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Originally published Tuesday, January 3, 2012 at 8:02 PM

Pete Carroll believes Seahawks ready for next step

Foundation built in first two seasons, now Seattle has to keep key free agents and produce, coach says.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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RENTON — Coach Pete Carroll had no idea how long it would take.

He admitted that without hesitation during his first day on the job as Seahawks coach. He stood behind a podium in his suit and tie two years ago and asked about the timeline for contention before anyone else could.

"Nobody has asked yet, 'How long is it going to take you?' " he said. "I don't know. I've got no idea. I wish I could tell you. I don't know that."

Carroll has a better idea after concluding his second season in Seattle, and it sounds like the clock is officially ticking.

"We feel like we've arrived at a foundation point right now," Carroll said Tuesday.

The construction isn't complete by any means. There's still the question of a long-term quarterback and the need to improve the pass rush. But this franchise is no longer a fixer-upper. The roster has been retrofitted. The Seahawks have gotten younger, they have gotten faster and over the past two months this team has shown itself to be competitive.

That wasn't always true a year ago. Sure, the Seahawks had one of the most memorable playoff victories in franchise history, but they also lost nine games by 16 or more points. Being the first 7-9 division champion in NFL history isn't the kind of thing anyone aspires to.

It's different now. Seattle has forged itself an identity.

"We know the formula," Carroll said. "We know the style, we love the toughness, we like the way we prepare, the mentality in our locker room, the communication between the coaches and the players gives us a chance to really grow."

This offseason isn't just about addition, but avoiding attrition. That job starts with bringing back players like running back Marshawn Lynch and defensive end Red Bryant, who are among the 18 players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.

"We really want to focus on the guys on our team right now," Carroll said. "I want that to be a strong message. We believe the guys we put together here are the foundation of a championship team."

There's also the possibility that another team could come looking at Tom Cable as a potential head coach. Cable oversaw the restoration of Seattle's rushing offense this season as the Seahawks had their first 1,000-yard rusher in six years and improved from No. 31 to No. 21 in the league in rushing yardage.

"He's a really good football coach," Carroll said of Cable, "and he has a tremendous impact on a football team. We felt it. It was a tremendous get for us to have Tom come here.

"It's just a matter of time before somebody recognizes that and wants to come after him. I don't know when that's going to happen. I'm cutting the wires on his telephone here ... I'd better get his cellphone instead, huh? As far as I know, nothing has happened at this point."

It's early, though. The offseason is just getting started, but already it's clear that Seattle's to-do list is fundamentally different from what it was the previous two years.

After five victories in the past eight games, Carroll enters this offseason believing this team is ready.

"Now we've got to grow up," Carroll said. "We've got to do something with it. We haven't done anything yet, but we feel like we're at the point where we can ... I'm really enthusiastic and excited about what we can do now.

"But we've got to go do it. Saying all that doesn't mean a darn thing until we go out and do something with this offseason and come into preseason raring to go."

Notes

• WR Sidney Rice underwent shoulder surgery Tuesday. Recovery is expected to take three to four months.

Luke Butkus, Seattle's assistant offensive-line coach, has become the offensive line coach at his alma mater, Illinois. Jeff Ulbrich, the Seahawks assistant special-teams coach, will join Jim Mora's staff at UCLA as the Bruins' special-teams coach.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @dannyoneil.

Two for the money
Pete Carroll's first two years as Seahawks coach are comparable to Mike Holmgren's. The biggest difference? Age. A comparison at the end of each coach's second season:
Holmgren Comparison Carroll
15-17 Overall record 14-18
1 Playoff berths 1
0 Playoff victories 1
21.6 Points scored 19.7
22.0 Points allowed 22.6
296.0 Yards gained 300.9
369.0 Yards allowed 350.4
28.8 Average age of starters* 26.8

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