HOLLYWOOD -- This is not the Doug Baldwin who casual football fans know. Wearing gym shorts, a T-shirt and an easy smile while dining on a cheeseburger and fries in the lobby of the W hotel, the Seattle Seahawks' leading wide receiver is relaxed, soft-spoken and introspective. There are no signs of Angry Doug, the alter ego who is quick to challenge reporters, teammates, coaches and management if he feels something or someone is out of line.
Angry Doug might appear divisive to outsiders because of his willingness to speak his mind, but the sixth-year pro is embraced within a Seahawks organization that, under coach Pete Carroll, prides itself on allowing players to be themselves. For Baldwin, that means confronting every slight -- real and imagined.
"Doug Baldwin is what we are all about," says general manager John Schneider. "He has been a heartbeat player since he entered the building."
"I think there are many more players blessed with more ability. I've worked hard with what I've been given ... and I've had to go about making improvements in different ways. If I was doing the things everyone else is doing, I wouldn't have the same results."Patriots QB Tom Brady, on his desire to keep competing
Schneider has every desire to keep Baldwin in the building well past 2016, the final year on his contract. Baldwin is coming off a breakout season in which he set career highs for catches (78), yards (1,069) and touchdowns (14), and his 11 aerial scores over the final six weeks were more than every other player and five teams.
Baldwin signed a $13 million, three-year extension in May 2014 that includes a base salary of $4 million this season. He clearly has outperformed that deal, but the likelihood of him receiving the contract of an elite No. 1 receiver seems remote because the Seahawks' success is built on a strong running game and a defense that has allowed the fewest points in the league each of the past four seasons.
Angry Doug would have no problem arguing why he deserves a significant raise, but the Doug Baldwin who spoke calmly last month during lunch chose a more pragmatic approach.
"If I continue to work hard, if I continue to strive to get better and not focus on things money oriented, it's eventually going to come," he says of a new contract. "And even if it doesn't, I'm fine with that, too, because at the end of the day, I'm controlling what I can control. That's all God gave me, was the tools to control what I can control. If it doesn't work out the way that I want it to work out, that to me is just God telling me that He has a better plan."
There seems a reasonable chance of an extension getting done this year because both sides want it to happen. Baldwin knows he is part of a special group of players, coaches and personnel people such as Schneider, whose rosters have produced four straight playoff appearances, including two trips to the Super Bowl and one championship. And the Seahawks know Baldwin's value cannot be completely measured by statistics, as last season attests.
Seattle was teetering on missing the playoffs after a 4-5 start. The only consistency to their season was its inconsistency. Two losses were followed by two wins, then two losses by two more wins. A 39-32 loss at home to Arizona left the Seahawks staggering and below .500 after nine games for the first time since 2011.
They were dealing with a hangover after losing the previous season's Super Bowl, a contract holdout the first two weeks by strong safety Kam Chancellor, struggles to involve tight end Jimmy Graham, who was acquired in a trade during the offseason, a decline in performance by the offensive line and quarterback Russell Wilson, and an injury to workhorse running back Marshawn Lynch.
Something needed to be done. Something needed to be said. Baldwin was among those who challenged not only his teammates, but also Carroll and his staff.
"We weren't playing well, and a lot of what was being said [by players and coaches] wasn't being pointed enough or sharp enough," Baldwin says. "It was like, It's going to be OK, and I'm thinking in my head: 'Nah, it's not OK. And it's not going to be OK until we get our stuff together.' A lot of the leaders in the locker room, we started being more vocal -- not only to players, but to coaches regarding the environment we were creating and the message we were sending. It took a while, but our play started reflecting how we wanted everybody to be."
The challenges were not just about culture, but also play design.
"I'm not afraid to say this, but Pete and I, we had heated debates on the sideline," Baldwin says. "We had more debates on the sideline than in previous years. I want to help the team, and in my mind, as a receiver, you want the ball, you want opportunities to do things to help the team. I put my emotions out there to let it be known, and all the players will tell you, if you don't have a player like that, that can harness that in the right way, then they're not really worth anything. If I'm just out there, and I'm OK with us losing and not converting on third down, then what am I really there for? I'm just going through the motions."
Baldwin's frustration stemmed not only from a lack of opportunities, but also with him not being a first or second option in some red zone passing situations. When offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell changed that, Baldwin's output soared. After catching only three touchdown passes in the first 10 games, he had 11 in the final six -- more than the Colts (10), Ravens (10), Falcons (8), Browns (8) and Cowboys (7) had during that time.
"Bevell and I -- we joke about it now -- but we got into a very heated argument that some players had to step in," Baldwin says. "It's part of the game. If I could go back and handle it differently and act differently, I would. But I'm just very passionate about the game. ... Part of me wanted to go on a rant toward critics and say, 'I told y'all.' But another part of me -- the part that has the humility -- knows that my real goal and real focus is to try to win championships."
That's why Baldwin is realistic when it comes to 2016. He knows his opportunities likely will be limited, because the Seahawks figure to rely on a blueprint that has produced an average of 12 wins a year the past four seasons. That means running the ball and playing great defense. For the wideouts, glory is often in the sacrifice.
"We're going to go back to the run game; we're not going to be throwing the ball as much as we did," Baldwin said. "That's why the only thing that I'm keyed in on is making sure that I stay as efficient as I was. Like, catch rate. If the ball is thrown my way, if it's a catchable target, do I catch it? I think last year I had only two drops maybe. I want to continue that path. I know everybody is going to talk about the raw numbers, but I'm not going to get the raw numbers. I'm not going to get 120 catches a season. That's not built into our offense. What I am going to get are chances on third down, so I'm going to make the best of those when I get them. I have to measure myself against them."
The Stanford alumnus led all receivers over the final six weeks with 225 yards on third down. Four of those catches went for scores, matching his total over the previous 72 games. Will that be enough to get him an extension befitting someone who tied for the league lead with 14 touchdown catches last season? And if so, will it come sooner than later?
Chill Doug isn't stressing over it.
"I didn't sign my new deal until almost June last time, so the offer is going to come," he says. "John pretty much told me that the offer was going to come after the draft. Even if it doesn't come, I'm not worried about it. Why not? Because there are other things I value in life. I don't value worrying about that."