Pete Carroll arrived at the NFL scouting combine media center Friday afternoon to take his turn at the lectern for the first time since taking over as coach of the Seattle Seahawks two years ago.
Carroll could be forgiven if he seemed a little distracted. Just a few feet away stood Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, eloquently fielding questions from a group of reporters.
And on the opposite end of the room he could hear the muffled voice of Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill answering queries about his recent foot injury.
With Seattle looking for a developmental-level quarterback in this year’s draft, Carroll’s first foray into the media center provided another opportunity to evaluate this year’s draft prospects.
Tarvaris Jackson remains the incumbent starter for the Sea-hawks, while backup Charlie Whitehurst is set to become a free agent in March, and rookie Josh Portis remains another of Seattle’s developmental prospects.
“Just getting a chance to watch these guys in this setting is really good as well,” said Carroll, taking a peek over his shoulder, “because everything counts in this evaluation as you’re trying to figure the guys out.”
Seattle’s goal each offseason is to improve at quarterback. But the Seahawks have yet to draft one since Carroll took over.
“Every year going into the draft we’re looking to take a quarterback and effectively upgrade the quarterback position, and this year is no different,” Carroll said. “It hasn’t happened via the draft, but we’ve been active. And we’ll do it again. We’re going into the draft with a very expressed intention to see if we can find a guy that can help out the club.”
One player Seattle would like a shot at, but likely will have to move up in the draft to get, is Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
On an afternoon when Griffin and Stanford’s Andrew Luck – the two top-rated quarterbacks – spoke within a half-hour of each other, Griffin won the first competition between the duo as they wait to see which player will be selected No. 1 in the draft.
Luck was honest and polite fielding questions, including several about the possibility of replacing his idol, Peyton Manning, with the Colts, who have the No. 1 overall pick.
But the charismatic Griffin seemed more comfortable and at ease in front of the throng of 100-plus reporters, commanding their attention in an engaging, 15-minute interview session.
Griffin said he’ll run at the combine but will not participate in the throwing portion of the workout.
“You don’t go somewhere and run a game plan you’ve never practiced,” Griffin said about his decision not to throw. “Throw to guys you’ve never practiced with in an environment you’re not prepared for.”
And he already answered questions about his size. Griffin measured 6-foot-2‚ . He weighed 223 pounds.
“We didn’t lie about my height,” Griffin said.
Griffin talked about overcoming the misconception that he’s a running quarterback. He said he’s comfortable throwing from inside the pocket, although he can run if he needs to.
Griffin also talked about how his skill set fits in a West Coast offense like the ones in Cleveland, Washington or Seattle.
“Once you get into a system it’s easy to learn it,” he said. “I’m not saying I’m going to open the playbook and know it immediately. But once you can get on the field and start going through the routes and the protections that you’re going to have to run in those types of offenses, it comes to you a lot sooner.”
Griffin was asked about a team such as the Cleveland Browns, who hold the No. 4 overall pick, being enamored with the idea of him leading them, and moving up in the draft to get him.
“I hope somebody falls in love with me other than my fiancée,” Griffin said. “That’s what you want. As a player you want a team that really wants you – head coach, GM, owner – everybody. Someone that really wants you in that place, and the players believe in you. So, that’s what I’m looking.”
Count Carroll as among those smitten, as he gushed when asked about Griffin.
And Carroll think that Griffin can successfully make the transition from a spread offense in college to a West Coast or play-action-based offense in the pros.