Sports

Carroll’s Seahawks: Road win means players get coaches’ 1st-class seats on flight home

Bobby Wagner was giddily shouting on his way out of the visiting locker room at Heinz Field.

He wasn’t just celebrating his Seahawks’ first victory in Pittsburgh since 1999, a 28-26 rally over the Steelers. And Wagner wasn’t particularly roaring over Seattle’s first 2-0 start since 2013, its Super Bowl-championship season.

The All-Pro linebacker was jacked about the team’s five-hour flight home.

“Yeah, first class!” Wagner yelled as he eyed Seahawks coaches on his way out to the team’s buses to the Pittsburgh airport Sunday evening.

Coach Pete Carroll has a team policy that is no small incentive: get a cherished road win, and veteran players sit up front in the first-class seats on the team’s charter flight back to Seattle.

“Well, you know, we win on the road, the coaches, we lose first-class,” Carroll confirmed to Seattle’s KIRO-AM Monday morning on his weekly day-after radio show.

Who gets the coaches’ plush, roomy digs?

“The oldest guys,” Carroll said.

That meant 34-year-old left tackle Duane Brown, 32-year-old linemen Mike Iupati and Al Woods, Sunday hero Russell Wilson, fellow 30-year-olds Ziggy Ansah, Nick Bellore through Wagner, 29, all were in first-class.

Carroll, his coordinators and assistant coaches were back in, well, coach class. They endured the every-man, two-four-two seating arrangement on the chartered commercial airliner the Seahawks take to every road game.

“So they get that. It’s good. Good little routine,” Carroll said.

“Coaches hate it. They were all gripin’.”

Carroll outed defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. for being particularly grumpy in the back. A three-time Super Bowl-champion linebacker from the 1990s Cowboys and 49ers with 23 years in the NFL as a player and coach, he probably feels at age 52 he shouldn’t be sitting in the relatively cramped economy class while 20- and 30-somethings kicked it in the primo front.

“Kenny Norton was unbearable,” Carroll said. “He wouldn’t let them hear the end of it: ‘Why am I sitting back here?’”

Carroll laughed. It was that kind of trip to, in and from Pittsburgh for the Seahawks.

The team’s locker room after wins is always a wild scene. Blaring rap music. Players shouting and dancing.

Sunday’s scene after the game in Pittsburgh had all that. Plus, it had the added fun of it being Carroll’s 100th NFL coaching victory, regular season and playoffs combined, and his 68th birthday.

Wagner led the team in dumping a bucket of water on Carroll in the middle of the locker-room huddle the coach always has with his players immediately after a game. Seahawks team photographer Rod Mar captured the fact it was more than just Wagner and water soaking Carroll.

On the plane, the crew was serving cheesecake as part of the team meal on the flight home. Carroll, a careful eater — Plant Based News featured his green-led diet last year —said Seahawks kept sending pieces of cheesecake to him in coach throughout the long flight. He said he almost got sick from the sudden influx of sugar.

Anyone who wonders what makes Carroll’s program different, why his chic, one-of-the-guys ways from his championship days at USC still work in his third NFL go-round, should heed what Wagner said about why he doused Carroll after the fun-filled win in Pittsburgh.

“It’s everything,” Wagner said. “It’s his birthday. One-hundredth win. Who he is as a coach. His energy.

“We just wanted to show him we are thinking about him, and we appreciate how much work he puts in to help us get to where we want to go.

“You watch him, you see he is 68 years old, he doesn’t look it one bit. He does not move around like that, one bit. He actually hit me on the sideline a little bit, felt a little power.”

Wagner had the last laugh.

He was up in first class.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
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