BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 12/05/2019

Thiel: Carroll gets why Petersen left college gig

Calling coaching a “cauldron of competitiveness,” Pete Carroll understands how Huskies coach Chris Petersen could walk away. Maybe he could walk toward the NFL.

With the Seahawks, there always seems to be a party nearby. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Pete Carroll was asked a question Wednesday about whether he agreed with a national commenter who said the Seahawks seem to have more fun than any team in the NFL. Obviously, it’s easy to have fun at 10-2, but the Seahawks coach has always understood a basic teaching principle that there’s a direct correlation between enthusiasm and learning.

“I like to go back to a thought: You don’t work football, you don’t drudgery football, you play football,” he said. “I don’t ever want to lose connection with that. I want to figure out how to lighten the atmosphere while we work really hard. If we’re not having fun, I feel like I’m screwing up.

“We practice with great energy and juice while hauling butt around here, and you can have a good time doing that.”

The remark was was particularly relevant in Seattle, where the city’s other pro team, the University of Washington Huskies, was rocked this week with the news that coach Chris Petersen was walking away from the program and more than $15 million in compensation because he was no longer enjoying the job.

The contrast doesn’t mean the Huskies under Petersen ran a dour operation, nor does it mean that Carroll believes he has a better approach. What it does mean is that while the game is similar, the business and operations of the enterprises are vastly different, as Carroll pointed out when asked about Petersen’s departure.

Calling him “one if the best coaches I ever saw,” Carroll recalled that when he was at USC, he reviewed film of Petersen’s Boise State teams first whenever he drew up a game plan against a mutual foe, because he admired Petersen’s expertise. He also supported Petersen’s decision to walk away.

“I couldn’t applaud him more,” he said. “It’s a hard choice to make. This (coaching) is something we’re so committed to, it calls on so much of us. It’s all-consuming.”

Carroll, one of only three football coaches who have won a Super Bowl and a college football national championship —  he did it twice during his nine years at USC — is well-qualified to explain why the school gig, which he described as a “cauldron of competitveness,” is more onerous.

“The college game is really different in terms of the constant recruiting pressure,” he said. “It’s really the strain of it. It just doesn’t go away. You’re (always) on to the next year, an ongoing process.

“The other part of it is the demands of being on top . . . Where we were (USC), if you lose a one game, it’s like eight; you almost went through a losing streak. It’s a little different in this league in that regard. It’s hard to win every game in this league. One team has done it ever. The expectations are different.”

The Huskies lost five games this season, and three were upsets (Cal, Stanford and Colorado). Petersen said Monday he recognized his failure to appreciate as a peak experience UW’s first appearance in the Rose Bowl since 2000 was a sign that something was amiss with him.

It’s hard to say with certainty whether his flagging passion impacted the season. But his decision to walk away on the first day following the end of the regular season suggested he wanted to avoid any damage bleeding into 2020.

The pressure for instant, sustainable success always seems higher in college, perhaps because the programs depend a great deal on wealthy alumni who believe their donations give them influence, and the personal right to hold coaches accountable.

Responding to a question about the many constituencies that college coaches must serve, Carroll seemed to suggest that the nuisance is burdensome. But Carroll is a garrulous personality and Petersen is taciturn, which meant Carroll was better equipped to roll with the obligations, while Petersen generally was repelled by it. The same prevailed in media relations; Carroll sees some sport in the give-and-take, while Petersen often treated his press conferences like a cat heading to a bucket of water.

Carroll sounded as if he prefers the control the NFL exerts over outsiders.

“It’s hard to imagine what it was like in LA,” he said, “but it was just a constant revolving door of people coming through the office and coming through the facility. Here (at the team headquarters in Renton), we’re pretty much sequestered. There’s a lot more quiet time than I used to get where I was down there.

“There is the constant of the boosters and all that kind of stuff that are more connected than (Seattle) fans. They feel more connected, and they are more connected. They’re closer to you.  As well as the students. You’re working in the middle of 16,000 people. There are so many more opportunities for activity.

“Not too many Trojan Club meetings here either. You do minimize the things that can pull you away from the football.”

Petersen over his six seasons made numerous admiring references to NFL operations, citing the uniform calendar, equality of resources, orderliness of the draft as a roster re-supplier and absence of NCAA governance. For a guy who insists on control of his environment, the NFL is a better fit.

There’s no indication that Petersen’s undefined future has in it NFL aspirations. Then again, there was no indication Petersen was going to trap-door the college football world.

Perhaps he and Carroll will have a conversation, in which Carroll can confide that not only is fun legal in all states where the NFL operates, it is possible and advisable for coaching.

Then, after the Seahawks win the Super Bowl and Brian Schottenheimer takes a head-coaching job, Carroll will have an opening at offensive coordinator.


  • jafabian

    With Coach Petersen’s stated theme of needing re-direct and recharge I’m wondering if he might do a career change and get completely out of football. Or is he biding his time for Jen Cohen’s job? She’s had a lot of success during her tenure as UW sports has enjoyed that success beyond just football and men’s basketball. I can see other Division I schools trying to lure her away giving Coach an opportunity for that career change.

    If he does return to coaching I don’t see him going to the NFL as either a head coach or coordinator. Instead I think he’ll go back to the Mountain West Conference. A smaller entity than the PAC-12 but can still achieve high recognition as he proved at Boise State.

    • Husky73

      Two Seattle head coaches, Jim Owens and Jack Patera, left football and never looked back. So did Mike Belotti and Ara Parsegian.

      • art thiel

        You left out Don James. There’s no formula for any of this because each man and his circumstances are different, which includes health and family. And the nature of the games, college and pro, evolve along with society.

        • Husky73

          How could I leave out Don James? Brain cramp.

      • Effzee

        Yep. Petersen is out. I think he wants to follow a higher calling, to help/teach in less intense environs.

        • art thiel

          At least environs that don’t kick off at 8 p.m.

    • art thiel

      We’re all entitled to participate in the guessing game about Petersen’s future. The most amusing part is he probably knows less about what’s going to happen than we do. He had no idea he’d hate the Rose Bowl experience. So how would he know how he’ll feel in a year or five years from now?

  • Will

    Most of us are outsiders regarding the inner workings of sports’ bureaucracies, we know what we know solely from the media, orchestrated pressers and TV/radio interviews and we also interpret what we see during games – how players and coaches act and speak.

    Petersen has looked uncomfortable, stressed, distracted etc. for some time now but the reasons for those conditions have been kept private, until his last press conference.

    I take him at his word – life is a Quest and if you’re on the wrong pathway, the best thing to do is to stop and to re-center one’s self.

    Few of us have the luxury of name recognition and wealth to make such a career stop but even so, being unhappy is a negative situation and having a vault full of gold doesn’t mean automatic happiness.

    Petersen will probably re-assess his building blocks, re-assemble them, choosing his strengths and best-moments and eventually will try something different from the past years. It might be something as simple as gardening or something more complex, such as counseling students or helping at-risk individuals. Whatever it is, he’s now free to find his better pathway.

    Carroll is unique in that he’s parlayed his career such that he now has the control to shape that career into fitting, glove-like, with his personality and values. And, along the way, his bonus is, he’s made a lot of people happy.

    • uprlftcstr

      I really enjoyed reading your post Will. Both your perspective and Art’s is most appreciated.

    • art thiel

      Well said, Will.

      Regarding Carroll, he had his epiphany after being fired a second time in the NFL. He went through a self-exam and came up with a new plan that created clarity about how he wanted to coach and made sure his next job allowed him the freedom to execute it. Worked out pretty well for him at USC ahd the Seahawks.

      • Husky73

        It “worked out pretty well” until he hit the bricks one step ahead of sanctions.

        • art thiel

          On every campus, a college tradition like no other.

  • Effzee

    Though I kinda like the idea of Petersen joining the Seahawks in some capacity, I don’t think he would want the high-pressure OC job for the Pro team in the same city that was so critical of his offense’s prowess (or lack thereof) recently. This would not be the relief from stress that he desires. And I also don’t think Schottenheimer is going anywhere. I think he is the handshake replacement for Carroll when he retires, kinda like Lake was to Petersen. After Pete retires, I think the sons of Shanahan and Schottenheimer will be facing off for many years.

    • art thiel

      The pressure Petersen felt wasn’t from planning for or coaching the game. It was all the other crap in college ball that wore him out. A pro OC job has pressure, but Petersen loves the chess match.

      I would be surprised if Carroll and Brian had a handshake deal. And even if they did, there’s no pressure for Jody to honor it. What if Belichick wanted out of NE for a sweet West Coast gig?

      • Effzee

        All of the other crap… including dealing w the media. I don’t think he’d want to answer the same football questions from the same people, under even more intense scrutiny, just down the road from his previous gig that he suddenly up and quit. Based on his press conference, that does not, to me, sound like what he would consider an upgrade. I kind of think he’d be just fine never speaking to you folks about football again. And of course Jody could do what she wants, but I think there’s a greater chance of the Moon crashing into the Earth than there is of Belichick coaching anyone but the Patriots. His culture of hardcore cheating is deeply embedded there and would be too hard to replicate a second time with the years he’s got left in him to coach.

        • art thiel

          Of course, he doesn’t want to be asked questions. People in power rarely do. When you get absolute power over a domain, you don’t want to be held accountable.

          Ask Belichick. As if any reporter could . . .

      • Stephen Pitell

        Seriously, you would want Belicheat to coach the Hawks? I’m disappointed in you Art.

        • art thiel

          Not for his quotes, certainly.

  • WestCoastBias79

    This makes me wonder if what ASU is doing with Herm Edwards as the nebulous CEO is actually smart. Kind of seems to be working.

    • art thiel

      It’s a reasonable observation. I think Edwards’ unconventional approach is reaping dividends that, as with Carroll, were not clear before he was allowed the freedom.

  • Ken S.

    Then, after the Seahawks win the Super Bowl and Brian Schottenheimer
    takes a head-coaching job, Carroll will have an opening at offensive
    Interesting thought, Art! Like I always say, ya never know.Or perhaps Petersen has been contacted by a few NFL teams about availability for work? Ya never know!

    • art thiel

      I’m sure he’s been contacted. I’d be shocked if he jumped. He hasn’t had a chance yet to be bored with his new gig.