The stability under Carroll, coupled with a like-minded philosophy with GM John Schneider, has served the Seahawks extraordinarily well.
Amid the pertinent business of scouting players for what will be a crucial upcoming NFL draft (though aren’t they all?), a significant bit of Seahawks news slipped out last week.
No, it doesn’t involve Marshawn Lynch riding a camel, Russell Wilson hawking clothing or media members getting timed in the 40-yard dash with a sun dial instead of a stop watch. Let’s call that impertinent business.
Rather, Pete Carroll is quietly negotiating a contract extension that would keep him in Seattle beyond the upcoming season, which is the last one in his current deal.
In football circles, Carroll’s return has been considered a fait accompli all along. But it’s never good to tempt fate, or even fait — particularly with the potential lure of a new team in Los Angeles, the town Carroll once owned.
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Now he’s the toast of this town, and the knowledge that Carroll is going to be around a while should be comforting news to Seahawks fans. At one time, though the memory is getting dimmer by the day, it was hard to imagine Carroll as the coach of the Seahawks. Now it’s hard to envision anyone else.
Carroll’s current contract was announced in April 2014 and put him on the same schedule as general manager John Schneider, whose deal also runs through 2016. If, as expected, Carroll’s impending new deal is matched by one for Schneider, that would be even better news regarding the continuation of the best stretch in team history.
All one needs to do, from the vantage point of CenturyLink Field, is look across the street at Safeco Field to see the blight of rotating, unsteady leadership. Of course, it’s a chicken-and-egg proposition — either bad teams lead to managerial changes, or managerial influx enables poor play — but the contrast between the Seahawks and Mariners is stark.
Since Lou Piniella split for Tampa Bay after the 2002 season, the Mariners have had as many managers (seven) in the ensuing 14 years as the Seahawks have had head coaches in their 40-year history (that’s excluding interims in both cases).
In the past 17 years, the Seahawks have had two extended reigns — those of Mike Holmgren and Carroll, bookended around their one slip-up, the solitary 2009 season of Jim Mora. Both Holmgren and Carroll reached the pinnacle with Super Bowl appearances, Carroll winning it all in Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Mariners are working on their fourth general manager in that post-Piniella period; many people point to the working relationship between Carroll and Schneider as the model for Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais.
Stability, coupled with a like-minded philosophy, has served the Seahawks extraordinarily well. Carroll once said he told Schneider early in their relationship that they were going to create “the most special head coach-GM relationship ever in the National Football League.”
Did they succeed? Who knows? But Carroll’s willingness to shoot for the highest possible goals, and genuinely believe he has the means to get there, is part of his Seahawks legacy.
He turns 65 in September, and is the oldest coach in the NFL with Tom Coughlin’s retirement, but you would never know it. Carroll’s vigor is that of a much younger man, and he still relates well to men who are 40 years or more his junior.
It would stand to reason that legacy is on Carroll’s mind now as he reaches the golden years of his career. Though it makes logical sense to surmise that the Rams job might entice him, there are a couple things wrong with that. He might not want to deal with an owner such as Stan Kroenke, reputed to be much more hands-on than Paul Allen. And the Rams are said to be in negotiations on an extension for current coach Jeff Fisher, which would make the whole matter moot anyway.
But beyond that, the Rams have not shown strong signs they are near title contention, even with a dynamic coach. In Seattle, Carroll and Schneider have built a team that has all the pieces in place to be a playoff factor for the next few years, at least. And Carroll no doubt still has the hunger, having lost the Super Bowl in the most painful way possible two seasons ago, and getting ousted in the playoffs this past season.
One more title probably would cement a Pro Football Hall of Fame spot for Carroll, who already has his place in college football annals with two national titles at USC (marred by the Reggie Bush incident under his watch).
His style of coaching, based on positivity and maximizing strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses, is gaining traction around the league. That has to be especially rewarding for Carroll in light of his failed regimes with the Jets and Patriots, when his style was criticized. I think he still wants to see how far he can take it.
Finally, in Schneider, Carroll has the perfect partner for the near term. Or at least until Green Bay’s general manager, 63-year-old Ted Thompson, reaches the end of his contract after the 2018 season. That job would be a tremendous lure for Schneider, who grew up in Green Bay and began his career working for the Packers.
By that time, Carroll might truly be ready to retire. Or not. But right now, it looks like he still has a lot of mileage left in Seattle.