When you reach the top, it’s great. You’re winning lots of games, you’re winning Super Bowls, teams are copying your scheme and signing away your players and hiring your assistant coaches and front office staff. Between that and the salary cap, the league does everything it can to chip away at your success, until you’re a hollow husk of your former self.
Then, on the way down, you stop winning Super Bowls, you don’t win as many games as you used to, the league is not only littered with copycats, but teams who’ve figured out your scheme, and nobody really wants to sign away your rejects or hire your assistants anymore. After a long run of success, at the first sign of stagnation, what do you do? Deflect blame and start firing assistants.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as ugly as it sounds. It’s not like Pete Carroll is out on a soapbox trashing guys like Darrell Bevell, Tom Cable, or Kris Richard, but a message is sent without saying anything at all. These guys were problems for us. If we want to get good again, we need to replace THESE guys with THOSE guys.
And, unless you’re Mike Tomlin or Marvin Lewis (guys who never get fired, no matter what apparently), you pretty much only get to do that once. Some coaches will take their time replacing coordinators. One bad year, pick which unit was the worst and fire its coordinator. Still didn’t work? Fire the other one. Dragging that out can sometimes help a head coach cling for dear life to his job. But, cleaning house all at once? That’s a bold move.
A bold move, I would argue, of a man who doesn’t figure to be here much longer.
The last ditch effort of a head coach trying to save his job is to bring in “his guys”. Get back to basics. And, if he has to go down with the ship, at least he went down his way. I don’t think Pete Carroll was in any danger of getting fired this season. I think this team could totally crater in 2018 as well and he’d probably still get a crack at turning it around in 2019. So, I wouldn’t say this is a hot seat situation – like it usually is – so much as a guy either nearing retirement, or simply nearing the end of his run in Seattle.
Pete Carroll was with USC for 9 seasons. He’ll be entering his 9th season with the Seahawks later this year. I’m not trying to say there’s some significance with the number 9 or anything, but 9 years in any one spot is a long time in the coaching world. Pete’s been in the business since the early 70’s, and his stint at USC (and now Seattle) was the longest BY FAR of any of his stops. You have to wonder if he’s getting antsy.
You also have to wonder if he’s seeing the writing on the wall. He saw it at USC, and left at the perfect time. With the Seahawks, what do we have to look forward to if the players we bring in from the 2016-2018 NFL Drafts don’t develop into elite Pro Bowlers? We’ve got a quarterback, a wide receiver, a few pieces on defense, and a lot of question marks. That makes it sound worse than it actually is – there are plenty of fine players on the team right now – but obviously there wasn’t enough in 2017 to get this team into the playoffs! When you’re susceptible to a kicker costing you your season, then you absolutely don’t have enough talent to be a championship contender. And, if you’re not a championship contender, then what’s the point?
I think that’s what Pete has to be thinking. He’s 66 years old, by far the oldest head coach in the league. I know he’s young at heart and whatnot, but even if he coaches until he’s 72 or 73 years old (and that’s being pretty generous, I think), what does that leave him time for? Is that enough time to turn this Seahawks franchise around? Maybe, but again it’s going to be really hard to do if we’re coming at it as a 9-7 team. If we string a bunch of these years together, that’s not going to help us rebuild! It’s just enough to keep us spinning our tires in that 8-8 grind! Better to bottom out for a year or two, then bounce back with a bunch of high draft picks (assuming, of course, that you hit on them).
Or, if we’re talking about the last 5-6 years of his head coaching career, maybe are we talking about Pete Carroll going to some OTHER downtrodden franchise and turning THEM around? I feel like that task is much more likely to come to fruition (assuming, of course, they figure out the quarterback conundrum).
To put it another way, does Pete Carroll want to be known (from an NFL perspective) as the best head coach in Seahawks history? Or, does he want to be known as a head coach who was able to turn around multiple franchises, and bring two different organizations to the Super Bowl? And, what’s more likely to get him into the Hall of Fame one day?
Part of this is me questioning whether Pete Carroll wants to finish his career here, which I have serious doubts about. But, the other part of it is me losing a little bit of confidence in these guys as talent evaluators and teachers of the game. This team needs a serious infusion of talent to counter-balance this team’s aging core and terrible luck with injuries. Because I don’t think the coaches they’ve brought in are capable enough of transforming the players we have now into superstars. And if this team keeps trending downward, as it’s been since 2015, we could be looking at some fairly lean times ahead.
At which point, it wouldn’t shock me to see Pete Carroll bolt for another opportunity. Nor would it shock me to see Paul Allen come in and blow everything up again. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m heading into the 2018 season without much confidence.