RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll seemed a little stunned when told he was the clear winner in ESPN.com's NFL Nation Confidential question: "Which head coach would you most like to play for?"
He also quickly saw an advantage to it.
"I'm surprised by that," said Carroll, who received 23 percent of the votes in an anonymous survey. "But, hey, free agency is a big deal to us. Maybe that can help us down the road."
NFL Nation reporters surveyed more than 320 players on a wide range of questions over a six-week period in November and December. Carroll was the most popular coaching choice with 72 votes. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin finished second with 44 votes (14 percent).
Carroll is seen as the ultimate players' coach, but some might say he won the vote because he's viewed as being soft on players.
Seahawks linebacker and team captain Heath Farwell said that perception isn't true. Farwell said Carroll is respected by players because of his clear teaching methods and his positive-reinforcement approach to coaching.
"If you make a mistake, he uses that as a teachable moment," Farwell said. "Pete explains what you did wrong and how you can correct. If you do something wrong, he will say that's not acceptable by the organization and explain why.
"We all make mistakes, but with Pete, it's about learning from it. He's not a talk-down-to-you or yell-at-you kind of coach."
Carroll gets a little agitated when people assume he's some type of new-age guru who walks around practice every day chanting peace and love. But he's never had the old-school, drill-sergeant approach to coaching.
"It's something that I think I've always done naturally, in respect to the players," Carroll said. "There are plenty of ways to adjust their play or be critical without doing it in the public eye.
"But we're open around here. We're honest enough and straightforward enough that we can talk right to our guys about any issue in front of the rest of the team."
Farwell said Carroll makes playing the game fun, but it isn't a party. The Seahawks didn't become Super Bowl contenders this season by goofing off.
"We practice hard on every play and we work as hard as any team, or harder," Farwell said. "But it's a fun team to play on because Pete's always so positive. He's the biggest cheerleader on the sidelines. He coaches with passion, and that's why guys play hard for him."
Carroll has no intention of emphasizing what a player does wrong.
"We don't feel like we benefit from that," he said. "We want to tell them the best thing we can tell them as quickly as we can. It isn't necessary to scream at them or yell at them. There are other ways to do it.
"The principle of it is we want to tell them, as soon as possible, exactly what they need to do to get it right. It's more about the correction than whatever the result was."
Carroll said he appreciates the vote from the players, but the message to any player is a goal of excellence.
"We're doing it with standards and expectations that are as high as you can get," he said. "I'm glad we've found a way to do it that guys appreciate it."