On April 21, the new Seahawks coach became the first professional coach to provide hints about his upcoming draft picks by leaving song clues on Twitter. Carroll chose artists ranging from Lil’ Wayne to House of Pain to Taylor Swift. Time will tell if Carroll’s run in Seattle proves successful, but it’s definitely going to be different.
Let’s rewind three months to Jan. 12, the day of Carroll’s introductory press conference. These are usually dry, short affairs. Carroll started the proceedings by pretending to put on a helmet. Then he spoke for nearly 12 minutes before he took the first question. He was just getting started.
"I am so fired up to be here," he said.
The session encapsulated Carroll’s many sides: motivational speaker, defensive mastermind, salesman, owner, personnel chief, and cheerleader. Part of me wondered if Carroll was full of hot air. The other part wanted to hop on the next flight to Seattle and offer my services to help the Seahawks in any way possible. (Water boy, perhaps?)
Carroll sells more than a system or a playbook. He wants to transform the usual philosophies in a businesslike league. The longtime USC coach admittedly tries to inspire. Take this passage from the Seahawks’ website from late May.
“Carroll’s ‘Win Forever’ mantra…is becoming the blood that pumps through the Seahawks and has delivered unprecedented hope and promise for the organization’s future,” the article reads.
Mantras and motivational tools fuel many college football programs. But will this approach work on 53 grown professional men that make millions of dollars?
Our analysts from Football Night in America are optimistic it can in time.
A new culture
“I think Pete is going to hit the ground running and be like a stun gun to the team's psyche,” Football Night in America’s Peter King tells us.
Carroll has the resources (Paul Allen’s money) and the autonomy to make Seattle an attractive place to come to work.
“Pete can coach and may end up creating the best atmosphere for the players in the league,” Cris Collinsworth says.
Tony Dungy believes players will love suiting up for Carroll.
At USC, Carroll’s successful track record gave weight to his words. That’s not the case in the NFL where he owns a 33-31 record in four seasons as coach with the Patriots and Jets, with one playoff win.
Carroll’s rah-rah approach could wear thin if he doesn’t show results within two years.
A bankrupt roster
Carroll undertakes a massive rebuilding job in Seattle, taking over one of the five worst rosters in football. The previous regime overpaid aging receivers. Walter Jones’ retirement created an offensive line full of questions. The defensive front seven impresses more, but the Seahawks don’t have any proven pass rushers.
Football Night in America executive producer Fred Gaudelli says that Carroll, “Does not inherit a talent-laden team. How he goes about re-stocking it will be the ultimate barometer. Carroll may have to be a better G.M. than head coach.”
Technically, Carroll isn’t the G.M. John Schneider, imported from Green Bay, has that title. But Carroll said for years he wouldn’t return to the NFL without final say on player moves. Carroll chose the Seahawks, not the other way around.
"They've embraced my approach," Carroll said at his opening press conference. "That's really what I was looking for. It was the trust and the belief from the top of the organization. They don't have an agenda of how they want their football played. They want me to do that."
Schneider and Carroll work together as a team, but ultimately this is Carroll’s show.
Carroll blamed his mediocre run in New England on the inability to make personnel decisions. (Bobby Grier was in charge there.) No such excuse exists this year, making the decision to acquire quarterback Charlie Whitehurst from San Diego even riskier
Whitehurst hasn’t thrown a pass in the regular season, but Carroll gave up valuable draft picks and $8 million over the next two years to get him. Whitehurst’s success (or lack thereof) will define Carroll’s first two years. Matt Hasselbeck should open the year as a starter, but Whitehurst isn’t going to sit on the bench forever.
Carroll promotes competition at every position and made sure not to show favoritism to his ex-USC players. Safety Taylor Mays ripped Carroll for not being honest with Mays during the pre-draft process. (The 49ers ended Mays’ draft-day fall late in the second round.)
Carroll also cut LenDale White just 35 days after acquiring his former player for virtually nothing in a trade. The Carroll/Schneider team isn’t afraid to gamble and then quickly admit a mistake. White reportedly acted entitled upon his arrival in town, as if the Seahawks owed him a starting job.
“The big thing he's going to do is have no sacred cows,” King said. “Everybody on the team will have to compete to keep or win his job.”
The quick dismissal of White speaks louder than any mantra.
Carroll selected tackle Russell Okung, free safety Earl Thomas, and wide receiver Golden Tate in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, impressing our analysts.
“Carroll had a great first draft in Seattle,” Collinsworth remarked. “But this is still going to take some time.”
Ah, the NFC West. San Francisco last recorded a winning record with Jeff Garcia and Steve Mariucci; they are division favorites. Nine wins could win the division. Seattle faces the AFC West out of conference, which should also help.
“With Seattle’s schedule, the playoffs are not out of the question,” Collinsworth noted. “But there are too many key questions for a first year system to get my vote.”
Carroll has the luxury of time and low expectations in the Pacific Northwest, unlike his few previous stops. If Seattle struggles in 2010, the Seahawks won’t fire Carroll after one season like they did to Jim Mora. (Although you can expect Mora to hit the airwaves crowing if that happens.)
It feels like there is more at stake in Seattle than one team’s fortunes. Carroll fights every day for a different way of doing things. He offers an alternative to this era of executive-like pro coaches that value secrecy and game plans above emotions. He believes in mantras, motivation, and team-building as much as his vaunted 4-3 defensive scheme.
"Leadership is finding a comfort level with the people around you," Carroll said. "They'll go where you want to go.”
Carroll was asked how you become a leader.
"Be the philosophy, be the approach, be the way."
The Carroll Way won’t change. But after delivering “unprecedented hope and promise” to Seattle, Carroll must live up to his own hype. He needs to deliver wins.
2013 SNF Schedule
Check out the 2013 Sunday Night Football schedule.
Latest from ProFootballTalk
Video: Football from NBC Sports
Gronk has successful surgery
ProFootballTalk: Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski had successful surgery on his back, but Mike Florio says this was expected.
Check out some of the NFL cheerleaders from across the league.