve never been in a football environment like that.
Tate: He was a jokester. He was a serious jokester.
Malcolmson: Pete told our video crew: “Hey, if anyone trips (at practice) during a drill or a route, if they fall down, you’ve got to edit it and slice it with sniper footage.”
Kearse: Everybody would be talking, and then the lights would just go down low.
Malcolmson: It would cut to dramatic music and a sniper scene in a movie.
K.J. Wright (linebacker): Like “American Sniper” or something. It would be like: “I have an eye on him. I’m locked on the target.”
Malcolmson: It’s like a minute-long buildup, and everyone is like: “Oh no, who’s gonna get got?”
Wright: And then the sniper would shoot, the guy would fall at practice and blood would splash out. It was the funniest sh– ever.
Nick Bellore (fullback:) He had a surgery on his leg or his knee. He came back to the team meeting right after he got it done.
Tyler Mabry (tight end): He’s driving on the golf cart at practice, and then I don’t know if he had a cane, but he’s walking, then he threw it down and started running.
Bellore: He just came sprinting in like you’d see a professional wrestler going into the ring.
Mabry: Like this man just got saved by Jesus.
Bellore: He sprinted down and then went and changed direction, and everyone was going nuts and he ran a pro agility (test). It was literally like he was doing a combine workout. I’ve never laughed that hard in a meeting.
Britt: Every new player that comes there goes: “Don’t go somewhere else. This is the best place.” And it truly was.
Malcolmson: For the New York Super Bowl, that was the first year our free-throw shooting contest really took off. We started to do it during almost every team meeting, and there was an in-season tournament. It really became part of the culture.
The 2013 Seahawks and the secret sauce of a generational defense
Kearse: We had a whole NCAA-style bracket with defense on one side and offense on the other side.
Malcolmson: That was Pete’s request when we went out to New York for the week before the Super Bowl: “Make sure there is a basketball hoop.” We landed on a Sunday night the week before the Super Bowl. By the time we got to the hotel, it was probably 9 or 10 at night. I was like, “I’ve got to go figure out this basketball hoop because we have a team meeting first thing in the morning at the Giants’ facility.”
Brown: There was always a genuine team-building purpose with everything.
Malcolmson: I borrowed a car, went to Walmart in a suburban New Jersey town, got a full-scale basketball hoop, one of those ones where you pour sand or water in the base, then drove to the Giants’ facility. By this point, it’s probably midnight, and I ended up finishing building the hoop at 3 a.m.
Chris Carlisle (strength coach): Tom Coughlin was the coach at the time, and all the Giants people were like: “What are you doing? No, you can’t bring that in. This is a meeting room. This is like church.”
Willson: I was nervous. I’m a rookie. We’re eight days out from the f—ing Super Bowl. Pete comes in, wheels in a f—ing basketball goal and is like: “I don’t give a sh– that it’s the Super Bowl, we’re doing the same thing we’ve always done, boys. In fact, we’re going to have an All-Star tournament with the best shooters of the year, and we’re doing Round 1 today.
Malcolmson: Just one of those crazy Pete things.
Willson: All the stress, everything — it just disappeared. It was like: “Alright, f— it, who gives a sh–? We’re in New York. It’s the same thing as home.”
Malcolmson: One camp, we did full introductions before the basketball shoot-off. Tyler Lockett came out in the dark to the Chicago Bulls’ intro music, with lasers and a fog machine in the team meeting room. We had a confetti machine and a trophy presentation. It was so dumb but so fun.
Kearse: Yeah, it was fun, but subliminally it was building a competitive edge. Even the rebounders took it serious.
Smith: That program has consistently been competitive because he knows how to get the most out of his players from an emotional standpoint.
DeeJay Dallas (running back): The night-before meetings are his favorite…
Malcolmson: He would want the worst conference room at the hotel on Saturday night. We had about 100 people, and he would try to find the dingiest, smallest room at the hotel.
Bellore: There’s literally no room for any extra person. That’s unique to here.
Malcolmson: Every time the hotel would be like: “We have this nice big ballroom.” And every time he’d be like: “No, no, I want this side conference room.”
Smith: He pays so much attention to the energy of rooms.
Carlisle: On the road, he’d come down to the weight room and go: “I just need to be around the players. I need to get that energy. I need to feel the team again.”
Bellore: He’s right there, and we’re all in there together.
Dallas: He came in there, shirt unbuttoned, he was already fired up. He gets to talking, and he threw a chair — boom, it hit the wall. The chair is stuck in the wall. I was like, “Goddamn! He fired up.”
Artie Burns (cornerback): For a guy like that to have that much energy, it makes you want to play for him.
Pete Carroll’s vindication: How the Seahawks’ 71-year-old coach proved he’s still got it
Dallas: He’s like, “F— it, we’re already fired up, we don’t need no meeting!” And we got out of our meeting.
Jordyn Brooks (linebacker): It gets pretty wild sometimes.
Phil Haynes (offensive lineman): We always get really hype before a special teams meeting, but he got really, really excited and jumped through a whiteboard.
DeShawn Shead (former cornerback, current DBs coach): Out of nowhere he got up — boom.
Wright: He literally does a full-on cartwheel into it.
Riq Woolen (cornerback): But the whiteboard flipped over, and he flipped over with it.
Haynes: I was like, “My God.” We all checked to make sure he was OK, then we started cheering.
Woolen: Good ol’ Pete got right up, and he was like, “That was nothing.”
Malcolmson: The funny thing is, the whiteboard didn’t really serve any purpose. But it was always in the same spot I think as a prop for whenever Pete decided to go tackle it.
Julian Love (safety): I got called on (recently). It was cool. His message for that (meeting) was, “I’m not out there by myself. I don’t have to win the game for us. I don’t have to do anything that’s out of my control. Everyone has my back to get this done.” I felt that the next day. After the game, he said it again like, “J Love, I told you we had your back.”
Jason Peters (offensive line): He gives you himself. He’s speaking from the heart. That’s different from anywhere else I’ve been.
Drew Lock (quarterback): The way he tells stories, commands the room, my mouth was open the whole time, like, “I can’t believe I’m here listening to him give a pregame speech about a game we’re about to play tomorrow.”
Willson: We were playing a big game, and there was a bunch of media hype. He calls up Tyler Lockett and he has a chair. He’s like: “Do me a favor. Just stand on this.” He’s like: “Do you think you can just lift one leg up?” Lockett looks at him and lifts the leg up. He has him do all this stuff: “Do a spin, do a counter spin.” I’m like, “What the f— is going on?” Then he’s like: “OK, serious question. Was any of that hard?” Lockett’s like, “No, not at all.”
Malcolmson: Then he’s like: “What if I put this on the Empire State Building? Would you be able to do it then?” Of course, the answer is no way. He’s like: “But nothing’s different, nothing’s changed. It’s all just your surroundings.”
Willson: You’ve got to picture this is Pete Carroll’s voice, so it’s way more animated, and he’s like, “Tomorrow, we’re just playing f—ing football. Field’s the same size, football’s the same size, plays are the same. F— all this nonsense about what happens if the Seahawks lose. Go out and rip it.”
Britt: The motivational person he is, it’s unmatched.
Shead: Pete got the most juice of any coach, anybody in America.
Griffin: There’s nobody like him.
Wright: The guy’s a legend.
(Illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; Photos: Nic Antaya, Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)
“The Football 100,” the definitive ranking of the NFL’s best 100 players of all time, is on sale now. Order it here.