Renton – Dick Clark, who hosted “American Bandstand” and other rock shows until his later years, was dubbed “America’s Oldest Teen.” Pete Carroll might give him a chance to get that title.
Carroll turns 71 on September 15 — three days after the Seahawks opened Carroll’s thirteenth season as their head coach against the Denver Broncos and familiar quarterback. Carroll has been coaching at various college and professional levels since 1973, a 49-year stint that includes two USC National titles and the Seahawks’ first (and still only, thanks to Carroll’s second and ill-fated first call in the goal line that still haunts the organization) the Super Bowl.
However, his youthful enthusiasm never wavered. Six years after his Medicare eligibility, Carol still behaves like every practice, every training, is the most exciting and important thing he’s ever seen, not the thousand repetitions of a ritual that could easily be considered banal at best, and thoughtlessly boring at worst.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider describes Carol as an “energizer rabbit.” He marveled at how the coach left the offices at Virginia Mason Athletic Center around 1 a.m. the day before to cut the roster, and returned at 6:30 a.m., Raren to go.
“He came and said, ‘How’s it going, Johnny, are you ready to go?’ Are you ready to go? What do we do? Schneider said. “He was excited to see the players we wanted to focus on and ready to make those tough decisions we had to make. And he’s at it. I’ve had the blessing of working with Marti Schöttenheimer. A very similar house where he can move from the special teams room where he was a coach for so long to the boardroom. Offensive to defensive board room to mediators room and playroom. He has the same level of knowledge and energy, and he doesn’t stop. He’s been sitting there with all the scouts last night and asking questions about the GPS times. It’s fun. It’s been a fun partnership for a while. 13 years, man. That’s crazy.”
This unrelenting passion is Carroll’s great strength, which has branched out from an impressive ability to motivate his players and develop a positive culture that makes Seattle, for the most part, a desirable place within the NFL. There are notable cases of players who have gone through bitter departures, but even then, Carroll hasn’t burned bridges. He is still considered the best coach for the players.
Now, in an age when most people retire, either involuntarily or voluntarily, Carol faces the biggest challenge of his career at the Seahawks. How it resolves itself will either redefine and strengthen his Seattle legacy or provide a nasty footnote to the glorious decade in which he turned Seahawks into a force.
Carol had the audacity – and “bold” is the best word to describe this decision – to blow up the burgeoning quarterback situation and prepare the Seahawks for a mysterious and uncertain world in the absence of Russell Wilson.
Who other than Carol would embrace the look, smell, and tastes like a rebuilder at this point in his career? Who other than Carol would steadfastly refuse to admit it was anything like that and insist this team can win now, despite the near-universal belief that the Seahawks would struggle to finish close to 0.500?
Carroll and Sneijder’s decision to sign Wilson after last year’s 7-10 season, in which Wilson missed matches through injury for the first time in his career, raises the stakes for Carroll to an extent he has never faced before. Yes, Carroll inherited the 5-11 team from his predecessor, Jim Mora, in 2010, but at the time he had the luxury of time and lower expectations — and the benefits of an impressive and yet unrepeatable streak of great drafts. After a streak of 9 playoff games in 12 years, fueled by the historic defense developed by Carroll, Seahawks fans are primed to compete. If last year’s slide proves to be more than an aberration, there is no doubt that impatience and resentment will escalate.
The key, of course, will be Carroll’s ability to replace Wilson, who has won more games during his first 10 seasons in the NFL 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 they could count on to make the Seahawks competitive and replaced, at least initially, a journeyman man at Geno Smith who hadn’t been an NFL player other than an injury substitution since 2014. .
Talk about bold decisions. If it worked, Carol would look like a genius. If it doesn’t work out — and smart money on that outcome — the Seahawks will almost certainly commit, if not a complete rebuild, at least pivotal to the young quarterback obtained in the draft. Whether Carroll has the guts for what will be 72 years old next season to oversee such a transfer – which generally isn’t an overnight success – is an open question. Whether the property wants him to be the one overseeing it is also a valid question, especially with rumors of a final sale by Jody Allen.
For now, though, Carroll has full confidence that his time-tested method for building a successful soccer team is still relevant in the modern era, in the face of analytics and the evolution of X and O. He’s said it time and time again over the years: You win defense, strong running game, the midfielder who protects the ball above all else and a team that dominates the spin battle.
Carroll will embrace this philosophy in 2022 with the enthusiasm and commitment of a man four decades younger than him. It remains to be seen if Seahawks fans will share that enthusiasm.