In the five years since his controversial hire from USC, Pete Carroll created lushness from a nuclear-winter sports landscape. Said Carroll: This is as good as it gets.”
Making the social media rounds this week is a blog post in the Los Angeles Times from 2010 about the rumor that Pete Carroll was about to leave USC to fill the Seattle Seahawks’ coaching vacancy. Written by longtime sportswriter Ted Green, the post conveys incredulity that Carroll could be such a pinhead.
In part, it reads:
Tell you what else is going down if Pete takes the Seattle job: his credibility. And any chance he had of forging a coaching legacy anyone will want to remember.
USC is Heisman Trophies, Heritage Hall, the Trojan Band and fighting for the BCS national title nearly every year.
It’s Notre Dame, UCLA, the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl.
The Seahawks are in Seattle someplace, on the way to Alaska.
He was right, of course. Seattle is on the way to Alaska.
On the fifth anniversary this week of Carroll’s hire, it appears the rest of Green’s screed is just a bit outside. But only with the wonder of hindsight.
At the time, there was little to recommend the job for what would be the third coach in three years, and only a bit more to recommend the hire of Carroll.
In Seattle, the previous coach AND the general manager had been fired within a month of one another by the people who hired them, which didn’t speak well to owner Paul Allen’s stewardship. Sure, the Seahawks made it to the Super Bowl in 2006 but that was so . . . 2006.
Nothing is more here and now than the NFL. Ask former Broncos coach John Fox.
In Los Angeles and the nation, Carroll was seen as a college-only coach after firings from two NFL jobs. And his program was under investigation by the NCAA for rules violations.
His improbable departure and hire were greeted by mass skepticism. Which is why, five years later, the grin on Carroll’s face can be seen from the International Space Station. That explains why Monday he was even more loquacious than usual when asked to reflect on his anniversary.
“It’s gone great — it’s been an amazing experience to come here and embrace a whole new environment, a whole new culture of fans, the history of a club, and ownership,” he said. “I thought I could never top what I did at USC.”
His USC time included seven consecutive Pac-10 championships and national championships (at least, that’s how they were known in the old days) in 2003-04. He proved, at least, he could coach the kids. Yet he was stuck with the pitifully lame “rah-rah” label that was sports-world shorthand for not being man enough for the big time.
“I had thought I had seen the top of it — we won for so long,” he said. “We won a lot of games there, a lot of games in a row — how could you hope to hit it again?
“I’ve been around coaching a long time. It’s hard to do that. It’s rare when it happens. So it just feels like we were very fortunate that (in Seattle) we’ve been able to find a way to put it together in this fashion.”
Carroll has, indeed, hit it again. After two 7-9 seasons, his record is 36-12.
His 2010 timing was superb. The Seahawks had an ardent following irked at the two-year falloff, the richest owner in sports and perhaps the savviest executive in sports, Tod Leiweke, who had the brains to give Carroll the keys to the empire — with one exception.
Carroll had to choose a general manager from a list created by Leiweke of four people that Carroll did not know.
The no-cronies rule.
The rule opened the door for Carroll to hire John Schneider, with whom he is so in sync that they would win Dancing With the Stars just sitting there. They are a win away from a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance. A win there would make the Seahawks one of just 12 franchises to have won more than a single Super Bowl.
Given the nuclear-winter landscape of Seattle’s pro sports, the lushness brought by Carroll and Schneider is nearly unimaginable.
“If you would have asked me in the middle of (the five years), I would have said that it’s taking too long because I’m extremely impatient,” he said. “But now as you look back: ‘OK, we kind of washed out the first couple of years trying to get it going.’
“(Now) we’ve had the opportunity to really experience the best of the NFL.”
The validation, vindication and joy for Carroll fairly radiates the premises.
“It’s been so much fun — more fun than I ever could have imagined,” he said. “What we’re in the middle of right now — the youth, the connection we have with our following, is so special. It’s about the hard work, the sacrifice, giving to one another, and what you can get out of that when you really give of yourself. It’s been a wonderful experience for all of us and I’m happy to be a part of it.
“This is as good as it gets.”
He’s right — this is as good as it gets. All it takes is a look around the NFL at the messes in Washington, Denver, Oakland, Chicago and the New York teams — all prestigious franchises who’ve won championships but have lost their winning ways.
Forging a coaching legacy? Apparently it can be done beyond Los Angeles, even in south Alaska.