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Winning Culture

Leading up to the Seahawks' home opener on Sunday, September 17, we will celebrate Paul Allen’s 20 years as owner of the franchise through a four-part series on Seahawks.com.

In part one, we look at how Allen has laid the foundation for a winning culture in Seattle.

By John Boyle

Paul Allen stood on a stage at CenturyLink Field on an unusually cold February afternoon, surrounded by Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, general manager John Schneider, president Peter McLoughlin and the players who had just helped the team to the first Super Bowl victory in franchise history.

Allen, a Seattle native and the owner of the Seahawks since 1997, surveyed the crowd that was reveling in the championship his team had won three days earlier. In a lifetime full of professional victories, this was one of the biggest.

“As an owner who was born and raised here, it’s a very special moment and the fulfillment of a dream, not just for me, but for everyone on the team,” Allen told the fans braving the cold at CenturyLink Field.

That Sunday evening in New Jersey when the Seahawks beat Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII, and the parade that followed with hundreds of thousands of fans filling Seattle’s streets, those moments were the culmination of years of hard work, the high point for the franchise, and further evidence of the impact Allen had made not just on an NFL team, but on an entire region since he bought the Seahawks and saved football in Seattle.

“The Super Bowl win was the most incredible thing, and one of the best things about it was seeing how gratified Paul was, how proud he was holding that Lombardi trophy,” McLoughlin said. “He had made it happen. You know it all starts with the ownership and the leadership. He hired the right people, he gives us the resources to do the job well and do the job right. And to bring that championship to Seattle and to see the incredible outpouring of gratitude from the fans during the parade afterwards was just one of the highlights of all our lives.”

While that Super Bowl victory was, up to this point at least, the high-water mark in franchise history, it has hardly seen lean times since. Over the past three seasons since Super Bowl XLVIII, the Seahawks have won two more NFC West titles, gone back to the Super Bowl once, and been to at least the divisional round of the playoffs every year. Since Allen took over the Seahawks, they have been to the playoffs 12 times, won nine division titles and been to three Super Bowls, and the Seahawks have won 10 or more games for five straight years, winning at least one playoff game each of those seasons.

And plenty of people have made huge contributions to those successful teams, including head coaches like Carroll and Mike Holmgren, as well as executives like Schneider, McLoughlin, and Tim Ruskell, and of course numerous players have huge roles in Seattle’s success, but the one constant over the past 20 years as the Seahawks have evolved into one of the league’s model franchises has been Allen.

“The one key ingredient that's been there the whole time, from the start of this newest winning period for the Seahawks, has been Paul Allen,” said Steve Raible, a former Seahawks receiver who is now the team’s play-by-play radio announcer. “He is the guy who has been there from the beginning. He made this happen. … That winning attitude started with Paul buying the team. Remember, Paul Allen has been successful at pretty much everything he's done. So why would this be any different? And he told (Seahawks president) at that time, Bob Whitsitt, ‘Go out and find me the best coach you can find me,’ and they did. They found a Super Bowl champion in Mike Holmgren, who came here and knew how to build this team.”

“This Was A Really Dire Situation”

Before Allen could celebrate playoff berths, division titles and even a Super Bowl championship, he had to produce one of the most important victories in franchise history—the one that would save football in Seattle.

With the Seahawks in the midst of the most successful run in franchise history, both in terms of the on-field product and the business side of the operation, it can sometimes be easy to forget how bleak things were before Allen entered into an option to buy the team, then exercised that option a year later. The Seahawks were in the midst of a long playoff drought in the mid-90s, and hadn’t won a postseason game since 1984, and then-owner Ken Behring wasn’t just thinking about relocating the Seahawks to Southern California; he had actually started the process following the 1995 season.

“This was a really dire situation involving the Seattle Seahawks,” said Gary Locke, who was the King County Executive at the time. “Ken Behring had made no bones about his dissatisfaction with the Kingdome and with the Seattle area. He, in fact, had actually tried to move the team and moved a lot of the equipment in moving vans down to Los Angeles, and we had to go to court to force him to keep the team in Seattle. So the drive was on to find a local owner who would be committed to keeping the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle as a resource and a treasure for the people of the Pacific Northwest.”

The search was on for a potential owner with local ties and deep enough pockets, and it didn’t take long for local politicians to realize that Allen, who already owned the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, was the man for the job, that is if he had interest in owning an NFL franchise.

“At the end of the day, there was no Plan B,” said King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “There was only Plan A, and Plan A was Paul Allen. Nobody in this community wanted to buy the franchise.”

In the mid-90s, NFL teams weren’t a sure bet, from a financial standpoint, like they are now, especially not in a midsize market with an aging stadium. And Allen had always been more passionate about basketball, so convincing him to buy the Seahawks wasn’t necessarily a slam dunk. But Paul Allen and Jody Allen had been raised by parents, Faye and Kenneth, who instilled in them at an early age the importance of giving back to the community, so even if there was significant risk in the purchase from a business perspective, and even if it would mean sacrificing more of his privacy, Allen agreed to purchase the team.

“If I entered the NBA out of passion, I was called to the National Football League out of civic duty,” Allen wrote in his 2011 memoir Idea Man.

“In the end, it wasn’t a financial decision,” von Reichbauer said, “It was a decision of commitment, and I go back to the fact that this is an Allen family commitment to this community, because there was no financial reason for him to buy the team, and there was no personal reason for him to buy the team… Paul Allen, he was not the last person standing, he was the only person standing. And he made a commitment not based upon a financial reward, not based upon anything personal; he based it on the values that his mom and dad taught him, and we owe as much to Faye and Ken Allen as we do Paul.”

Yet agreeing to buy the team was only part of the process. Next up, Allen and his team had to win a vote. For what is now CenturyLink Field to be built, voters state-wide needed to pass a stadium funding bill, Referendum 48—that’s XLVIII in Roman numerals, if you’re the type who believes in omens.

Allen agreed to fund the cost of the election, then he and his team went about making sure it would pass. The election, held on June 17, 1997, went down to the wire, but passed by a 51.1-percent to 48.9-percent margin, with the victory party including Allen on guitar. Allen, his team, local politicians, and passionate football and soccer fans all worked hard to pass Referendum 48, and on that June day 20 years ago, football in Seattle was saved.

“And then there was our hero, Paul Allen stepped up,” former Seattle mayor Norm Rice said. “Stepped up in a way that I don’t think anybody quite realizes how great it was that he would try to get that stadium. It was lobbying the state legislature, it was getting consensus in the media. It was everybody making sure that this was going to be our stadium and that we were going to be safe here in Seattle.”

A man who has succeeded in so many walks of life, from business to philanthropy to sports, Allen saved one of his biggest victories for an election that would change the sports landscape in Seattle, paving the way for the Seahawks’ long run of success in Seattle and the eventual addition of Major League Soccer to the Seattle sports landscape.

“Paul Allen is a unique individual, period,” Rice said. “He’s quiet, but he’s firm. He knows what he wants and he goes after it. He doesn’t necessarily need to be in the forefront of everything, but he wants to make sure that we are all moving in the same direction, and I think that’s what kept it going. Nobody was trying to one-up anybody; we knew who Paul was, we knew what he was bringing to the table, and we wanted to make it achieved. And that was that stadium.

“I know that Paul Allen saved the… how much does the city know? I don’t know. Because one of the things that you like about Paul Allen, he’s not somebody who’s there to take credit. He’s there to make something happen. And that is also powerful because it’s not just somebody looking for the headlines trying to stand out over everybody. He knew what he needed to do, he assembled the people to do it and we did it.”

“He’s A Fighter, So That’s What We’re All About”

In discussing Allen’s impact on the franchise, Seahawks Vice Chairman Bert Kolde, who also serves as the senior director of Vulcan Inc., noted that “Seattle is now part of the ongoing dialogue every NFL season.”

And as the Seahawks contend for division titles every year, and as Carroll and Schneider are regularly recognized as two of the best in their professions, and as multiple players represent the Seahawks in the Pro Bowl every season, it’s sometimes hard to remember a time when that wasn’t a case. But prior to Allen taking over the team, there was a long period between the peak of the Chuck Knox era and the late 90s when the Seahawks might have best been described as an NFL afterthought.

“The Seahawks are in the conversation like they have been for the last half dozen years now, they’re just in the championship conversation and in the mix,” Kolde said. “They’re not an afterthought. We’re no longer South Alaska; we’re the great Pacific Northwest.”

Allen doesn’t pretend to be a football expert—he isn’t giving Carroll Xs and Os advice on gameday, nor does he tell Schneider and his scouting department who to sign or draft—but he is a brilliant businessman who knows how to hire the right people and push the right buttons. And having succeeded in so many different fields, Allen helped instill an innovative, forward-thinking culture in the Seahawks organization.

“The way that Paul has established a championship culture is just that curiosity and the constant striving like there’s no finish line,” Schneider said. “We talk about that all the time here, how are we going to do it better than anybody’s ever done it before? I mean look what they did with Microsoft, right? How are we going to take that attitude of never thinking that we’re satisfied or never thinking that everything is good enough?

“Then we’re constantly trying to improve in every area that we possibly can in this organization. And when you read his book, you read everything about the risks they took early on starting Microsoft and everything, and again, everything that he has overcome individually. He’s a fighter, so that’s what we’re all about. We’re all about fighting, competing, and being curious and trying to stay ahead of the curve in every aspect we possibly can.”

The Seahawks have also been successful the past two decades because Allen isn’t afraid to make bold, and at times expensive, moves to improve his team.

When the team was treading water a bit in the late 1990s, Allen and Whitsitt made a big splash by hiring Holmgren away from Green Bay, where he had led the Packers to two Super Bowl appearances and one championship. Holmgren helped take the Seahawks to new heights, ending a long playoff victory drought, leading the team to its first NFC championship, and turning Seattle into an NFC West powerhouse

After Holmgren stepped down, and after the Seahawks went 5-11 in 2009 under Jim Mora, Allen opted to hit the reset button rather than wait and see how things would play out. That move was costly, as Mora had several years remaining on his contract, and could have been viewed as a rash decision—coaches are rarely fired after just one season—but in the long run, it was unquestionably the right decision for the franchise. Allen again made a headline-grabbing hire, prying Carroll away from USC after the national championship-winning coach had said no to the NFL so many other times. Schneider was hired days after Carroll, forming an unlikely pairing that became one of the most successful and harmonious coach-GM relationships in the league, kicking off the most successful period in franchise history.

“Paul is such a good owner because he cares, and he cares about putting on the field the best team he can to represent the community and to give them all the tools he can to succeed,” Kolde said. “And as part of that he’s made it a point to try to bring in the best coaches, the best executives to help as part of doing everything he can to maximize the probability of success. So he’s tried to give the team everything he can to make it successful."

As important as it has been for the Seahawks to hire the right people to run the organization, another big factor in Seattle’s success is how people like McLoughlin, Carroll and Schneider, and by extension, Allen, create a positive culture that breeds success both on the field and in the business side of the organization.

“It’s a place where you want to come in and work, and I think that’s the atmosphere and the environment that he has kind of set,” said All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner. “He has allowed us to be successful as we are, and it’s going to be successful as long as he’s here, because he has been an amazing person. After every home game, he’s probably the first person that acknowledges us when we walk through the door. And you know, I don’t know if he knows we appreciate it every time we see him in there and we just love his presence.

“I haven’t experienced it any other place because I’ve only been here, but from what I’ve heard, sometimes the owner can get in the way of a team’s success, whether it’s with the coaches or who we are. But he has created a great team with Pete and John and all those guys, and it’s just a fun, positive atmosphere that I feel like everybody from the outside looking in wants to play in. Everybody wants to play for this team, everybody wants to be on this team and I feel like that’s because of the people that are here in the building.”

The Seahawks have been one of the league’s most successful franchises since Allen took over, and after five straight playoff berths, Carroll feels like his team is still “right in the middle” of its current run of success. But before the Seahawks could become the model franchise that they are today, before that celebration could take place three-and-a-half years ago, Allen had to step up to buy the team and kick off an era of winning by earning, in the polls, one of the most important victories in Seattle sports history.

“Without Paul Allen, the Seahawks probably aren’t the Seattle Seahawks,” former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “And, you know, it gives me kind of goosebumps even to say that because of how awesome this team has been and this organization has been in the community.”


Leading up to the Seahawks' home opener on Sunday, September 17, we will celebrate Paul Allen’s 20 years as owner of the franchise through a four-part series on Seahawks.com.

In part two, we look at how Allen's philanthropic efforts have positively impacted the Seahawks, the Seattle region, and the world as a whole.

By Tony Drovetto

Kenneth Allen and Edna “Faye” Gardner, classmates at Anadarko High School, left their Oklahoma home for Washington state following World War II.

The newlyweds settled in Seattle in 1949, enabling Ken to attend the University of Washington where he would devote his professional life to improving the school’s libraries. Following his graduation in 1951, Ken began his career as a reference librarian and served Library School students as an instructor from 1954 to 1958. In 1960, he was appointed Associate Director of Libraries, a role he held until 1982.

Faye, meanwhile, transitioned from her childhood job at a small-town Oklahoma library, working at the University Libraries from 1949 to 1951. She taught fourth grade in the Seattle area at Ravenna School, instilling a love for books into her students. To this day, her passion for literature continues to be passed on at the Seattle Central Library, home to the Faye G. Allen Children’s Center, and through the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation’s Faye G. Allen Library Program, which supports the growth and success of local libraries.

While both of his parents have passed — Ken in 1983 and Faye in 2012 — the pair had a tremendous impact on shaping Paul’s, as well as his sister Jody’s, compassion for community.

“To me, the essence of this franchise is Paul, and the essence of Paul Allen is Faye and Ken Allen because they gave back to the community,” said King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “And they entrusted to their kids the values of giving back to the community.”

The philanthropic efforts Allen has spearheaded with the help of his fortune are nothing short of extraordinary. With a lifetime giving total that exceeds $2 billion, he has spent his career tackling some of the world’s biggest challenges, striving to shorten the distance between the impossible and possible.

“From the time that Paul and I were kids, we were raised in an environment where to have a healthy community means you participate in your community,” said Jody Allen. “And this was something that we were in a unique position to do.”

From world issues such as climate change, ocean health, wildlife preservation, and pandemic preparedness and prevention to focusing contributions on brain research, homelessness, and exploring critical questions in Artificial Intelligence, to pledging support for the sustainment of local neighborhoods, education, culture, and arts, Allen has had a hand in the advancement of just about everything one can think of.

“I think he set the pattern,” von Reichbauer said. "He did that as a result of the values that his mom and dad instilled in him. This is someone who grew up as the son of the assistant librarian at the University of Washington library, and he did not have a lot of resources, but I know for a fact his mother, Faye, who I had a chance to meet and talk to on a number of occasions, really instilled in her kids about giving back to the community, and she truly loved this community.

“She loved the arts, and she supported that extensively and instilled in both Jody and Paul a commitment to the arts. I think whether it’s medicine, the arts, or any issue that he’s been involved with, he brings 100 percent commitment, and again, he doesn’t need to do that. He does it because he wants to, and that’s a big difference.”

While Allen has his parents to thank for instilling a philanthropic nature in him, several Seahawks have the team owner to thank for helping pass on those same philanthropic principles to them. 

 “I think what Paul does for the community and in the community also inspires the players to give back,” said Seahawks president Peter McLoughlin. “And they know they have a responsibility to our fans and they have their own foundations and their own endeavors where they’re giving back to the community and so it’s really a synergistic thing. Owner, organization, player; we all want to give back to the community.”

And when it comes to giving back, there is certainly no shortage of Seahawks players who continue to influence with the work they do when they step foot off the gridiron. Several star players have formed foundations of their own to positively impact the Seattle community, their hometowns, or both. From Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor on the defensive side of the ball to Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, and Russell Wilson on the offensive side and every player in between, the Seahawks have made it a priority to make plays in the community as well as on the field.

“I think everything is inspired by the leader of your organization, the leader of your team,” Bennett said of Allen. “His influence in the organization is built around community, so if you’re part of the Seahawks you’re part of the community, and we give back on every single level, if it’s just locally, statewide, nationally and even globally.

“I think a lot of times you are a part of a team, but they just want you to be in just that bubble. I think this team is a team that wants you to see the world for what it is, and see how you can have the impact on it. I think if you just watch our leader Paul Allen and you see what he does, you just want to aspire to be just like that.”

Added Wilson: “That’s something that means a lot to me and so many other players as well, and to see your owner dedicate his life to making a difference in the world and doing a lot of charity work, it was really inspiring for us players too and I know it’s been inspiring to me to really help Seattle and do everything that I can to make Seattle a better place, but also the world a better place. When your owner is the person that you look up to to really help lead that, that’s a good thing.”

While Seattle players have championed causes ranging from childhood obesity to youth diabetes, and from providing resources to the underprivileged to pediatric cancer, Allen’s influence also extends to the Seahawks coaching staff and senior management.

Head coach Pete Carroll, who works to reduce and prevent youth and gang violence through A Better L.A. and A Better Seattle, as well as general manager John Schneider, who with his wife Traci help children with autism reach their full potential through Ben’s Fund, a program named after the couple’s autistic son Ben, have each taken their philanthropic endeavors to new heights under Allen’s ownership.

“I think when you see what he’s doing throughout the world, not only in Seattle, all the philanthropy is a very inspiring thing,” said Schneider. "Just for myself and my wife, the foundation that we’ve started, I know it is for Pete, and I’m sure it is, especially for all of the players to have your boss who’s just an incredible philanthropist.”

Said Carroll: “Without question, the work that our guys do and the connection they have to the community and their willingness and really their heartfelt connection that they have I think is a great example of following the leader in all of the things that Paul has done for the area. I mean he’s done things globally of course, but he’s been such a great leader in that regard and shown the ways for us and I think it’s just fitting that our guys would fall in line.”

Organizationally, not just individually, the Seahawks have taken steps to aid Allen’s Seattle-area philanthropic efforts, and the team’s Spirit of 12 program is a prime example.

Founded in 2004, the program embodies Allen and the team’s commitment to the Pacific Northwest. At every Seahawks home game, youth service organizations align with The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to raise funds for kids’ programs. The club’s Spirit of 12 Partners, which this year include Rainier Scholars, Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington State, Camp Fire Snohomish, Outdoors for All, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound, distribute the team’s gameday program magazines, keeping 100 percent of the proceeds which are then matched by Allen’s foundation. Since the program's inception, more than $3.8 million has been raised. 

“I think we’re over the top, we’re out there so much and in so many active ways and so many great ways that I think it fits right along with all of the work that Paul has done,” said Carroll. "I think he has truly been a leader in that regard and it’s really our duty to kind of live up to the kind of examples that he set.”

Examples Allen set after putting the morals his parents instilled into practice.

“It comes back from two people who entrusted in their kids the values of giving back,” von Reichbauer said. “I think this whole community becomes a ripple of that sense of values that the Allens gave to their two kids.”


Leading up to the Seahawks' home opener on Sunday, September 17, we will celebrate Paul Allen’s 20 years as owner of the franchise through a four-part series on Seahawks.com.

In part three, we look at how Allen helped bring Seattle's passionate football fanbase closer together, further uniting 12s at one of the loudest venues in sports.

By Tony Drovetto

A sea of more than 700,000 12s braved sub-freezing temperatures to take to the streets of downtown Seattle, where they would welcome home their Seahawks team that three days prior had claimed the first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history. 

They were there to “Celebrate 48,” which was set to honor the Super Bowl XLVIII-winning Seahawks with a victory lap through the city, starting under the shadow of the Space Needle at Paul Allen’s Museum of Pop Culture before crawling 2.4 miles down 4th Avenue and culminating with an intimate ceremony inside CenturyLink Field.

Whether they were situated on rooftops, hanging outside business or apartment windows, or carefully perched atop street signs, fans who couldn't snag a spot up close along the parade route found unique ways to secure a glimpse of the their championship club. People of all ages from all across the Pacific Northwest showed up for the Wednesday morning celebration, with adults skipping work and parents wisely choosing to pull their kids out of school for a monumental event in Seattle’s history.

Richard Sherman blew kisses into the crowd. Doug Baldwin’s voice grew hoarse as he hollered at swarm after swarm of 12 flag-waving supporters. Kam Chancellor bounced to the beat of Rick Ross’s “Hold Me Back” as the vehicle he was riding cruised past Westlake Center. Russell Wilson triumphantly hoisted the team’s Super Bowl hardware for all to see. And in between bops on an American-Indian hand drum he had procured from a willing fan, Marshawn Lynch tossed handfuls of Skittles into the crowd. 

“What an incredible day we had today,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said after the Super Bowl ceremony at the stadium. “Gosh, there are just not enough words to describe the emotion and the exchange that was given from the fans to our players and from our players to the fans.

“It was just an amazing day. The consistency of the intensity of the fans through the parade was amazing. … I can’t imagine a better one than that. It was just over the top.”

The over-the-top celebration epitomized part of what Allen hoped to accomplish when he agreed to buy the team to keep the franchise in Seattle. While putting a quality team on the field was indeed a priority, so was developing a stronger connection with the fan base, and establishing the Seahawks as a unifier within the community.

"I think the Seahawks have been a very powerful unifying force and that’s never more apparent than in the playoffs,” said Bert Kolde, Seahawks vice chairman and senior director of Vulcan Inc. "When you can drive around any neighborhood in Seattle and people have their 12 flags and they’re wearing their colors and you can just see that it permeates neighborhoods, all demographics.

“Everybody is part of the phenomenon. Everybody is part of the 12 phenomenon.”

“We Wanted To Give The 12s Every Edge We Could"

When Allen undertook construction of CenturyLink Field where the Kingdome once stood, he had the 12s in mind. As a kid, Allen would attend football games with his father at Husky Stadium, a venue that would ultimately influence the design of the Seahawks’ new home. Allen was attracted to the stadium’s vertical intimacy that allowed those in the upper deck to feel as though they were still close to the action on the field.

A traditional roof wasn’t in the cards, either. Allen preferred the open-air feel of Husky Stadium that showcased the Pacific Northwest’s scenery, and in the Seahawks’ case, showed off the city’s urban vista and nearby Pioneer Square. Instead, like at Husky Stadium, Allen opted for the roof overhangs fans know today, which double as weather protection for most of the stadium’s seats as well as a potent weapon when the Seahawks are on defense.  

“By making the seats as close as possible to the field and by putting in a roof system we also knew that we were maximizing the channeling of sound off the field so that the crowd sounds were either coming directly on the field or they were ricocheting off, being reflected by the roof structure back down onto the field,” said Kolde. "We wanted to give the 12s every edge we could and help amplify that in a natural way, and I think we succeeded."

Arm CenturyLink Field’s unique design with the League’s loudest fan base and the end result yields one of the best home field advantages in the NFL.

Since the 2005 season, no club has generated more false starts at home (155) than the Seahawks, and since moving to the NFC in 2002, the Seahawks' first year at CenturyLink Field, Seattle has the League’s second-best home winning percentage (.708) with an 85-35 record and is one of just two teams (Green Bay Packers) to record 80-plus home wins in that span. Since 2003, all but one game has sold out, giving the club 122 consecutive sellouts heading into the 2017 season, including playoffs.

“The 12s are a unique fan connection, because when a fan is a 12 they’re not just a fan, but they are connected to the team,” Kolde said. “When they’re there at the stadium as a 12 they’re helping to influence the victory with their cheering, creating a difficult environment for the opponents. They’re not on the outside looking in. They are part of the team and they are part of the victory."

Added Seahawks general manager John Schneider: “It’s just a very, very difficult place to play in terms of the volume. I know that in speaking with guys that have been in the huddle. You can’t hear the quarterback.”

Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner can attest to Schneider’s point. 

“It does give you the chills, as far as the defense it’s a huge advantage for us because the offenses can’t hear, and they can’t communicate like they would normally do while they’re at their home stadiums,” Wagner said. "That’s why we try to play to them, we try to make them get as loud as they possibly can because they’re really helping us out there on the field. They mess up the offense more than they probably know.”

Yet even more than impacting the opposing offense with deafening audibles, Seattle players and coaches find ways to feed off the fans as energy levels dip late in the game.

“All of a sudden, you see the fans jumping up and down and all of a sudden your spirit starts to rise and your energy level starts to go up to a whole other level,” said defensive end Michael Bennett. "And just because of the fans’ spirit and their willingness to stay along with you through the journey it inspires you to keep going and the fans just keep going. Their energy comes, and you’re like 'OK, maybe I can do this for one more play.' And I think that’s what so great about the fan base, the energy that they bring every single Sunday is just amazing.”

Said Carroll: “It’s a very special place. It’s special because of the people that bring all the energy, but the design of our stadium is often overlooked and I know Paul had some play in that. The place just rocks. And it shouldn’t, you know, sixty-something-thousand fans, open-air stadium, how could it possibly be that loud? But it is, and it’s a great place to play. We’ve had tremendous winning ways there.”

A Tradition Continues

The Seahawks franchise was just eight seasons old when it retired its first jersey number. The No. 12 was hung up in honor of Seattle’s fan base in 1984, 11 years before the club would recognize a player with a jersey retirement (Steve Largent, No. 80, 1995).

In 2003, under Allen’s watch and direction, the 12s were honored once again, this time with a flag. That year, prior to an October game against the San Francisco 49ers, 12 original season ticket holders hoisted a 12 flag at CenturyLink Field just before kickoff, a tradition that stands today. At every home game, former Seahawks greats as well as local celebrities and sports personalities raise the flag in honor of the 12s, signaling the spirit of community that the organization and fans share. The 12 flag has become one of the modern-day symbols of the Seahawks, with the team even choosing to buck a longstanding trend with their Super Bowl championship visit to The White House, where they presented then-President Barack Obama with a 12 flag rather than a jersey with his name on the back.

“It is so much fun, and I still get goosebumps when they play the music to raise the 12 flag,” said former Seattle receiver turned “Voice of the Seahawks” Steve Raible. “And depending on who it is and the story that they have to tell, it’s just amazing. Gameday at CenturyLink Field is like nothing else I’ve ever been a part of. I don’t know if I could ever walk away from it.”

Allen has raised the flag on three separate occasions, hoisting No. 12 up the pole before each of the three NFC Championship games (2005, 2013, 2014) the Seahawks have won.

Said Raible, “For all the coaches and all the players, the great players that we’ve had here, Hall of Fame players, and who deserve the recognition, there is no louder cheer, no louder applause at CenturyLink Field on a Sunday than when Paul Allen raises the 12 flag.”

“What He Saw Was A Chance To Bring The Community Closer Together"

For all the false starts forced, 12 flag's raised, and seismic activity caused at CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks’ connection to their fan base goes well beyond gameday.

“The Seahawks really are a perfect reflection of his attitude and commitment to community,” Gary Locke, who was King County Executive when Allen bought the team, said when discussing Allen’s Seahawks ownership. "How the Seahawks have really galvanized the community and really generated so much spirit. Everywhere you drive you see flags, the 12 flags flying. You see Seahawks banners on business windows, on automobile antennas, on bumper stickers and everything else. People of all ages, boys and girls wearing the jerseys of different players. The Seahawks have really captivated the community.

“The Seahawks to a person have been incredible ambassadors, more than just football players and more than just providing entertainment for us in the community,” he added. “But they’ve also really helped provide enthusiasm and spirit and vision in our community and really making our community, I think, a better place to live, work, and to raise a family."

Captivating the community starts with showing face in the community, something many players — current and former — aren’t afraid to do in a town that feels as passionate as it does about its professional football. When they’re not at work, Seahawks players, coaches, and staff are constantly finding ways to strengthen the already rock-solid bond the team has with the 12s.

“I think the crowd is so invested in us because I feel like they love who we are as people, just like we love who they are as people,” said Wagner. "They see us out grocery shopping and they show love and whether it’s out on the practice field or the game we try to interact with them. We try to let them know that we hear them and I think that kind of gets them riled up a little bit more.”

Added Raible: “That connection started then [in 1976], between the fans and this team, this organization, and it continues on. In recent years, when they became known as the 12s, and of course with the success under Pete and Paul and John Schneider, it has just been nurtured, and it makes it, I think, the best organization in football, and it starts at the top.”

Sports can be a powerful unifier, and as Raible notes, what the city of Seattle has in Allen’s Seahawks should be viewed as one of the best in the business.

“What he saw was a chance to bring the community closer together,” Raible said. "If you go down to CenturyLink Field every Sunday, you’ll see that. You’ll see that diversity. You’ll see that community. You’ll see it in the age from the 70-year-old who watched us back in the day to their grandkids who are with them every Sunday. That’s what he built here. That’s why it’s so special. That’s why guys like me don’t want to ever leave. We don’t want to get too far away from it because it’s just such a great joy to be a part of.”


Leading up to the Seahawks' home opener on Sunday, September 17, we will celebrate Paul Allen’s 20 years as owner of the franchise through a four-part series on Seahawks.com.

In part four, we look at how Allen's leadership and inquisitive thinking keeps us at the forefront of competition.

By John Boyle

For several years, NFL teams came calling, and Pete Carroll kept saying no.

After finding himself as a coach in the college ranks, Carroll was hesitant to return to the NFL, where he had been twice fired as a head coach, because no team was able to offer the right setup. 

Then in January of 2010, Paul Allen and the Seahawks approached Carroll, and suddenly the NFL was a very real consideration for one of college football’s best coaches. 

“This is exactly the format and makeup of the job as I’ve envisioned it,” Carroll said on the day he was introduced as Seattle’s head coach. 

Leadership can show up in a lot of different forms, sometimes in knowing when to step in and make tough decisions, sometimes in making the right hires, and sometimes, it’s recognizing when it’s best to put the right people in place, then take a step back in order to let those people operate at their best. Allen, the owner of the Seahawks for the past 20 years, did all of those things when he oversaw coaching and front office changes following the 2009 season, moves that kicked off the most successful era in franchise history.

There are different ways to successfully run an NFL franchise. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is as hands-on as any owner in the league, and he was just enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but Allen’s version of ownership, while also wildly successful, is much more about putting the right people in positions of power, then making sure those people are in the best possible position to succeed. 

“The driving force was Seattle and Paul Allen,” Nate Carroll, Pete’s son and the Seahawks’ assistant wide receivers coach, said days before Super Bowl XLIX. “It was a great organization, great stadium, great fan base. He was going to be given all the responsibilities he was looking for; Paul was going to give that to him. (Carroll) said, ‘This is everything I was hoping for.’”

In turning the Seahawks into one of the league’s model franchises, Allen has shown a remarkable ability to be removed from the spotlight while also having his fingerprints all over the most successful elements of the organization, be it the process of getting a stadium deal done to keep the team in Seattle, or the important front office and coaching decisions that have shaped the on-field product as well as the team’s business success. 

“Paul’s very unique, and in that he demonstrates a great trust in us, in what we’re doing and that which he stands for,” Carroll said. “For John Schneider and myself in running the program, that is so powerful for us. And it allows us to think freely, think outside of the box, be willing to take chances and the kinds of risks that get you real great rewards.

“I think it comes right from his leadership and really just kind of all of the life that he’s put together and the accomplishments that he’s made. He’s very special in that regard. He really lets us do the job and we communicate on a level that I think would surprise a lot of people. Whether it’s players or scheme of things that we’re doing, or trends and things that are going on in the game, we’re able to talk to Paul and he’s a great asset for us as well. But he does it really from a direction that allows us to be really kind of fortified in our thinking, and it emboldens us.”

Added Seahawks president Peter McLoughlin: “I have never worked for a better boss, because I’ve never had a boss that was willing to give me so much autonomy and authority to do my job. That’s incredibly empowering, and I think Pete and John feel the same way.”

“He’s A Very Inquisitive Individual. He’s Always Thinking About What’s Coming Next"

While Allen gives his employees the latitude to do their jobs, that shouldn’t be mistaken for complacency or disinterest on his part.

Allen isn’t going to tell Carroll how to coach his team on Sundays, or tell Schneider how to set up his draft board, but you’d better believe those two, along with McLoughlin, keep their boss in the loop and listen to his feedback. Allen is an involved, hands-on leader when he needs to be, he’s just not an overbearing one.

“My relationship with Paul is really cool because, like myself he’s a very inquisitive individual,” Schneider said. “He’s always thinking about what’s coming next and not necessarily concerned about the past, which is I think a great thing. He’s a huge chess player and he’s always thinking about different moves and how to help people, or how to advance the different companies that he owns.”

Whether it’s decisions McLoughlin oversees on the business side, helping the Seahawks succeed financially while providing for fans the league’s best gameday experience, or methods used on the football side of things that help players “find their best in all areas,” the Seahawks have been one of the league’s most cutting-edge teams, hardly a coincidence for a franchise owned by one of the world’s most successful innovators.

“Paul is a person who doesn’t just accept the status quo,” said Bert Kolde, vice chairman of the Seahawks and senior director of Allen’s Vulcan Inc. “He tries to make it better. He tries to be the best, to make the organization be as successful and be the best it can be. And he will ask questions. He’ll challenge people to think out of the box, to not always just keep doing things the same way they’ve been done the last 20 years, but to look at doing things in more innovative ways.

“And he’s a synthesizer, he’s a person with interests in a lot of different areas; technology, medical research, computer technology, media and culture. And he tends to often connect the dots and do things that are multidisciplinary, come up with solutions that draw on some of the best ideas and best practices in those different areas.”

“We Think He’s The Best Owner In The League… He’s Very Empowering”

Before he purchased the Seahawks, Allen had already, to name a few things, co-founded Microsoft, launched Vulcan Inc., began the process of transforming Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, given millions to various philanthropic causes, owned an NBA franchise and beaten cancer, so he really didn’t need a successful NFL franchise to validate his legacy. That said, once he bought the Seahawks, he had no intention of failing. 

Allen’s leadership style may be hands-off at times, but he’s also willing to take big risks to succeed. To get his team on track in the late 90s, Allen and the Seahawks brought in one of the league’s top coaches, Mike Holmgren.

“Because they knew what Paul Allen was all about, and Microsoft being cutting-edge technology, it was just very exciting for a lot of people, and I think that was one of those things that attracted a lot of people here,” Schneider said. “I know my former boss in Green Bay Mike Holmgren was very excited to come here, and Paul was a huge attraction for him.”

Whether it is to hire coaches or allow front offices to acquire and retain players, Allen has never been hesitant to commit financial resources. And when the team had a bumpy couple of years, Allen pushed the reset button and brought in Carroll and Schneider, who along with McLoughlin have formed one of the league’s best and most harmonious front offices.

And perhaps nothing better illustrates Allen’s leadership than the utter lack of dysfunction or conflict at the top of the organization with McLoughlin, Carroll and Schneider in charge. It’s commonplace in the NFL to hear about tension between coaches and general managers, or between ownership and football operations, but thanks to the contract extensions Allen and McLoughlin negotiated with Carroll and Schneider last summer, the Seahawks are looking at a decade-plus of harmony, and, based on what has taken place so far, at on-field success as well.

“He’s also a guy that very much has incredible questions, and then lets you do your job, and he has the ability to communicate when he has those real poignant questions about specific situations we’re going through,” Schneider said. “And yeah, compared to other owners, he’s not here every day. He’s not micromanaging what we’re doing. I think he trusts what we do in our approach. Obviously we think he’s the best owner in the league. He doesn’t have false expectations and he’s just, he’s very empowering.” 

And people have taken notice of the environment Allen’s leadership has created over the past 20 years. Not just because the Seahawks have been so successful, winning nine division titles, three NFC championships and one Super Bowl, but because of the unique culture Allen created in Seattle.

“My dad played for four different teams in the NFL,” former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “I was a ball boy as a kid for the New England Patriots. I’ve played for four NFL teams now. Now in my role at ESPN I kind of see all the teams, I’m at every Monday night football game, I can speak for players and maybe coaches. I think they’re jealous of the Seattle Seahawks and their owner and their fans and their stadium. Just generally I think most players are like, ‘Man, the Seahawks do it a little better than everybody else.’”