RENTON — Dick Clark, who hosted “American Bandstand” and other rock shows well into his senior years, was dubbed “America’s oldest teenager.” Pete Carroll might give him a run for that title.

Carroll turns 71 on Sept. 15 — three days after the Seahawks open Carroll’s 13th season as their head coach against the Denver Broncos and their very familiar quarterback. Carroll has been coaching at various collegiate and professional levels since 1973, a 49-year span that includes two national titles at USC and the Seahawks’ first (and still only, by virtue of Carroll’s ill-fated second-and-1 call at the goal line that still haunts the organization) Super Bowl.

Yet his youthful exuberance has never wavered. Six years past Medicare eligibility, Carroll still acts like each practice, each drill, is the most exciting and important thing he’s ever seen, and not the umpteenth iteration of a ritual that could easily be viewed as mundane at best, and mindlessly dull at worst.

Quandre Diggs (6) and Jamal Adams (33) are photographed at Virginia Mason Athletic Center Monday, Aug. 29, 2022.  (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)


Seahawks general manager John Schneider describes Carroll as “the Energizer Bunny.” He marveled about how the coach left the offices at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center around 1 a.m. the day before roster cuts, and was back at 6:30 a.m., rarin’ to go.

“He came bopping in and was like: ‘How’s it going Johnny, you ready to go? You ready to go? What are we doing? Let’s go,'” Schneider said. “He was all excited to watch the guys we wanted to focus on and ready to make those tough decisions that we had to make. And he’s into it. I had the blessing to work with Marty Schottenheimer. Pete is very similar where he can go from the special teams room where he was a coach for a long time to the offensive meeting room to the defensive meeting room to the quarterbacks room and to the DB room. And have that same level of knowledge and energy, and he doesn’t stop. He was sitting there with all the scouts last night and asking questions about GPS times. It’s fun. It’s been a fun partnership for 13 years, man. It’s crazy.” 

That unrelenting passion is Carroll’s great strength, the offshoot of which is an impressive ability to both motivate his players and develop a positive culture that, for the most part, makes Seattle a desirable locale within the NFL. There are notable cases of players who had a bitter departure, but even then, Carroll didn’t burn bridges. He still is regarded as the ultimate players’ coach.


Now, at an age when most people are well into retirement, either forced or voluntary, Carroll is facing the biggest challenge of his Seahawks career. How it resolves itself will either redefine and strengthen his Seattle legacy or provide a sour postscript to the glorious decade in which he turned the Seahawks into a power.

Carroll had the audacity — and “audacious” is the best word to describe this decision — to blow up a prosperous quarterback situation and set up the Seahawks for a murky, uncertain world in Russell Wilson’s absence.

Who else but Carroll would embrace what looks, smells and tastes like a rebuild at this stage of his career? Who else but Carroll would steadfastly refuse to acknowledge it’s anything of the sort and insist that this is a team that can win now, despite an almost universal belief that the Seahawks will struggle to finish close to .500?

The decision by Carroll and Schneider to trade Wilson following last year’s 7-10 season, in which Wilson missed games because of injury for the first time in his career, raises the stakes for Carroll to an extent he hasn’t face before. Yes, Carroll inherited a 5-11 team from his predecessor, Jim Mora, in 2010, but back then he had the luxury of time and reduced expectations — and the benefits of a superb and so far un-repeatable streak of great drafts. After a run of nine playoff appearances in 12 years, fueled by the historic defense Carroll developed, Seahawks fans have become conditioned to contention. If last year’s slippage proves to be more than an aberration, the impatience and discontent will no doubt ratchet up.

The key, of course, will be Carroll’s ability to replace Wilson, who won more games through his first 10 NFL seasons than any other quarterback. The reasons behind the decision to trade Wilson are manifold, but the bottom line is that the Seahawks got rid of a top-tier QB who could be counted on to make the Seahawks a contender and are replacing him with, at least at the outset, a journeyman in Geno Smith who hasn’t been an NFL starter other than injury replacement since 2014.

Talk about audacious decisions. If it works, Carroll will look like a genius. If it doesn’t work — and the smart money is on that outcome — the Seahawks will almost certainly have to commit to, if not a full-blown rebuild, at the very least a pivot to a young quarterback obtained in the draft. Whether Carroll has the stomach at what would be age 72 next season to oversee such a transition — which generally isn’t an overnight success — is an open question. Whether ownership would want him to be the one overseeing it is also a valid question, particularly with rumors of an eventual sale by Jody Allen.

For now, though, Carroll has full confidence that his time-tested method of building a successful football team still applies in the modern age, in the face of analytics and the evolution of X’s and O’s. He’s said it repeatedly over the years: You win with defense, a strong running game, a quarterback who protects the ball above all else and a team that dominates the turnover battle.

Carroll will embrace that philosophy in 2022 with the enthusiasm and commitment of a man four decades younger. Whether Seahawks fans will share that enthusiasm remains to be seen.