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Dan Morgan and Dave Canales lay out plan for the future

Dan Morgan, Dave Canales

CHARLOTTE — Dan Morgan and Dave Canales talked a lot about dogs Thursday, and even more about alignment. 

The kinds of players they wanted to find and the kind of organization they wanted to build were the major themes of their introductory press conference at Bank of America Stadium.

It started with Morgan, the team's new President of Football Operations/General Manager, making it clear that he wanted to get this version of the team more in line with the one he played for here in the early 2000s.

"We're super passionate about bringing a team that the fans can be proud of, players they can be proud of," Morgan said. "Like, when teams drive up to the stadium, we want them to fear that logo. The logo has to be feared again because right now it's not feared.

"So we've got to get that back, but I think it starts with getting the right type of players."

Dan Morgan

As he said that, he gestured to a crowd of current and former players who were there to see a new day for the organization. He pointed to Muhsin Muhammad and Mike Rucker, his former teammates on the team that bounced from 1-15 in 2001 to the Super Bowl two years later. He gestured to the current players, with half the offensive line sitting along one side. He mentioned Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith, Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. It appears he has a type. And he specifically called out former running back Jonathan Stewart.

"We need to find those leaders, those competitors; as J-Stew would say, those dogs," Morgan said. "We need some dogs. Like, we've got to get some guys that are passionate about football, that love football. They want to come out every day and compete on the practice field in the weight room. We need competitors.

"We've got to bring that back here."

That was music to Canales' ears, as the son of a pastor brought his own kind of evangelism to the event. His energy was evident in the way he talked to the crowd about coming here and what he wanted to accomplish.

He and Morgan share a common past in Seattle, and Canales clearly carries the Pete Carroll energy gene. So Morgan wanting to talk about being more aggressive, more forward, and more together was clearly something he was trying to create as well.

"For me, just the marriage and the connection of it with Dan and I is just to create an environment that's set up that our players have every resource at their disposal that they come in here," Canales said. "And they've got a plan for their body, they've got a plan for their mind, and they've got a plan for their whole person as they walk in. And that this building stops everything when our players come in and say, how can I help you? How can I serve you? That's the type of place that we have to be.

"It definitely speaks to the coaching staff being developmentally minded. I don't care about what we can't do. What can we do? Who are these players that we have, and how are we going to maximize those strengths on a daily basis? We're looking for championship moments, championship days, and that's gotta be a full-on commitment every single time we walk in here. . . .

"And I'm so excited to create that culture. Culture is what you celebrate. Culture is also what you condemn. And you say, 'this is a horrible-looking play. Look what happened right here, guys, boo this man, please somebody.' And then, at the same time, finding great opportunities from practice from games to celebrate it. That's how you create culture. And I'm really excited to be able to do that."

Dave Canales

The alignment piece of it also includes Executive Vice President of Football Operations Brandt Tilis, who was in the crowd and on their minds as they talked about building this thing. Those three have been put into place intentionally, and owner David Tepper used the word "connector" when describing his new power structure and pointed out their backgrounds in winning organizations. 

Canales said he and Morgan were two doors apart in Seattle, and he quickly realized they were simpatico.

"It was kind of a little bit of a crazy loud hallway for us," he said with a laugh of their Seahawks offices. "And what I remember about Dan in those times, just his conviction, his belief, actually. I'm sure you have a hard time thinking that he had an opinion about stuff. But right off the bat, just as a former player, he comes in like he could just see it; he could just tell what a good football player was. 

"And, I was by no means an expert at that time, but I just had a high value of my ability to evaluate, and Dan always had his opinions, and it was very clear that he felt strongly about it. So that impressed me early on, and then as we grew to get to know each other, it was just kind of like he was such a natural in this world of evaluating players."

The hope is that having these three leading the football operation will make a difference for a team in the middle of a six-year playoff drought. 

Tilis came from Kansas City, where he negotiated quarterback Patrick Mahomes' record-breaking contract and where they've been to the playoffs nine straight years and appeared in four of the last five Super Bowls, winning two entering next weekend. The 42-year-old Canales casually mentioned he had just finished coaching his 20th and 21st playoff games with the Buccaneers. And Morgan was with Canales in Seattle and had a hand in building a consistent winner in Buffalo, and also called it back to the 2003 playoffs here and what the atmosphere was like. 

"I remember those towels out there, the white towels waving around," Morgan recalled. "That's my dream for this organization. I was talking to Dave about that today, and we need to get that back, that excitement back here, and that's our goal, is to roll up our sleeves, work hard, and find those types of players that are going to help us get back to home playoff games and winning.

"That's what we want to be about here."

But they can give all the inspirational speeches they want — and Thursday felt like a tent revival at times — the important thing will be fixing the product on the field. 

Toward that end, Canales went granular. 

He's a stats guy. He talked about the importance of the quarterback getting the ball out in 2.7 seconds or less. He cited turnover margins, mentioning that "plus-one equals 82 percent win. That's a historical number. If we can just be one turnover better than our opponent, look what we can do."

So, for all the pep rallies, for all the motivation, Canales knows that if they can't score points better than they did last year, none of this will matter. 

"Let's just make it about the football," Canales said. "There's no storylines, there's no agendas, it's about good football. We've got to play good football on both sides of the ball.

"Be willing to look at it truthfully and improve and take the next step and improve and capitalize on these moments to just see that growth and watch what it takes us if we go after it every single day for a really long time. And for my players, I always say guys just get better the next day, do that for about 10 years, and look back and see where you went, see what you got. And for me, if it was this simple, how do we do that?

"It's our football philosophy here. It's all about the ball. We've got to be crazy about getting the ball on defense. We've got to be raking at the quarterback's elbow when we come when we're sacking the quarterback. Every tackle has got to be an opportunity to get this ball back offensively. Everything we do, from the protection calls all the way to how we carry it to our receivers, transitioning in the quarterback, and the decisions, is all about taking care of the ball.

"We'll set ourselves up for success, and that's if I can make it that simple; what if I told you in the wild card round that the quarterbacks and teams that didn't turn it over won the game? It was as simple as that. We even talk Xs and Os and what the style and philosophy of our offense or defense is. If we make it about the ball, we can go as far as we want to and put ourselves in a position to be a championship team."

They weren't winning a championship on Thursday. But they hope it was the first step in getting closer to having a serious conversation about it.

Take a look at photos from Dan Morgan and Dave Canales' introductory press conference.

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