"My mind started racing," Bevell recounted from his office on Thursday morning. "You start thinking about all the things you can do with a player like that. And now the hard part is to harness that talent."
At least he already has an idea of how to do that, having coached Harvin for the first two years of the mercurial dynamo's career with the Minnesota Vikings. And yes, finding a way to maximize such a unique talent -- a conundrum that has faced every coach Harvin has had over the past seven years, going back to Urban Meyer at Florida -- is part of the challenge.
But that's not the only complex aspect of Harvin, a player who has proven, at times, to be as difficult to deal with for those who are with him as he is for those who are against him.
As the Seahawks' resident expert on Harvin, Bevell became a valuable resource as they considered the merits of making a blockbuster deal with the Vikings. And while news of the trade came down suddenly to those watching from the outside, there was nothing haphazard about the transaction on the inside. It was thought through. It was researched. It was agonized over.
"There were different times I was asked, by both Pete and (general manager) John (Schneider)," Bevell said. "My reply was the same: It's easy to see what he can do on the field, and off the field, I never had one issue with him. We had a good relationship, an open line of communication; we could always talk. There were no run-ins. Percy's just a very competitive guy who wants to win and wants you to show him how he can help you win.
"I don't think he's selfish. He never asked for the ball -- it was just however he fit in. Our relationship was always fine."
Brooks: Seattle now scary good
From an organizational standpoint, the draft-pick compensation wasn't the problem when agent Joel Segal was given permission to seek a trade for Harvin. The Seahawks' willingness to go outside the box on this -- they weren't planning on pursuing any of the big-time free-agent receivers on the market in the first place -- related back to Harvin's age (24) and their relative inability to find a weapon like him with the picks they gave up (25th and 231st overall picks this year, plus a third-rounder next year).
The hard part was the contract, with the price being prohibitive initially. Once that was negotiated down -- to a six-year, $67 million deal, with $25.5 million guaranteed -- it was simply a matter of figuring out how Harvin would fit.
On the field, it's easy. Three months ago, Carroll told me, "We're looking for uniqueness in our players," and Harvin might bring more of that to the table than any of the different-looking talents already on the roster (e.g., Russell Wilson, Bruce Irvin, Richard Sherman). Seattle's most productive personnel grouping last year was "11" -- one running back, one tight end, three receivers -- and that plays right into Harvin's strengths, with his ability to play all the receiver positions and come out of the backfield.
The personality quirks were more difficult to sort out. But with each rock the Seahawks turned over in talking to former coaches and teammates, their comfort level increased. They'd found a player who was disruptive mainly when he felt that he was being disrespected or used incorrectly. Losing Brett Favre as his quarterback had also affected his mindset. Word was that he was fine the majority of the time.
So it seemed to be a matter of managing the rest, something the Seahawks, armed with Carroll, feel confident they can do.
"First and foremost, some of the guys Pete has helped have been guys who've gotten second chances," Bevell said. "He believes in them. And for some of the guys, they know it's their last shot. He works well with them, lays out the expectations, the philosophy, and it blends well. Now, it isn't like this is some kind of last chance for Percy. But the way Pete organizes things should be good for Percy. Pete's definitely the leader, but it's the way he leads -- guys just love to play for him.
"It's a lot of energy and enthusiasm. He expects them to compete. He has belief in them. And they play for him."
Carroll isn't the only reason the environment sets up ideally for Harvin. Another is Wilson, the precocious second-year quarterback who called Harvin right after the trade to set up workouts.
According to Bevell, the reason Favre and Harvin got along so well is that they'd reached an on-field simpatico, something Wilson can begin to form by getting in early work with his new Swiss army knife of a playmaker. The part about Harvin being used correctly and properly respected? The hope, at least, is that's being taken care of now.
"The communication Brett had with Percy, Percy was all ears, and it was really, really good," Bevell said. "What they saw on the field, the adjustments, they got to a point, because they communicated so well, where one could give the other an eye and they'd know what each other was thinking. He enjoyed that, being out there with someone who loved the game as much as he did. And you're starting to hear him make the same comments about Russell."
All of that is why, in those moments after the trade, Bevell wasn't thinking so much about what Harvin would do with his new riches and in his new environment. No, Bevell was thinking about what he could do to try and get the most out of the guy the great Adrian Peterson called "the best all-around player I ever seen or you'll ever see!" There's a challenge there for Bevell and Co. to confront, with an athlete who's neither a pure receiver nor a back, someone whose range of abilities is what sets him apart.
The coach himself is resolute, particularly after studying Harvin's tape from 2011 and '12, which illustrates even more versatility with more work out of the backfield. Bevell can't wait to see what this winds up looking like.
"That's our job, figuring out all these pieces," Bevell said. "Because even the prototypical guys have strengths and weakness, and we have to blend these guys together by using those skills and covering up those weaknesses. And Percy's gonna be a great part of it. We'll see how it blends. If you have one guy, the defense can overload to that side. And that's why it's important it's not just Percy. It's Golden (Tate), Sidney (Rice), Zach (Miller), Marshawn (Lynch) and Russell, too.
"They can pick their poison. It's gonna be a headache for defenses."
If Bevell and the Seahawks are right -- that Harvin will cause that pain for opponents and not create it internally -- the possibilities here are as endless as the various talents the new guy brings to Seattle.