RENTON – In an enthusiastic, intense and sometimes rambling give-and-take with reporters on Tuesday, Pete Carroll made it clear that he’s excited to be back in the NFL after nine years in college football, and that he benefited from his experience at the University of Southern California.
Carroll, 58, introduced as the Seattle Seahawks’ new head coach and executive vice president, said he doesn’t know how long it will take to return the Seahawks to the upper echelon of the NFL, but he’s ready to tackle the challenge.
“We’re in the NFL, the expectations are you gotta win,” Carroll said. “I totally understand it and I get it. I love that part of being in the league. But these expectations don’t have to overwhelm us, they have to drive us and guide us.”
The Seahawks have just nine wins in their last 32 games, and are working on head coach No. 3 in the last three years. Carroll replaces Jim Mora, who was fired after one season and a 5-11 record.
Carroll was a winner at USC, going 97-19 with national championships in 2003 and 2004. As much as he enjoyed his time with the Trojans, the lure of the NFL proved too strong.
“I was blessed to be at the University of Southern California for the years that I was there,” Carroll said. “And the things that we accomplished, the growth that we experienced has really given me an opportunity to grow as a coach, and that makes a much different guy than I was a few years back. And with the knowledge of that and the experience of that, as this opportunity presented itself, I just could not pass up the chance to come here. It’s just an amazing opportunity.”
Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke nodded his approval while watching the 40 minutes or so Carroll took questions. Carroll was the team’s top choice as it decided to move in a different direction after just one season with Mora.
“We were able to get a guy that other teams tried to get but didn’t,” Leiweke said. “We were certainly at the right place at the right time. We also offered Pete an extraordinary opportunity.”
Carroll emphasized the importance of having a chance to control the makeup and identity of his team, which includes the chance to help pick a new general manager. But he also said decisions on player personnel and the draft will be a collaborative effort between himself, the new GM and Leiweke.
The team interviewed two candidates for the vacant general manager position on Tuesday, including Green Bay Packers director of football operations John Schneider and New York Giants head of scouting Marc Ross. New England Patriots senior consultant Floyd Reese and Pittsburgh Steelers front office executive Omar Khan are expected in this week as well.
Carroll said the ability to control the direction of the team is what ultimately swayed him to take the job and return to the NFL.
“That is what I had at SC,” Carroll said. “And it is where I found my best success, was when I had the kinds of opportunities to factor into all aspects of it, and there was one single voice about what the football was going to be like, and there was one place to go, and one door to knock on for the players, they knew exactly who was calling the shots,” Carroll said. “That is what gives me the best chance to be the best I can be.”
However, the amount of control that Carroll will have is still undetermined.
On whether he will have ultimate say in choosing personnel, Carroll had this to say.
“We’re going to work that all out,” he said. “We’re going to work that out with the lucky guy that gets to come to this organization. We’ll figure that out based on his background and what’s best for us.”
As for the fact that he hasn’t coached in the NFL for almost a decade, Carroll, who went 33-31 in four years with the New England Patriots and New York Jets, said football is football, no matter what the level.
“You’ll ask how are you going to coach young kids coming from high school to college, and now you’re going to coach grown men? Well, they’re the same guys,” Carroll said. “They’re the same people. There just a little bit older.”
And, he said, he has grown since he last coached in the NFL.
“Thirteen years ago, I took that job in New England – 13 years ago!” Carroll said. “I’ve grown through this experience and I know so much more clearly where I’m coming from. I was not at my best in New York – I can’t tell you how far I was then from where I am now. I was not at my best in New England. I think the Seahawks are benefiting now on what I went through. ... So I’m not the same. Hopefully, I’m better.”
Carroll also addressed some of his new players in the audience, including former USC player Lawrence Jackson and linebacker Aaron Curry.
“It starts with us, our ability to communicate to one another, our ability to see a common vision, and to do this together,” Carroll said. “I think you’re going to be jacked about the coaches that are going to come in here, and the attitude that they’ll bring, but we need you guys to jump on board and go with us. It won’t happen any other way.”
Carroll also threw his support behind veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who will turn 35 in September.
“The NFL is a quarterback-driven process, and so the fact that we have Matt Hasselbeck here is a big factor to me. He’s played the game, he’s been a champion, and he knows how to get the thing done. We’ve got to get his support group and his play to the level that gives us a chance to play great football.”
Seahawks defensive lineman Jackson, who played for Carroll at USC, said he believes the transition to his former coach taking over will be a seamless one.
“I think the onus is on the players to open up and embrace the change,” Jackson said.
Carroll also has started to line up his staff. He reportedly landed renowned offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, a guru of the zone blocking scheme that Seattle’s offensive line struggled to learn this season, from the Houston Texans. Coaches also likely to follow Carroll from USC include USC offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, offensive line coach Pat Ruel and linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr.
New Mexico State head coach DeWayne Walker, who coached with Carroll at USC, also is a prospect to join the Seahawks defensive staff.
A look at Pete Carroll’s coaching record in the NFL and in college:
National football league
1997Patriots10-6 (.625)1-1 (.500)
1998Patriots9-7 (.563)0-1 (.000)
TOTAL33-31 (.516)1-2 (.333)
COLLEGES (All with USC)
20016-6 (.500)Las Vegas (loss)
200211-2 (.846)Orange (win)
200312-1 (.923)Rose (win)
200413-0 (1.000)Orange (win)
200512-1 (.923)Rose (loss)
200611-2 (.846)Rose (win)
200711-2 (.846)Rose (win)
200812-1 (.923)Rose (win)
2009 9-4 (.692)Emerald (win)
TOTAL97-19 (.836)7-2 (.778)
• Several Seahawks players show up for Pete Carroll’s Seattle introduction. B4
• Lane Kiffin returns to USC as Trojans’ coach after one season at Tennessee. B6
The News Tribune’s Eric D. Williams and Ryan Divish will keep you up to date on the new coaching staff and the GM search.