It has become obligatory in every story about new Seahawks coach Pete Carroll to note that he had less-than-satisfactory results (career record of 33-31) during his first two stints in the NFL, first with the New York Jets, then with the New England Patriots.
But in Carroll’s case, the past is not necessarily prologue.
True, he inherits a team that needs (or soon will need) a quarterback, a left tackle (in fact, probably a whole new offensive line), and an impact running back. And we won’t even address the team’s defensive deficiencies here (we’re still trying to figure out how the team’s leading tackler in 2009 didn’t even become a full-time starter until Week 8).
Since the pro football merger in 1970, seven men have coached three different franchises (as Carroll is about to do). Of the seven, five posted a winning record in the first year of their third gig. And the two who didn’t had their teams in the playoffs in their second year.
Chuck Knox had been with the Rams and Bills before taking the head job in Seattle in 1983. Knox took a team that had gone 10-15 in its previous two seasons (1982 was a strike-shortened year) to a 9-7 first-year finish and won two playoff games.
Imagine the angst among Houston Oilers fans in 1990 when he club tapped Jack Pardee as its new head coach. Pardee, like Carroll, had a less-than-stellar career record (44-46) with little else in his resume to suggest he could make a Houston a winner. He did, producing four consecutive playoff teams, led by Warren Moon.
Bill Parcells took over the Jets in 1997, also went 9-7 in his first year, and had the Jets in the playoffs in two years.
Dan Reeves, coming off stints in Denver and New York, went 7-9 in his first season in Atlanta (1997), then uncorked a 14-2 record in 1998 and got the Falcons into the Super Bowl.
Marty Schottenheimer went 8-8 in his first year in San Diego (2002), but had the Chargers in the playoffs in two years (subsequently became the only coach in NFL history to get fired after a 14-2 regular season).
The Dick Vermeil era in Kansas City, starting in 2001, started out 6-10. But Vermiel had the Chiefs in the postseason two years before his contract was due to expire.
Chargers fans must have blanched when San Diego hired Norv Turner four years ago, given that he had just produced a 4-12 record in Oakland (sell that to your season-ticket base). But Turner produced three consecutive playoff teams in San Diego.
Carroll’s NFL record is not as so-so as it seems. Cashiered by the Jets after one year (6-10), he did not coach a losing season in New England in his three seasons there, starting in 1997.
There is nothing to suggest he can’t do the same in Seattle, especially given the history of the three-time head coaches who preceded him.