Sarkisian 'anointing' Keith Price

May, 5, 2011
5/05/11
6:30
PM ET
Washington released its post-spring depth chart on the same day that the new Pac-12 TV deal was being announced, so I didn't get a chance to comment on Keith Price earning top billing at quarterback over Nick Montana.

But, of course, I want to comment on it, or at least make a connection that seems interesting.

Recall this item from Ivan Maisel on April 26.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, trying to decide when to name sophomore Keith Price or redshirt freshman Nick Montana as the replacement for quarterback Jake Locker, made a crosstown phone call Monday to his former boss at USC. Sarkisian asked Seahawks coach Pete Carroll about how and when to tell the team. “I know what I feel. I know what I want,” Sarkisian said. “How do you get it all across?” One hint regarding timing: Sarkisian recalled 2003, when Carroll waited until after spring practice ended to name Matt Leinart as the starter over Matt Cassel.

After reading this, I felt like I had a pretty good idea that Sarkisian was about to make a call at quarterback because I know what Carroll would tell him. Why? Because of a conversation I had with Carroll at Pac-10 media day before the 2008 season about his decision to "anoint" -- his word -- Mark Sanchez after spring practices.
"Part of the reason for naming him is to see [leadership] come out," Carroll said. "He wasn't able to show it. He hadn't been anointed yet."
Telling Sanchez he was The Man, allowed him to embrace the role and lead without looking over his shoulder.

"If he was going to win the job -- and it looked like he was because he had so much more experience than the other guys -- then he might help our team get ready for the season better if he was put in that position then," said Carroll...

There's an interesting dynamic at work here. For one, we've all recall Carroll's widely praised "culture of competition" at USC. The theory behind it was you compete every day and every week to hold onto your starting job: Seniority doesn't matter. What you did last week doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is being the best player at your position heading into Saturday.

Carroll, of course, didn't invent that. A coach just gets lots of credit for stuff when he's lording over college football for seven seasons.

But maintaining competitiveness at practices isn't everything, particularly at quarterback. Quarterback is a unique position. It's the most difficult job in all of sport in terms of physical, mental and emotional demands. It's clearly a first-among-equals spot.

For one, the starting quarterback needs to exude a contagious confidence. That becomes the foundation of his ability to lead, which is critical in the locker room as well as the huddle.

Thus the "anointing." For Carroll, naming a starting quarterback was like naming a team leader. He believed his quarterback needed to be out front over the summer during unofficial workouts as a prelude for a successful fall dynamic.

Thus Sarkisian's apparent rationale here after a conversation with Carroll. Price didn't just play better than Montana this spring; he asserted himself, including a standout performance in the spring game. He earned an anointing that will provide him the right to show a little swagger during seven-on-seven workouts.

Of course, no coach wants to hand over a starting job and announce a competition at an end months before the regular season. Price, of course, still needs to play better than Montana this fall. If Price decides to get fat and happy, he could get eclipsed before the season-opener against Eastern Washington.

But, apparently, Sarkisian doesn't see that happening, which is why he reached out to Carroll, and Carroll, subsequently, suggested his protegee head down to the corner store and pick up some anointing oil.

Ted Miller | email

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