Ramble On Sports

Where sports, pop culture and everything else collide.

Carroll crazy to leave Trojans for Seattle

Posted by Bill Koch on January 9, 2010

Pete Carroll USC head coach

We woke up Saturday morning here on the East Coast to find out that Pete Carroll, USC and the Seattle Seahawks are fighting over the honor of making the worst sports decision of the new decade.

Carroll appears close to leaving the Trojans and signing a 5-year, $35-million deal to become the Seahawks’ head coach and team president. He’s about to turn his back on one of college football’s glamour programs to go back to the NFL, a league in which he was a success as a defensive coordinator and a very mediocre head coach in one season with the New York Jets and three with the New England Patriots. Carroll, USC and Seattle are all about to feel the pain of this decision very soon, because this won’t end well for any of them.

Let’s start with Carroll. His 33-31 record in four years in the professional ranks is pretty poor when you compare it to the 97-19 mark he has put up as the King of Troy. Carroll resurrected the USC dynasty into the powerhouse that it used to be, winning a pair of national championships and seven straight Pac-10 titles. He’s a perfect fit for the college game because of his ability to relate to his players with his boyish enthusiasm, but his rah-rah act doesn’t work very well with the grown men who play in the NFL. Just about every college coach (Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino, Steve Spurrier) struggles in the pros, and vice versa (Al Groh, Bill Callahan, Chan Gailey). The two levels of football are so different that it’s virtually impossible to master both of them, and Carroll found his niche when he went to USC in 2000. He’s crazy to ever even consider leaving Southern California, a place where he could officially be Coach For Life while surrounded by some of the best prep talent in the country, an adoring fan base and the chance to do as he pleases.

Or is he? USC could be on the verge of some serious NCAA violations, and Carroll might be escaping one step ahead of the jailer. The Trojans have been under investigation since 2006, when details about Reggie Bush’s involvement with an agent became public, and a lawsuit in that case is about to go to trial. Testimony about the house, cash gifts and other benefits that Bush allegedly received while playing at USC might be about to enter the public record, giving the NCAA all the ammunition it would need to go after the Trojans with its full authority. Combine that with the allegations against a current USC running back, Joe McKnight, and the school could have a serious problem. McKnight is being accused of using an unauthorized vehicle provided by a local dealership, a clear violation of NCAA rules.

The Trojans’ basketball program is also up to its neck in the O.J. Mayo affair, a funky-smelling set of circumstances that involves Mayo accepting improper benefits during his one year with USC. The NCAA could whack USC’s athletic department with the dreaded “lack of institutional control” label, costing the Trojans scholarships and limiting their recruiting visits across the board. Carroll might be headed out just before the NCAA’s hammer hits him and his dynasty squarely on the head, an embarrassing turn of events for the school and embattled athletic director Mike Garrett. He’s going to have to explain to Will Ferrell, Snoop Dogg and everyone else who has jumped on the Trojans’ bandwagon since Carroll took over why USC is back to the bad old days, and Garrett’s professional reputation can’t survive the double whammy of Carroll leaving and a potentially serious hit from the NCAA.

And now to the Seahawks, who will ensure themselves more mediocrity in the immediate future by hiring Carroll. Seattle went 5-11 this season and fired Jim Mora Jr. after just one year in charge, a move that looks like it can be explained pretty easily now. You could draw the conclusion from several Internet reports that the Seahawks have been playing footsy with Carroll for weeks now, part of the dirty side of the NFL business that Carroll already knows too well. His tenure in New England, which I got to see up close, was marked by team turmoil and players who didn’t respect Carroll or his decisions. They simply went over his head to general manager Bobby Grier, stripping Carroll of his power. Carroll’s apparent arraignment in Seattle addresses that, but the recent Coach/GM/President combinations (Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan, Bill Parcells) haven’t produced a Super Bowl title and likely won’t – there aren’t enough hours in a day to do both jobs. Carroll’s immediate challenges in Seattle include replacing the team’s franchise player and quarterback, the decaying Matt Hasselback, rebuilding an aging offensive line, settling on a running back out of a group that includes the wrong Jones brother (Julius), T.J. Duckett, and Justin Forsett and finding a defensive tackle that can help the Seahawks’ miserable run defense. Other than all that Carroll should have a pretty easy time of it. And as he’s found out in the last decade while coaching at USC, players who aren’t being paid are motivated by playing time and the effort to get to the next level. NFL players have already done that and are just waiting for the 1st and 15th of every month. Only the truly special ones extend themselves to win games or play with any pride, and they stand out from the crowd. So does Carroll – in the college game. In the NFL he’ll be just like the guy he was before with the Jets and Patriots, one cashing a big paycheck that’s waiting to be fired.

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2 Responses to “Carroll crazy to leave Trojans for Seattle”

  1. Steve A said

    Good points made. I really think Pete Carroll got a bum rap in new England. I believe the problem there was with the general manager Grier and as you were saying the players going over his head to Grier. If Carroll has complete control and chooses his own general manager, I believe the Seahawks got a helluvah coach in Carroll. Now can he put it all together and get the players who fit into his system. For $35 million over five years, I would have made the same decision

  2. […] move to the Seattle Seahawks always seemed a little fishy, and we called him out on it when he decided to accept a 5-year, $35-million offer to assume total control of the team’s […]

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