Citizen Fall

Pete Carroll’s Defection to NFL Largely Void of Logic

Posted in Uncategorized by ryedog on October 5, 2010

Quick, someone knock some sense into Pete Carroll.

And while you’re at it, on the way back around, slap him a second time for good measure.

This move defies all logic; so much so, that I’m sure Aristotle just twinged a bit in his ancient grave.

The idea that Carroll is even contemplating leaving the University of Southern California to become the next head coach of the Seattle Seahawks is certifiably insane.

However, according to a plethora of sources, it appears that playful contemplation is rapidly—and inexplicably—turning into something more concrete.

By all accounts, the whimsical relationship between Carroll and the Seahawks is nearing consummation.

According to the Los Angeles Times, several members of the Seattle front office visited Carroll in Southern California earlier this week, even before Jim Mora had been notified of his termination Friday morning.

The paper reported Friday evening, as did ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, who initially broke the news of Carroll’s interest, that the two sides are close to signing a deal that would pay Carroll $7 million a year for five years and include duties as team president.

As of 6:30 p.m. Friday evening, neither the Seahawks nor the USC athletic department had any information regarding Carroll becoming the head coach in Seattle on their official Web sites.

Seemingly, other than putting pen to paper, the only thing preventing Carroll from re-entering the NFL is the Rooney Rule.

According to the league mandate, the Seahawks must interview at least one minority candidate. Seattle reportedly offered an interview to Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, but he swiftly denied the invitation.

Frazier, who is black, would have fulfilled Seattle’s obligation to the Rooney Rule, presumably clearing the way for Carroll to sign the deal with the Seahawks.

Other than Frazier, it is not known whether the Seahawks have contacted any other minority candidates.

For all intents and purposes, Carroll’s days at USC have come to end—and I don’t understand why, though I’ll venture some guesses.

First of all, I won’t pretend that Carroll sees some kind of rogue potential in the Seahawks. Seattle finished 5-11 and two of those wins came against the 1-15 St. Louis Rams, the same team that prevented the Seahawks from occupying the NFC West cellar.

Under Mora, a defensive-minded coach, the Seahawks finished the regular season ranked 24th in the NFL in total defense and, behind aging quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, were ranked a modest 21st in total offense.

I suppose it’s entirely possible that Carroll is getting out while the getting’s good. Currently, the USC football program is having to deal with a pair of pervasive investigations, fueling suspicions that Carroll may have mishandled players and failed to seriously follow NCAA rules .

Junior running back Joe McKnight did not play in the Emerald Bowl against Boston College amid the NCAA’s investigation into whether a local businessman provided him with a sport utility vehicle. McKnight claims the car belongs to his girlfriend’s boss and that he has never driven the car.

Former USC running back Reggie Bush is the subject on an ongoing NCAA investigation to determine whether he received gifts and cash from a pair of marketers while playing for the Trojans in 2004 and 2005.

Bush denies any involvement and dismisses the additional allegation that his parents lived in a home owned by the marketers during his time at USC.

Considering all Carroll has done for the program at USC, it’s hard to imagine him being wedged out because of any potential violations. If that were the case, he would have been gone by now.

It’s also entirely possible that Carroll feels he has reached the summit of his profession as it relates to the college game. Over the past nine years, USC has been the preeminent program in college football, and 100 percent of that success has occurred under Carroll.

So, why not leave on top?

And then there’s the matter of playing boss. It’s hard to imagine Seattle’s inclusion of executive powers in the deal wasn’t a tipping point for Carroll.

He’s likely to make a few million dollars more in Seattle than he may have ever made at USC, but one of Carroll’s main gripes while in the NFL was that he wasn’t bestowed with duties befitting of a general manager.

With Seattle willing to grant his wish, Carroll couldn’t resist. He wanted the power, which is something he wasn’t allowed to have in the NFL but seemed predestined for in the college ranks.

Carroll, who served in the NFL in a multitude of capacities for 16 years from 1984-99, including two stints as a head coach, has spent nearly his entire tenure at USC turning down offers from the pros, often referring to the NFL as the “No Fun League.”

Infused with a youthful enthusiasm and exuberance that is often times overshadowed by the stern and suffocating professionalism of the NFL, Carroll seemed out of his element at times as the head coach of the New York Jets (1994) and New England Patriots (1997-99).

In four seasons as an NFL head coach, Carroll amassed a 33-31 record and led New England to consecutive playoff appearances, but he ultimately was done in by the unenviable task of filling the shoes of Bill Parcells.

In the NFL, it seemed as if Carroll wasn’t allowed to spread his wings. He couldn’t be himself.

At USC, he found his calling. Now, it seems almost preposterous that we are pondering his imminent departure.

After all, it would be an understatement to say that Carroll—even with the pair of ongoing investigations—had a good thing going in Los Angeles.

To say that Pete Caroll, who headed up arguably the most successful era in USC history, had a good thing going in Los Angeles is an understatement (Photo: Getty Images)

If one man ever personified the California lifestyle, it was Carroll. And the native San Franciscan played the role to perfection, sporting a look that was more jovial twentysomething surfer-dude than a 58-year-old head coach whose gray hairs spoke to an unbreakable work ethic and dedication to the game of football.

Carroll’s opponents respected him. The media loved him. And if USC’s campus were not mere miles from Hollywood, Carroll would be the city of Los Angeles’ star attraction. He had become a figure larger than life.

When Carroll replaced Paul Hackett at USC prior to the 2001 season, he was an obtuse selection. He could barely sniff the top of the school administration’s list of candidates, which also included Dennis Erickson, Mike Belotti, and Mike Riley, yet Carroll was chosen as the wild card.

After rallying with four straight regular-season wins to close out 2001, the Trojans finished an even 6-6, but the framework of Carroll’s fruitful tenure had been laid. And what followed will forever resonate not only in the annals of Trojan football lore but NCAA record books.

Between the years of 2002 and 2008, USC won a combined 82 games under Carroll, equating to an average of nearly 12 wins per season. Also in that span, the Trojans claimed seven Pac-10 titles, captured back-to-back national championships, and won six of the seven BCS bowl games in which they appeared.

Under Carroll’s watch, three different USC players took home the Heisman Trophy in a matter of four seasons.

And were it not for a performance for the ages from Texas quarterback Vince Young, the Trojans would have likely become the first program in college football history to win three consecutive AP national titles.

More importantly, Carroll had a certain rapport with his players, one that stood up in defiance of the traditional player-coach relationship that is sometimes built on a give-and-take between fear and obedience. And his players reciprocated.

It wasn’t uncommon to see Carroll lighten up a practice or team meeting with a little extracurricular activity, and no source of inspiration was off limits, including players.

At a team meeting in October, Carroll surprised his team with an appearance by running back Stafon Johnson, who had spent the previous few weeks in a local hospital following a weightlifting accident that crushed his larynx and nearly destroyed his vocal chords.

This past August, Carroll invited singer/songwriter Bill Withers to attend a team meeting. Before long, the entire USC team erupted in unison with linebacker Marquis Simmons, who was pranked into reciting Withers’ 1972 hit “Lean On Me.”

There was the story of 12-year-old USC fan Jake Olson, who in September lost his eyesight to cancer. His story, which includes fending off the cancer on eight occasions, eventually reached Carroll.

From that point on, Olson was a fixture of the program , receiving access to practices, participation in the traditional pregame Trojan Walk, and even the opportunity to give the USC offensive linemen a pep speech before USC’s game at Notre Dame.

Riding a humanitarian nature, Carroll was heavily invested in the city of Los Angeles. He was devoted to assisting underprivileged youth.

In conjunction with local political figures and law enforcement agencies, Carroll helped to establish A Better LA, a charitable foundation designed to curb gang-related activity.

Over the course of the past nine years, no college football program has churned out NFL talent with the same efficiency as USC. Since Carroll’s arrival in 2001, 53 of his players have been drafted, including 14 in the first round .

As a result, no program in America seemed to lose talent with the frequency of USC. But seldom was a beat ever missed. Never rebuilding season in Los Angeles, the Trojans became known as a powerhouse that was built on solid recruiting classes that routinely ranked among the best nationally, thanks in no short order to Carroll’s becoming charisma and engaging personality.

Carroll was the USC football program. He was the university. He had taken something from the ashes and resurrected it. He had given every indication that his post as the head football coach at Southern California would be his last job. Every time the NFL came calling, Carroll stayed put.

Five, 10, 15, 20 years from now, Carroll was supposed to retire as the best head coach USC has ever had.

Like clockwork, USC lost considerable talent to the NFL after last season, leaving Carroll to trust his offense to freshman Matt Barkley and his defense to a host of unproven youngsters.

His team finished 9-4 this season, marking the first time since 2001 that the Trojans haven’t won at least 11 games or earned a berth in a BCS bowl. With the exception of a few programs in America, a nine-win season is a resounding success; at USC, it’s a legitimate step backward.

But it’s not like the ship has begun to sink. This is USC football we’re talking about.

Players gained experience on both sides of the ball in 2009. Despite McKnight and receiver Damian Williams announcing Friday they intend to leave early to enter the upcoming NFL draft , the Trojans will have 11 starters back next season.

Equipped with a season worth of struggles under his belt, the supremely talented Barkley seems poised to assume his place among USC’s lineage of legendary quarterbacks.

And according to Rivals.com, the Trojans are preparing to welcome in the nation’s No. 9 recruiting class , which is highlighted by three five-star athletes, most in the country.

Perhaps the rest of the Pac-10 is beginning to catch up, but that doesn’t mean USC is slowing down. The firepower is in place for another extended run. The cycle of dominant football season after season is expected to begin anew.

And you could peg Carroll as the first person to know that. But, apparently, that wasn’t enough, not this time around.

This time, money and power triumphed over all—even a well-crafted, expansive Trojan Empire.

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