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The Seahawks' Competitiveness Scale and How it Meshes With 'Grit'

The Seahawks' new YouTube docuseries gave us further insight into the team's roster-building process. Matty F. Brown details the "Competitiveness Scale" that was visible in the first episode of "Sound of the Seahawks," highlighting the crossover with Angela Duckworth's "Grit" and Pete Carroll's core philosophies.

Wednesday saw the Seahawks launch a season-long “Sound of the Seahawks” docuseries on their YouTube channel and the first episode gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the 2022 NFL Draft process. 

Beyond the cool interviews, live reactions and amazing access, the opportunity to memorize the layout of the Virginia Mason Athletic Center for… reasons (Operation: Steal The Playbook is pending) and also the chance to snoop at potential depth charts made for a degenerate’s dream—especially as we enter an offseason lull in Seahawks football content.

Unfortunately, the Seahawks’ editing team expertly blurred out most of the whiteboard-clad walls in the hallowed draft war room. It was the opposite of Jerry Jones antics, where none of the important stuff was visible; yes, even after spending 2 hours with the 20 minute video and cycling through it at 0.25x speed.

One interesting wall-hanging was legible, though. When the episode showed the announcement of rookie tackle Charles Cross' selection at pick No. 9, a “Competitiveness Scale” could be seen next to the television screens and away from a mysterious sparkly gold jacket.

It’s no secret that competition is the central theme to head coach Pete Carroll’s program. Indeed, on top of stuff we have seen before like the “All In” signs and “Always Compete” adorned scoreboards, this maiden “Sound of the Seahawks” episode also showed a huge “Always Compete” emblazoned on the hallway connecting the weight room to the locker room.

The “Competitiveness Scale” gives us further insight into what the Seahawks as an organization are trying to get out of each of their members and how they evaluate their inner competitor. It reads:

DOMINANT COMPETITOR

  • 7 - “Leader”

TRUE COMPETITOR

  • 6↑ - Clear, Confident, Trust, “Focus”
  • 5↓ - Internally Motivated, Performs to the Best of his Ability!

COMPETITOR

  • 4↑ - Good to Great Effort, Tries Hard, High Value of Self, Self Respect
  • 3↓ - External Forces Factor, Priorities in Lines

SURVIVOR

  • 2↑ - Not Giving Their Best, Low Value of Self, Self Respect
  • 1↓ - Inconsistent to Poor Effort, Priorities in Line
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GONE!

  • 0 [Skull and crossbones] 

Combining this scale with past exposure to Seattle’s organizational thinking when it comes to the mental aspects of football gives us rich detail.

Aside from Carroll’s “Always Compete” book on his coaching philosophy, his work with Angela Duckworth—professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania—has been public knowledge since 2015, when the Seahawks head coach got in touch with Duckworth after watching one of her TED talks on the subject of “grit.” Competitiveness goes hand in hand with grit, and grit at this level goes far beyond the cliché of football coaches.

“It always came back to competitiveness,” Carroll said of his own psychological methods to Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop in July 2015, when Seattle was looking to bounce back from a soul-crushing Super Bowl XLIX defeat. “I didn’t have a word for it, but it’s striving for something, not against something. Then I found a name for it.” 

Carroll’s “name” was Duckworth’s grit.

Duckworth visited the Seahawks on multiple occasions and then published her first book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” in May 2016. Her website defines grit as the following:

Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

One way to think about grit is to consider what grit isn’t.

Grit isn’t talent. Grit isn’t luck. Grit isn’t how intensely, for the moment, you want something.

Instead, grit is about having what some researchers call an “ultimate concern”–a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. And grit is holding steadfast to that goal. Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow.

You’ll notice that a lot of the positive buzzwords in Seattle’s scale fit with Duckworth's elements of grit, like: “Great effort,” “Confident,” “Clear,” “Trust” and “Focus.”

On his Compete to Create website, Carroll explained in 2019 how the Seahawks outline grit, with the team using Duckworth’s work to produce five descriptions:

  1. "Passion: This is all about having a fire, purpose and deep love for whatever you’re pursuing.
  2. Perseverance: It’s about enduring, sticking with it and always hanging tough, especially when you face difficulties.
  3. Resilience: We can’t let obstacles get in the way. Challenges will come, but we must bounce back and we must always believe and hold onto hope. Optimism is key!
  4. Driven to succeed: We want to operate from that inner motivation, that internal drive, and not let anything distract us from our pursuit.
  5. Finisher: Finishing for us is doing right longer than the opponent. We make a commitment to finish strong on every step of the journey.”

The crossover with the scale is again obvious. Take these definitions of true grit, sourced from a past NFL front office’s own competition scale:

  • "SUSTAINED PASSION"
  • "DOGGED TOUGHNESS"
  • "PERSEVERANCE"
  • "STICK-TO-ITVENESS"
  • "SELF-MOTIVATOR"
  • "OVERCOMES ADVERSITY"
  • "LOVES THE CHALLENGE"

The Seahawks’ scale, then, gives us even more of an insight into what Seattle is looking for when they are team building and when they are coaching. These are the important intangibles. Furthermore, the scale reemphasizes that, on the outside, it’s only more difficult to identify which players the Seahawks will draft or sign because the interviews and character analysis are hugely important in their evaluation process.

To take this a step further: when we look back at some of the more surprising Seattle selections—the players who weren’t necessarily the best athlete and also lacked some stuff on tape—it’s interesting to wonder how much competitiveness and grit was weighed into the pick.