Pete Carroll’s College Ethos Took The NFL Establishment To School

Peyton Manning is probably envious of those images of fans scrunched together inside New Jersey train stations on their way to and from MetLife Stadium for Super Bowl 48. The security checkpoints created the most secure Super Bowl in history, but also held up lines and caused several people to collapse inside tunnels where temperatures peaked at 120 degrees. That's because these images resembled the overhead All-22 tape of him getting squeezed and crowded in the pocket.


Not even Homeland Security checkpoints and high altitude snipers could have put the clamps on the Denver Broncos offense as well as the Seattle Seahawks did. The Seahawks didn’t require a metal detector to confiscate the football and arrest Denver’s prolific shotgun offense.

Center Manny Ramirez’s premature ejockulation set the inauspicious tone for Denver’s day. While Manning tossed ducks, Seattle put the finishing touches on the basement of a potential dynasty.

Pete Carroll’s defense then borrowed from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s playbook and shut down the Broncos as if they were driving down the George Washington Bridge. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

The Seahawks front four, which led the league in quarterback pressures, gave Manning, who had the third-worst QBR in the league under pressure, no time to throw from the pocket. He was getting random TSA patdowns from the Seahawks pass rushers from the minute he stepped on the field. All three of Manning's turnovers were the result of pressure in his face or from his sides. Carroll figured it out after one season as an offensive coordinator 33 years ago, offense sets records, but defense wins championships.

Carroll’s redemption as a coach is emblematic of many of the athletes seeking a second chance like Marshawn Lynch or the 19 undrafted players he’s had stowed away on his depth chart. He’s is the real-life personification of LOST’s John Locke. Indulge me for a second. Like Locke, Carroll was nothing but a broken man and a failure after he was fired by the New England Patriots following the 1999 season. He landed in USC, created a cult of personality and fostered an environment in practices that emphasized competition. From there, he proceeded to construct the preeminent college football dynasty spanning through the first decade of the new millennium.

On a small, uncharted island, Locke ascended to the leadership of a clandestine group in meteoric fashion. In Seattle, Carroll has quickly accumulated believers partly through his zen-like coaching philosophy.

Of course, that also means the real Pete Carroll was replaced by a double sometime between getting fired by the New England Patriots and getting hired by USC in 2000. How else do you explain his late career surge? He's the Jose Bautista of NFL coaches without the PED rumors abound. Oh wait…

At USC, he honed the same shtick that allowed him to recruit blue chip 18-year-old prospects and molded it into a bold, NFL philosophy. His youthful exuberance at 62 is in stark contrast to Mack Brown’s sluggishness at 62, however, before Seattle hired Carroll, the perception was that college coaches couldn't cut it working with grown men in the pros. Carroll altered that assumption with an old school style of play merged with a new school mindset.

During ESPN’s postgame, Stuart Scott asked his panel why Carroll was the right personality to lead this Seahawks team while a chryon on screen indicated that Carroll was now the third-oldest coach to win an NFL title behind Bill Walsh and Dick Vermeil.

Trent Dilfer credited Carroll's uniqely positive approach to coaching in a sport where players are treated as commodities.

Cris Carter credited the triumvirate of general manager John Schneider, owner Paul Allen and Carroll’s faith in reclamation projects. Nobody thanked Adderall, but they’re both right. Carroll’s NFL career is the ultimate reclamation project; however, here’s another plausible explanation. The Seahawks are the fourth-youngest Super Bowl champion in NFL history. A high percentage of his roster has never known a pro coach besides Carroll. They’ve yet to be jaded by the harsh side of the NFL. Carroll didn’t draft his players or sign them as undrafted free agents, they simply transferred to Seattle.

“Booker T” Baldwin laid down the gauntlet in postgame press conferences all night and informed any onlookers questioning his playmaking ability to check him out on your favorite search engine, but if you Googled Malcolm Smith after last night’s Super Bowl, the Wikipedia page of a Queens, New York Congressman is the featured profile. The Seahawks previously anonymous Super Bowl MVP was drafted in the seventh round of the same 2011 Draft that produced starting outside linebacker K.J. Wright in the fourth round, Richard Sherman in the fifth and Byron Maxwell in the sixth.

Smith’s MVP award vaults him from unheralded to the Mount Rushmore of linebackers produced during the Pete Carroll/Ken Norton Jr. (his linebackers coach for nine years) era at USC including Clay Matthews III, Rey Maulaluga and Brian Cushing. Smith doesn’t get credit for being in position to catch the pass tipped by Richard Sherman, which ended the NFC Championship, but this rectified the lack of recognition he received in the last two weeks.

Carroll joins Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer as the only coaches to win a national championship and a Super Bowl.

There’s a key difference between Johnson and Carroll. Switzer is disqualified for winning on the coattails of Johnson’s groundwork. Carroll laid Seattle’s foundation on the defensive end because that’s where his passion lies. Johnson found Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin in the first round.

The first two rounds of the 2011 Draft is on track to be the most impressive collection of talent to ever accumulate in one class, but Seattle’s roster didn’t take form until the bright lights of the first two nights was replaced by the harsh realities of the Draft’s final day. None of this happens without Wilson, who may have formed his own treacherous trio with Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin. 

Over the course of four years, Carroll’s assembled one of the most formidable defenses of our generation. More importantly, he and general manager John Schneider supplied their defense with a long-term quarterback. Ray Lewis’ Ravens scoured the market for years before drafting Joe Flacco. Brad Johnson was on his last legs of his starting career when he became the Bucs quarterback.  

You could argue that Wilson was snubbed for Super Bowl MVP honors, but he’s got something Peyton never did—an airtight defense. Wilson’s youth won’t be wasted.

A majority of the Seahawks’ leading contributors were matriculating through the prep football machine when Carroll was planting his Trojan flag at college football’s peak. While he’s one of the oldest coaches in Super Bowl history, his rah-rah attitude worked and the Seahawks core put all those 20-something millennials trying to “find themselves” to shame.

The natural thing to do is begin expecting USC-type dynasty for the Seahawks. On their way home from the Georgia Dome after their loss to Atlanta last year, Wilson was discussing winning a Super Bowl the next season when Carroll chimed in, “Let's not just win one Super Bowl. Let's win multiple."

At least they’re halfway there, but free agency has a way of chewing up great teams and nobody wants to get paid more urgently than young football players after their rookie contracts some point, these young stars are all going to want to get paid. There’s not enough guap to go around for Wilson, Sherman, Lynch, Harvin, Golden Tate, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Maxwell and impending free agent Michael Bennett.

Wilson joined Brady as one of three other quarterbacks to win the Super Bowl in their second season, however, the Pats were forced to make tough business decisions beginning with cutting Ty Law. Time isn’t an issue for the Seahawks because of their youth. Financial constraints could eventually split the core of Seattle’s core, but there’s no need to fret. Carroll is as adept of a talent evaluator as there is in football. Every year, he’ll get approximately seven rounds to replenish. It’s what’s kept Bill Belichick afloat in New England for over a decade. However, as the years pass, he'll know longer have access to insider information on players he recruited to USC.

For the past few years we've crowned noted scowlers such as Nick Saban and Bill Belichick as the dark kings of coaching. Saban's Dolphins tenure was perceived to be a relative failure until you factor in Miami going 1-15 the year after he resigned and Bill Belichick floundered with the third-world Cleveland Browns. However, Carroll's resume on bright colored printing paper, with the smiley face letterhead deserves a look.