Peter McLoughlin dreamed of becoming a professional sportswriter. Instead, his story took a turn toward the business side of athletics. Now, he’s making headlines as the president of the Seattle Seahawks.
If all had gone according to plan, Peter McLoughlin would be a sportswriter now, perhaps even covering a team like the Seattle Seahawks. But don’t worry about McLoughlin. As president of the Seahawks since 2010, he’s well past any disappointment caused by his false start in journalism.
The main component of the life he envisioned came true: staying in the world of sports. That was a given from the start. He always loved being on teams, getting swept up in the thrill of competition, and the powerful sense of shared purpose.
He had been talented enough to earn All-New England honors in lacrosse as a prep, but at Harvard, lacrosse rather quickly relieved McLoughlin of his upper incisors. Better, he decided, to focus on sports from the press box. McLoughlin’s byline appeared for three years in a most august collegiate publication: The Harvard Crimson. Well into his senior year, he prepared for the next step, gathering his best clips and shipping his résumé to newspapers along the East Coast.
“I do not recall getting a response — at all,” he said. Those last days at Cambridge may have been the moment when the exigencies of rent and regular meals diverted him toward a more profitable Plan B.
But a deeper insight into McLoughlin’s mindset appeared four years earlier, with his decision to major in English literature. It wasn’t because he wanted to emulate Harvard’s Nobel and Pulitzer winners like T.S. Eliot or John Updike, but because, deep down, he really didn’t like to read.
“It was a kind of challenge to myself to have to read Chaucer and Shakespeare and Jonathan Swift, all the things I knew would be a struggle for me,” McLoughlin explained.
The logic was akin to someone deciding to enroll at Juilliard because he was bashful and couldn’t carry a tune. But it tells you a great deal about McLoughlin, and how he goes about identifying and attacking challenges.
Go back seven years, to September 2010, when McLoughlin was hired by the Seahawks. A foundation for success was in place. The team’s Seattle stadium and new Renton headquarters were top of the line, and most importantly, owner Paul Allen was fully committed and obviously well-capitalized.
But so much was unsettled. The team had gone 9-23 the two previous seasons, and was on its third coaching staff in three years. And the three franchise pillars beneath Allen’s ownership still were unproven.
For all the successes he helped bring to USC football, new head coach Pete Carroll had been unconvincing in two previous tries as an NFL head coach. His primary partner in the rebuild, new general manager John Schneider, was just 39, with zero experience piloting an organization on his own.
Tossed into the mix was McLoughlin, a rookie team president in the fiercely competitive NFL. But McLoughlin brought with him broad-based business experience, and had managed an impressive turnaround of the St. Louis Blues NHL franchise.
The Seahawks’ rebuild began on all fronts. Schneider made an NFL-high 284 roster moves in the first season, including the inspired trade for bullish running back Marshawn Lynch, whose suddenly totemic “Beast Mode” became an emblem of unrelenting toughness and laconic wisdom.
Lynch was the exemplar of the new Seahawks image. He certainly was the perfect cudgel for Carroll’s run-first offense, which complemented a defense committed to protecting every blade of grass on the field.
In 2012, Schneider spotted and conscripted the rarest of NFL jewels — a bankable franchise quarterback — in Russell Wilson. The result stunned the NFL: The Seahawks won one world championship in two Super Bowl appearances and made five straight trips to at least the NFC divisional playoff round.
The team was tough, sure, but also flashed a brash, competitive audacity. McLoughlin and his “team,” meanwhile, were prepared to handle the immense fan response with the same attitude. Entering the 2017 season, CenturyLink Field had sold out 122 straight times. Season-ticket sales hit the cap of 61,000, 12,000 more fans put down deposits to be on the “Blue Pride” waiting list, and 68,000 more have applied just to get on this coveted list. Local TV viewership rose 89 percent between 2011 and 2016, the largest growth in the NFL over that span.
Inside the headquarters, the triumvirate of Carroll, Schneider, and McLoughlin worked in concert, somewhat rare in the ego-rich NFL.
“He’s a real spirit of the third floor here,” Carroll said of McLoughlin. “He’s really the leadership of all the business parts, and we try to work in concert. He’s such a good partner for John and I to connect with, and (he) makes sure we’re staying on point with what’s important to our fans. He really does a marvelous job.”
As if providing a scouting report about a linebacker prospect, Schneider revealed this about McLoughlin: “Peter has a very, very aggressive approach, which, really, is similar to ours. Not just in negotiations, but how we touch the community, how we support the team. The players know there isn’t a division in this building; all the people are here for the right reasons.”
The financials are crucial, McLoughlin quickly conceded during an interview in his office at the VMAC, the team’s Renton practice facility/headquarters. But owner Paul Allen also charged him with overseeing a franchise that represents the community and the region — relying on the loyalty of a legion of fans.
According to the 2016 NFL Voice of the Fan Survey, the Seahawks offered the No. 1 game-day experience in the league. The study weighs a number of variables, such as the quality of stadium comfort and services, food and drink, game entertainment, and safety and security. The Seahawks have rated in the top four league-wide over the past four seasons after ranking sixth in 2012, the first year of the survey.