RENTON, Wash. -- Pete Carroll was halfway off the stage when he walked back and dropped perhaps the biggest nugget regarding the Seattle Seahawks offseason.
Re-signing quarterback Matt Hasselbeck isn't just important. It's the Seahawks' No. 1 priority, Carroll said.
"It's the top priority in the program. You have to deal with this or you don't understand the game and I think we understand it really well," Carroll said. "That's why the very first meeting after our team meeting was [general manager] John [Schneider] and I and Matt. I guess you gauge what you think of that in terms of sense of urgency. We couldn't have done it more quickly."
Carroll touched on a little of everything Wednesday morning as he wrapped up his first season back in the NFL with a 40-minute dissection of the Seahawks' dubious 7-9 regular season that ended with an NFC West title and a stunning first-round playoff upset of New Orleans. The Seahawks fell to Chicago last Sunday.
Most of the discussion revolved around Carroll's decision a day earlier to fire offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and bring on Tom Cable as an assistant head coach in charge of the offensive line.
But at the end of his news conference, Carroll reiterated the team's desire to have Hasselbeck -- an unrestricted free agent -- return for an 11th season with the Seahawks and build on their unlikely division title.
"We have a good starting point. I love what Matt has brought to this program, well before I got here, what he did this year and what he did for me to help in getting this program started. And I'm not forgetting about any of that," Carroll said. "We'll deal with it hopefully with all of the due respect and regard and come up with a really good plan."
If Hasselbeck does return to Seattle, he'll be playing for a fourth offensive coordinator in four years after the swift dismissal of Bates. Carroll said his decision to fire Bates was due to a "philosophical issue" and for a move in a different direction, but Carroll indicated the offense won't change drastically. Whoever is brought in as the new offensive coordinator will be fitted to what Carroll wants, not wholesale changes affecting the entire offensive schemes.
"There's a lot that goes into that word 'philosophy.' That covers a lot of stuff. I'm just going to leave it at that. I think that's the best way to say it," Carroll said. "We saw things differently, and as we're going to move ahead, I had some thoughts on how I wanted it to go, and I think this was the best thing at this time to do."
Carroll added that Seattle's dismal offensive performance this season, where they ranked 28th overall during the regular season and were 31st in rushing offense, was not at the root of his decision to replace Bates.
And he was already conducting interviews, confirming that Minnesota offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was at the team's headquarters interviewing for the job. Carroll has both offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach positions to fill and would like to keep each separate.
"I want to make sure that we're able to do all of the things that we believe are important. The balance we want to create, the attitude about the running game, the toughness that it brings to our whole football team. The approach and all, a lot of those things had nothing to do with the coach," Carroll said. "It just had to do with me getting the job done, and being able to facilitate that to come to life. I didn't get it done."
By bringing in Cable, Carroll said he hopes to regain some of the toughness on the offensive line he believes was lost when Alex Gibbs abruptly retired a week before the regular season began. The struggles of Seattle's run game was a season-long issue and even the acquisition of bruising running back Marshawn Lynch couldn't provide the desired results.
Seattle went through 10 different offensive line combinations during the season and Lynch became Seattle's only 100-yard rusher when he ran for 131 in the Seahawks' 41-36 upset of New Orleans in the first round of the playoffs. That effort was buoyed by Lynch's 67-yard touchdown romp through most of the Saints defense in the final minutes that clinched the victory.
Carroll said he wasn't deterred by Cable's off-field problems in Oakland or his rocky relationship with Raiders owner Al Davis, who did not retain Cable at the end of this season despite the Raiders finishing 8-8.
"This is a good time for him to come to us," Carroll said.
Aside from re-signing Hasselbeck, Carroll said upgrading both the offensive and defensive lines would be a focus of the offseason, even if no one is quite sure how free agency is going to play out with the possibility of a lockout. Seattle has 27 players on its final 53-man roster or injured reserve who are not under contract for the 2011 season, including nine starters from last week's game against Chicago.
Carroll said he'd like to get as many re-signings resolved as possible before a potential lockout hits in early March
"The thinking has to be adjusted this year because you don't know. ... It's a real unusual year and I don't have the answers for you on that, but we're working at it and trying to figure it out," Carroll said.