The Seahawks coach has never been AP NFL Coach of the Year, but he could be on track for an even bigger honor — election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Pete Carroll might be the most successful coach in the Seahawks’ 41 years. But he is far from the most decorated.
Jack Patera (1978) and Chuck Knox (1984) were named the Associated Press Coach of the Year with the Seahawks, an award the NFL considers its official honor. Knox also won three other honors for Coach of the Year in 1983.
Carroll? He has one lone award as Coach of the Year, in 2012, from the Kansas City NFL 101 Club.
As for the exalted AP Coach of the Year award? Carroll has never received more than five of a possible 50 votes during his six years with the Seahawks.
When Carroll led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl title in 2013, four years after taking over a team that had won a combined nine games in its previous two seasons, he received just three votes — fifth overall and one fewer than Chip Kelly, then with the Eagles (Carolina’s Ron Rivera won it).
Carroll, though, could be on track for an even bigger honor as Seattle’s coach — election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He signed a new contract in July, keeping him with the Seahawks through 2019, which likely would allow him to finish his career in Seattle.
If a man who is becoming one of the defining coaches of his generation makes it to the Hall, it would be because of his success with the Seahawks.
Of other notable male coaches or managers of major Seattle pro teams, only Lenny Wilkens is a Hall of Famer. But Wilkens, named to the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach in 1998 (he earlier had made it as a player), earned more than half his NBA victories (then a record 1,332) in cities other than Seattle.
Carroll has never seemed bothered by the lack of individual awards.
“It’s great recognition for your staff, because that’s what it really is,” he said. “So it’s nice for everybody. But it doesn’t matter.”
Some who know Carroll, though, say he cares more about his legacy than he lets on.
“I think he is giving you a little bit of lip service on that,” said former Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, now an analyst with the NFL Network. “I think Pete is very aware of his legacy and very cognizant of it, and I think he has worked his entire life to build his legacy.”
Carroll turns 65 on Sept. 15 and is the oldest coach in the NFL. But he hardly appears to be nearing the back stretch of his career.
Success in Seattle
Here’s a look at some other iconic Seattle coaches and managers.
LENNY WILKENS, SONICS
Years coached: 1969-72, 78-85.
Comment: George Karl had a better winning percentage as the Sonics’ coach. But Wilkens led the Sonics to their only title in 1979 and an NBA Finals appearance in 1978. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach in 1998. At the time, he had the most wins of any coach in NBA history.
Fun fact: Essentially was fired twice as Sonics coach — in 1972 when he was told he had to choose between coaching and playing (he chose playing and was traded) and in 1985 after a 31-51 season.
LOU PINIELLA, MARINERS
Years managed: 1993-2002.
Comment: Piniella, who won a World Series in 1990 with the Reds, has not been seriously considered for the Hall of Fame as a manager. Winning another World Series might have helped — he made the postseason seven times in 23 years as a manager.
Fun fact: He finished in the top six in Manager of the Year voting 14 times and won it three times, including in 1995 and 2001 with the Mariners. He is the only Mariner manager to capture the award.
DON JAMES, UW FOOTBALL
Years coached: 1975-93.
Comment: James never coached in the pros. But in the post-World War II era he might be the most successful coach in Seattle sports history. James was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997, largely on the strength of his UW career, which included six Rose Bowl appearances and another in the Orange Bowl.
Fun fact: James’ 10-5 record in bowl games gives him the 10th-best postseason winning percentage (.667) for coaches with 10 or more bowl appearances.
Shortly after re-signing with the Seahawks, Carroll essentially admonished reporters for broaching the idea that there was an end game to his coaching days.
“I don’t even want to think that,” Carroll said. “There are no last stops. You just keep going.”
And to some who vote for the Hall of Fame, a few more successful years may be all he needs to get in the Hall.
Carroll was famously fired from his first two head-coaching jobs, spending four combined seasons with the Jets and Patriots. He then had a nine-year run at USC that was among the best in college football history.
Though his college days won’t help him get in the Pr o Football Hall of Fame, and his NFL career might be shorter than those of other coaches who are in, he is compiling a résumé that could be hard to deny.
Carroll is 93-67 with the Seahawks and 102-73 overall, more wins than Vince Lombardi and Bill Walsh. He has a .581 winning percentage, better than Hall of Famers such as Hank Stram, Marv Levy, Chuck Noll and Bill Parcells.
What would help the most, of course, is another Super Bowl win. Of the 13 coaches to win two or more Super Bowls, seven are in the Hall of Fame, and of the six not in the Hall, three are not yet eligible.
Peter King, a longtime writer for Sports Illustrated, holds one of the 46 votes for the Hall. He says, given the team that Seattle has and Carroll’s willingness to keep coaching, Carroll has a decent chance to get there.
“The way I look at it is Pete just needs to keep coaching,” King said. “And that, from my understanding,is exactly what he plans to do. He is still a young man, coaching like someone 20 years younger than his birth certificate says. I do not subscribe to the theory that if you win X number of games as a coach that you get into the Hall of Fame. I judge it more on a complete career.
“For instance,I don’t think that Tom Flores did enough to be a Hall of Famer. But if Pete’s career ended today, Tom Flores would be ahead of him on my list because of the second Super Bowl. Neither in my opinion has won enough right now to be a Hall of Fame coach. I just don’t believe that either X number of Super Bowl (wins) or X number of wins gets you in. It also has to be impact on the game. So if you’re looking for a magic number, I would say that Pete probably needs to coach another five excellent years and then he would have an interesting résumé to consider for the Hall.”
It hasn’t been easy lately for coaches to get into the Hall, which inducts no more than eight people per year. Six coaches have been elected since 1997.
But if longevity is what Carroll needs, then those who know him think that’s what he’ll get.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider, who at 45 is almost 20 years younger than Carroll, marvels at the way Carroll relates to the current generation of players despite being old enough to be their grandfather.
Schneider jokes that Carroll calls Schneider’s office “the dentist office because I have like smooth jazz going, like stress-free radio. And he knows all the rap songs and all the hippest music. He’s got TVs going and Sirius radio and all that kind of stuff.
“He’s way more hip than I am. He’s just so young at heart. His energy is off the charts, and that just radiates through our building.”
And with a few more years and a title or two, it might someday get him in a Hall.
Is 2 enough for the Hall?
Thirteen coaches have won two or more Super Bowls:
HALL OF FAMERS
• Vince Lombardi: Won the first two Super Bowls with Green Bay and five NFL titles overall.
• Tom Landry: Reached five Super Bowls and won two.
• Don Shula: Also reached five Super Bowls and won back-to-back titles.
• Chuck Noll: One of two coaches to win four Super Bowls. Had a perfect record in the Big Game.
• Bill Walsh: Won three with the 49ers in the 1980s.
• Joe Gibbs: He won three with Washington in the 1980s.
• Bill Parcells: Won two Super Bowls with the Giants and also took the Patriots there in 1997.
NOT IN THE HALL
• Tom Flores: Won two Super Bowls with the Raiders, but some wonder if owner Al Davis was really pulling the strings.
• Mike Shanahan: Won back-to-back Super Bowls. Barring a return to coaching, will be eligible for the Hall in 2019.
• Jimmy Johnson: Won two Super Bowls with the Cowboys in the 1990s. Has been a semifinalist for Hall induction the past three years and a finalist once.
• Bill Belichick: Has won four Super Bowls. Still coaching but will undoubtedly be a first-ballot honoree when eligible.
• Tom Coughlin: Coached the Giants last season before being eased out of job. Will have to wait five years to see if a résumé that includes two Super Bowl titles and a 170-150 record in 20 seasons is enough.
• George Seifert: Won two Super Bowls with the 49ers following the retirement of Bill Walsh. But a failed stint afterward with Carolina and Walsh’s shadow may keep him out of the Hall.