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Saturday, January 9, 2010
Five questions on Pete Carroll

By Mike Sando

Pete Carroll
Although Pete Carroll's previous NFL incarnations are widely viewed as failures, he did have an overall record of 33-31 in his four seasons as an NFL head coach.
Five questions as the Seahawks appear poised to introduce USC coach Pete Carroll as their next head coach:

1. Why Pete Carroll?

The Seahawks view Carroll as a coach with the gravitas to succeed Mike Holmgren.

They might be right even if they are possibly entering into the relationship for the wrong reasons.

This looks like the classic rebound relationship. The Seahawks clearly are not over their breakup with Holmgren. They tried to bring him back as general manager, only to watch him head to Cleveland instead, and so they ran out and attached themselves to the most attractive alternative they could find.

Carroll is one of the two or three biggest names in college coaching. He lacks the same cachet among NFL people, but the Seahawks' top leadership people and owner Paul Allen might not know this. There do not appear to be many football people advising Allen.

2. Why not Jim Mora?

The Seahawks were 4-12 in Holmgren's final season and 5-11 in Mora's first season. I'm not sure the Seahawks would have done any better had Holmgren stuck around another season. The primary problems facing this team appear to be personnel-related, even if the coaching wasn't perfect.

No matter.

Mora had to live up to the best of Holmgren -- a mythical, perfect Holmgren, even -- and that meant he had to win more quickly than anyone could have realized.

The way the season spiraled out of control late, with some players regressing, made him more vulnerable yet.

Mora and Carroll are both energetic, rah-rah type coaches. Only one of them has to succeed Holmgren.

Advantage, Carroll.

3. How is Carroll different from the last big-name college head coach Seattle hired?

Dennis Erickson
Dennis Erickson, the last big-name college coach to take the Seattle job, was 31-33 in four seasons.
Unlike Dennis Erickson, who coached the Seahawks for four seasons ending in 1998, Carroll knows what he's getting into because he coached in the NFL previously.

That should give Carroll an edge.

And while Carroll's previous NFL incarnations are widely viewed as failures, he did have a winning overall record -- 33-31 -- in his four seasons as an NFL head coach. His teams qualified for the postseason twice.

He certainly wasn't a total bust in the role, even if there were legitimate questions about whether his style suited the NFL.

Carroll's four-year record was better than the 31-33 mark Holmgren posted in his first four years with the Seahawks.

4. Does Carroll have total control of football operations?

The owner has the final say if you want to push the issue, but the Seahawks' Allen tends to let his people do their jobs.

Carroll will surely have lots of power in Seattle. He probably wouldn't have left USC otherwise.

But if the Seahawks have armed Carroll with powers similar to the ones Holmgren wielded in his first four years with Seattle, it will be critical for Carroll to hire the right people to do the scouting work.

Carroll is a very good defensive coach. His focus should be on the field, not on contracts or free agency or scouting.

Seattle learned the hard way with Holmgren, stripping him of the GM title after four seasons. There's no excuse if Allen makes the same mistake twice, this time with a coach lacking Holmgren's NFL credentials.

5. What kind of coaching staff can Carroll put together?

Carroll's USC staff has some good coaches, but the success he enjoyed with the Trojans created opportunities elsewhere for some of his brightest assistants.

Steve Sarkisian is coaching at Washington, for instance.

Erickson's tenure with the Seahawks failed to produce the desired results in part because Erickson was too loyal to some of his longtime staffers.

The Seahawks already have some excellent coaches left over from Mora's staff. No one Carroll brings aboard is likely to have anything on current Seattle offensive line coach Mike Solari, for example. I have a hard time envisioning former Seahawks cornerback Kris Richard, now Carroll's secondary coach, commanding respect in a meeting room featuring former teammate Marcus Trufant.

It's unclear to me whether Allen or CEO Tod Leiweke will have the football sense or credibility to hold Carroll accountable when it comes to naming a staff.

Carroll might be a terrific coach, but he'll need the right people around him.