This whole 2-5 thing? It’s a 10-year trend for Pete Carroll.
In the past he’s managed — for the most part — to navigate his way out of it. But this time feels different.
He’s not a coach that recently took over a new program or team. He’s the oldest coach in the NFL and has a Hall of Fame quarterback that has expressed a willingness to wear another jersey.
This, frankly, is the biggest test he’s faced in his time with the Seahawks. Can he pull off a miracle and turn this team around?
In 2001, Carroll was in this very position as the head coach at USC. It was his first year in the role, and the Trojans had lost five of their first seven games. Carroll said Wednesday that he actually considered pulling Carson Palmer — who’d go on to win the Heisman Trophy the next year — from the starting lineup and replacing him with Matt Leinart. But…
“We found out that it wasn’t really the quarterback, it was about us needing to play better,” Carroll said. “From that point on, we won a lot of games. We didn’t lose very many games for years. That was the turnaround moment, so 2-5 may have a little bit of poetry to it.”
The Trojans ended up winning four of their next five games to earn a berth in the Las Vegas Bowl. They ended up winning at least 11 games in each of their next seven seasons (although one of those seasons was vacated). The turnaround all started at 2-5 … as was the case for Carroll 10 years later.
In 2011, Pete was the second-year coach of a Seahawks team that snuck into the playoffs at 7-9 the previous year and upset the defending Super Bowl champion Saints. The club didn’t exactly ride the momentum into season No. 2.
Seattle dropped five of its first seven games, but in that fifth loss came a change that would alter the organization for the foreseeable future — Richard Sherman made his first career start. The Seahawks would go on to win five of their next seven. They missed the playoffs, but had birthed the Legion of Boom and established Marshawn Lynch as the league’s most dominant running back.
We all know what happened next: An 11-win season in 2012, a Super Bowl title in 2013, and an NFC championship in 2014. Not quite a dynasty, but probably the most thrilling three years a team has given this city. It started at 2-5.
But this time? This time just doesn’t feel the same. Almost no coach takes over a struggling college football program and instantly catapults them to the top. Carroll needed time (although not much) at USC, and molded the Trojans into the best team in the nation.
And in 2011, the Seahawks were teeming with young talent in the form of Lynch, Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright and Russell Okung — and were a year away from picking Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner in what may have been their greatest draft ever.
Now, though? Wilson is out with a finger injury and doesn’t have an exact timetable for his return. More significantly, by giving a list of four teams he’d be willing to be traded to last offseason, he has hinted that he might want out of this situation in Seattle. The man wants to win in the second half of his career. Can the Seahawks provide that opportunity?
There’s talent for sure. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are one of the best receiving duos in the game, and Wagner is a future Hall of Fame linebacker. But it isn’t reminiscent of the Super Bowl teams that were dripping with world-beaters.
No, this comes down to Carroll. This comes down to a coach somehow finding a way to resurrect this team when the season looks lost.
“Sometimes you have to learn the hard way. I hate learning the hard way, but everybody has to learn the hard way,” Carroll said. “This is one of those times right now, so we have to fight through it and that’s what I’m doing.”
There was a lot of promise when this season began. And there have been three losses by three points — two of which came in overtime. That doesn’t change reality, though.
The Seahawks’ season is on the brink, and this is Carroll’s biggest test. The franchise’s future depends on him passing it.