Pete Carroll’s first words as Seahawks coach weren’t said, so much as shouted.
Carroll was waiting to step to the podium, pacing alongside the stage at team headquarters as CEO Tod Leiweke introduced him. The new coach’s enthusiasm bubbled over when Leiweke mentioned the crowd at Qwest Field.
Just like that, the Seahawks had a new voice, one that has guided Seattle into this new chapter in franchise history. Exactly eight months and more than 150 roster moves after Carroll was introduced on Jan. 12, Seattle will take the field under Carroll for the regular-season opener against San Francisco.
For months, every little change has been noted and analyzed, from the basketball hoop that was erected next to the team headquarters, to the music that played during training-camp practices, and the relatively sparse number of two-a-day practices in August (four).
The Seahawks are different under Carroll, no doubt about that. Twenty-seven of the 53 players on the roster were acquired since he took over.
But are they any better?
Can a team that had only two sacks in the final five regular-season games last year find a way to put a helmet on San Francisco’s Alex Smith, now in his second run as 49ers starter?
Can the offense that was so stagnant the final four games of last season find its footing against a San Francisco defense whose strength is its front seven?
Can a team that was at the top of the division only three years ago show signs of recovery after two years of decay and defeats?
Playing the division favorite at home is one way to find out where things stand.
“We’ll get an early gauge of where we are,” Carroll said.
The question is whether the measuring stick that is San Francisco will also turn out to be a whupping stick.
The past month made it clear these Seahawks are very much a work in progress, Seattle holding the equivalent of an everything-must-go clearance sale on players picked by president Tim Ruskell.
And even after Seattle set its 53-man roster on Sept. 4, it hadn’t set its 53-man roster. It made seven roster moves in the three days after cutting its roster to the league-mandated limit. Of the 53 Seahawks, 10 were not on the team during the offseason.
“This is a roster that needed help,” Carroll said, “so we worked at it at every turn. Every aspect of the opportunities, we tried to take full advantage of it.”
Three of the 10 offensive linemen on Seattle’s roster were acquired in the past 12 days — including Tyler Polumbus, who very well might start at left tackle.
Hardly an ideal prelude to facing the 49ers, who had one of the best run defenses in the league last year and were tied for fourth in the league in sacks with 44.
The first game is just the first step in a long-term process, but Carroll insisted that all these changes were not coming at the expense of short-term gains.
“You would totally miss the message if you think that we’re projecting down the road,” Carroll said. “We’re trying to get as good as we can get right now — be as competitive as we can right now.”
Sunday’s game will be the first chance to check the progress.