Every day it seems there’s someone who says or writes “Russ for MVP.” What you don’t hear as often, if at all, is “Pete for HOF.”
The play of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson — who leads the NFL in passer rating and touchdown passes — has made him the betting favorite to win his first Most Valuable Player award. But could this also be the season that makes Seahawks coach Pete Carroll a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Only Patriots coach Bill Belichick has outperformed Carroll over the past 10 years. The Seahawks were the NFC’s most consistent team last decade, as they reached the playoffs eight times, the Super Bowl twice and hoisted the Lombardi trophy in February 2014.
Then came this season, when Seattle started 5-0 for the first time in franchise history and sits atop the NFC West at 6-1. Has the NFL’s oldest coach done enough to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio? And if not, what is left to accomplish? Another Super Bowl?
That would probably guarantee it. Eight of the 14 coaches who have won the Big Game twice are Hall of Famers, and Belichick will surely make it nine. But there are also coaches such as Mike Shanahan, who has two Super Bowls and 31 more regular-season wins than Carroll but has yet to be enshrined.
This could simply be because Shanahan didn’t stop coaching until 2013. It often takes more than a decade for a coach to get the HOF call.
Jimmy Johnson, who won two Super Bowls with the Cowboys, didn’t get the call until 21 years after he hung ’em up. Bill Cowher, who won 149 games and a Super Bowl as coach of the Steelers, was inducted 14 years after retiring.
Cowher, by the way, is a pretty interesting comparison for Carroll. Pete has 10 fewer regular-season wins but would likely pass him if he coaches another season. Cowher, however, has four more division championships than Carroll. What’s unique about Pete, though, is that he didn’t even start writing his HOF resume until he was in his 60s.
His time as the Jets’ coach lasted just one year. The Patriots ousted him after three seasons. He finished under. 500 in his first two years in Seattle. Then 2012 came, and the victories have been rolling in since.
On Wednesday I asked the 69-year-old Carroll during a Zoom call if he changed his approach to coaching after his failed stints in New York and New England. The short answer? No.
“I absolutely did not change,” said Carroll, emphasizing that he wanted to treat NFL players the same way he did his players at USC, where he won a national championship. “Coming out of college, a lot of people said, ‘You’re a college coach, you don’t understand the NFL or whatever,’ but that’s not what happened. I had so many years coaching the NFL it was like stepping right back into it. … Looking back on some years I’m really pleased that we did fit.”
It doesn’t hurt that Carroll has had players such as Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner and Marshawn Lynch, all of whom could be in the Hall of Fame one day. Others such as Kam Chancellor and K.J. Wright could wind up in the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor. But Carroll has been able to maintain success despite a high rate of turnover. You don’t do that without having serious coaching chops.
On Wednesday Wagner was asked if Carroll’s rah-rah nature still resonates with him nine years into his career.
“It still has the same effect, because he’s getting older and you think at some point he’s going to slow down and he doesn’t slow down. And he’s still out there running around, still out there trying to play basketball,” Wagner said via a Zoom call. “It gives you something to look forward to, because if you take care of your body you can run around like that. It’s still inspiring for sure.”
That’s the thing about Carroll. Some might see a man looking to squeeze whatever he can out of his career before turning 70. The reality is that he could end up doing this for several more years.
Is he a Hall of Famer at this point? That’s hard to say. But at the rate he is going, that day is likely to come.