I’m as interested to watch how this all plays out as I have been by any hire in recent memory, maybe since Nick Saban. Around here, Carroll got tagged as some sort of sideshow, and ushered out of town after a three-year tenure that wasn’t exactly an abject failure (They did go 27-21), but wasn’t a success either (the team backslid each year).
I’m not sure this one will turn out better, or worse, but I will say he’s got a better shot now. Here’s why …
1) Who He Follows: One of the fundamental problems some franchises have is flip-flopping with each hire — players coach, disciplinarian, players coach patterns — that leaves the club without a core organizational philosophy. Simply put, a coach like Carroll was going to have trouble following a Bill Parcells in the long term, because there was always going to be a substitute-teacher effect to his style in comparison to the Tuna’s.
In Seattle, he follows Jim Mora, who had the job for one season, and takes over a team that has won a combined nine games in the last two years. This will allow him to mold the team the way he wants, rather than working around the trail his predecessor blazed.
2) It’s the Jimmys and Joes …: Carroll had about no juice on the personnel side in Foxborough, and part of his undoing there was the work of Bobby Grier. The 1997 draft class was just plain embarrassing, and the 1998 class was better, but still not good. Some members of the ’99 class panned out (Kevin Faulk, Sean Morey), but only Damien Woody contributed much in Carroll’s final season.
In Seattle, Carroll will be involved. That’s not to say he’ll necessarily be great, or even good, at it. But at least now, he’ll be able to find someone to work in concert with in rebuilding a team, it won’t be up to someone he simply had to accept, and that’ll help in the pursuit of system-specific players.
3) He has time: The success of Parcells always loomed over Carroll in New England. This time, he’s not some sort of consolation prize. This time, he’ll have time to build it his way, and not have to look over his shoulder constantly to check on his job security.
That can make all the difference in the world for a coach, and his approach in team-building.
4) Skins on the Wall: It was said that Carroll had problems controlling the Patriots locker room back in the late 1990s. Most guys in the NFL now were in high school back then, and some weren’t even there yet.
Point is, the players he’ll be coaching now will see him, coming in, as the guy who won two national championships at USC. And that means his energy and enthusiasm could really be a positive there, rather than whatever it became in the end with the Patriots.
5) He knows football: Just talk to the guys who came through his program, and have had early success in the pros. They’ll tell you playing in his system, because of its NFL style, was a big part of their ability to make the transition. Carroll, of course, made his mark originally as an NFL defensive coordinator, and he’s clearly got the ability to make players better, and if you can do that, you have a chance to get a team full of football players going in the same direction.
“The offenses we played in college had no idea what we were gonna do,” Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, a graduate of Carroll U., told me last week. “We had about six, seven shutouts last year, of teams we just completely confused. And when you have that much knowledge, that much of a gameplan, all year, and the schemes you have to remember, why you do certain things, what coach Carroll’s telling you, you start to understand football a lot more.”
6) Real Motivation: This will be Pete Carroll’s final shot at proving what he’s wanted to prove for a long time — That he can win as an NFL head coach. Don’t underestimate the motivation that can create.
That’s what makes this different from hiring a Mike Shanahan … Carroll doesn’t have an NFL legacy to fall back on. It seems clear he’ll do whatever it takes to create one.
Again, in the end, I’m not sure if this will work or not. But Carroll was a guy who really didn’t have a great shot in his single season with the Jets or three years with the Patriots to build his own program.
Could he be Jimmy Johnson, rather than Dennis Erickson? It’ll be fascinating to watch, and I’m sure interesting for all of you who saw him lead the home team a decade ago.