Seahawks’ history may keep Carroll out of coaching elite

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comJune 11, 2013 

These crafty webmasters know how to suck in sports fans. Any time they make a list of the “20 Greatest Fill-In-The-Blank,” fans will click through each entry so they know how badly their favorite fill-in-the-blank was disrespected by the experts.

No better way to spur a debate ... or to get a columnist to analyze why the local guys were snubbed.

ESPN’s latest is the 20 “Greatest Coaches in NFL History.” There’s only the No. 1 spot left unnamed, and since Vince Lombardi is not yet on the list, it’s obvious he has edged out Bill Walsh, Don Shula, George Halas and Chuck Noll — the others in the top five.

Relevant to our purposes, we may note that none among the 20 ever coached the Seattle Seahawks, although Mike Holmgren, Chuck Knox and Tom Flores all are well-credentialed and highly regarded.

But by most criteria, they all were on a better pace toward that recognition before they got involved with the Seahawks, because all three coaches had better records elsewhere.

What’s that mean for current Seahawks coach Pete Carroll? Well, he still has time, but only if he’s in no hurry about retiring and is set up to string together a number of championship seasons.

The top dozen or so are indisputable, the only question is their order. But the last five on ESPN’s list — No. 20, Tony Dungy; 19, Mike Shanahan; 18, Sid Gillman; 17, Marv Levy; 16, Hank Stram; and 15, Bud Grant — could easily be challenged by a sizable pool of others.

Holmgren came to Seattle in 1999 with a .670 winning percentage and two Super Bowl appearances (one win) in nine seasons in Green Bay. Despite another Super Bowl appearance and five more division titles in Seattle, three losing seasons dropped his Seattle winning percentage to .538.

Still, had his Packers been able to hold on for a victory over Denver in Super Bowl XXXII (Green Bay came in as an 111/2-point favorite), or if the Seahawks had been able to overcome any number of calamities that doomed them in Super Bowl XL, Holmgren’s two NFL titles would have likely landed him on the list.

Knox started off as a world-beater, or at least a division-beater, with the Los Angeles Rams, winning .782 of his games with five NFC West titles in five seasons. But he ended up with just one AFC West division title in Seattle.

Knox nursed the Seahawks out of their infancy and into competitive relevance in the 1980s, and won 80 games in nine seasons here, but no conference title and going 7-11 all-time in playoff games left him off the final list.

Flores masterfully managed to keep Al Davis happy and a roster of headstrong players out of trouble long enough to win two Super Bowls with the Raiders while winning at a .610 clip. Most impressively, he coached his team to eight wins in 11 playoff games.

But three seasons under the repressive Ken Behring ownership in the early 1990s left Flores with only 14 wins in 48 games with the Seahawks.

Fans of other coaches have legitimate beefs: George Allen won .712 of his games. Marty Schottenheimer won eight division titles and a .613 percentage of his games over 26 years. Bill Cowher (.623) has a Super Bowl title, so does Sean Payton (.646).

With only seven seasons as an NFL coach, Pete Carroll is a toddler compared to the others on the list. None of the bottom five on the list coached fewer than 17 seasons.

To get up to 17 seasons, he’d have to coach until he’s 71. And to reach the .600 mark, he’d have to average 101/2 wins a season to sufficiently lift his current 58-54 mark.

Winning a Super Bowl or two along the way would do the trick, too. But he’s going to have to reverse a nasty trend to make it happen.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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