The NFL needs to leave Pete Carroll alone. For the umpteenth year in a row, Carroll has reportedly been “discussing” a job opening with an NFL team. Most recently, it’s the Washington Redskins. Before that, it was the Atlanta Falcons. Same story last offseason, and the one before that and the one before that. Each time things have ended the same way, with “discussions” ending amicably, but with Carroll still at USC instead of some underachieving NFL backwater. This is easily the most tired storyline of every NFL and college football offseason. Let me say it now and let it stand forever, Pete Carroll isn’t going anywhere.
What convinced NFL teams that a coach who was extraordinarily mediocre in the past would suddenly become Vince Lombardi if given a new opportunity? In his first go-round in the NFL, Carroll was not a winner with the Jets or Patriots. His teams did OK, but he was the same dynamic coach he is now, only his teams weren’t very talented. So unless Carroll is the head coach of one of the top ten teams in the league, it makes no sense to think that he’d lead his team anywhere. Talent is what matters in the NFL, the coach is a distant second. As great a coach as Bill Belichick is, he’d still be the disaster he was in Cleveland if the Patriots weren’t an extremely talented team. Even geniuses need good players. Besides, it’s not like Pete is making something out of nothing at USC. He’s got arguably the most talented roster in college football, so naturally they’re winning consistently, good coach or not. Have we learned nothing from Norv Turner taking the Chargers to the AFC title game? Talent is what matters, people.
What makes Pete Carroll great is how excited and dynamic he is every day. He has a palpable energy off which his USC players feed. Talented as they are, it’s what takes them to another level. It is what has given them the incredible, sustained success they’ve had for the past six years. And there’s no sign it will stop any time soon. So it does make a little sense to think that maybe Pete’s energy could help an NFL team out. But like I said earlier, his act doesn’t work if the team isn’t any good. The Falcons are a mess and a dynamic coach isn’t making a difference in Washington. Even when he was in New York and New England, his act didn’t fly with professional players who weren’t all that great to begin with.
I admit, his 33-31 NFL coaching record is tantalizing, but the guy has it too good in Los Angeles at the moment to leave unless it’s for the perfect situation. USC is a recruiting juggernaut, he has a great staff under him, and he’s in total control of arguably the best program in college football (that’s right, SEC fan, I said it). To get Pete out of USC, offering him just a huge salary isn’t going to get the job done (especially since USC would probably match any crazy offer out there). The team has to already be good, he has to have control over the roster, be able to pick his staff and have a fantastic front office in place too. Other than the Patriots, it’s hard to think of any teams with situations like that. It’s also not like those top-level teams need new coaches all that often either. Even when the Chargers’ job was open, it wasn’t the perfect situation for Carroll because of the control GM A.J. Smith exercises over the day-to-day decisions.
Finally, Pete Carroll is much too smart to leave USC. He’s done his time in the NFL and been fired for little or no reason twice. In college football, he fits perfectly, is excellent at his job and he wins. A lot. Only an idiot leaves that situation to work for Dan Snyder or any other NFL team. It’s why Lane Kiffin, not Pete Carroll (or even Steve Sarkisian) left for Oakland. Pete simply isn’t an idiot.
The point is this: given the success rate of college coaches jumping to the NFL (Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino most recently), the high-maintenance demands that Carroll will inevitably heap upon a potential suitor and the tons of money it will cost to get him, it’s really not worth going after Pete Carroll anymore.
Most of all, teams need to stop believing that a coach can make all the difference. Colts fans wanted Tony Dungy gone because they lost a playoff game. They didn’t even consider the fact that this year’s Indianapolis Colts may not have been all that talented to begin with. A new coach doesn’t change all the injuries, lack of depth, or the turnovers that plagued them against San Diego. John Gruden won a Super Bowl title with “Dungy’s team” in Tampa, from which he’d been fired because they didn’t win the big one soon enough. People are convinced that a coach changes the 50/50 nature of most football games. It’s why everyone who ever had anything to do with Bill Walsh got a job in the 90’s. Did all of them win Super Bowls? Obviously not. If the team isn’t talented, the identity of the coach is meaningless.
So leave Pete Carroll alone. Stop “discussing” the job opening at your crappy organization with him. If you were any good in the first place, you wouldn’t need a head coach, would you? Let the man enjoy being the best coach in college football and stop making poor Phillips get under a sheet and post video blogs of himself sobbing on YouTube every time there’s a rumor surrounding Pete Carroll leaving his beloved USC Trojans in the lurch. Unless the Patriots’ job opens again, Pete Carroll isn’t going anywhere. This concludes my reverse-hex of USC.