Carroll Given Strong Hand in Seattle
SEATTLE -- The surprise isn't that Pete Carroll is the new head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
After nine successful years at Southern California, Carroll was a hot commodity for NFL teams looking to re-establish themselves.
The surprise is that Carroll, who had no success in the NFL with the New York Jets and only modest success with the New England Patriots, is getting the kind of internal leverage that generally doesn't exist elsewhere in the league.
Carroll and team CEO Tod Leiweke jumped into the process of trying to hire a general manager for the beleaguered franchise Tuesday after a morning press conference introduced Carroll to the Seattle media.
Most employees, even the highly coveted ones, don't have a say in choosing the person who would, in most eyes, be the boss. Carroll will. And Leiweke made it clear that Carroll will be on equal footing with whoever the general manager turns out to be.
"We need a clean slate here,'' Leiweke said. "At one point, I thought [former coach] Jim Mora would be here for another season. But watching the last four games (all losses, three of those blowouts) if felt something here I'd never felt before.
"I felt a lack of hope. Now [with Carroll's arrival], that can mean great hope. It can be a great motivator.''
And to get Carroll to come aboard, his having a say in the hiring of the GM was a must.
"He didn't want to be the general manager,'' Leiweke said. "But he wanted to make sure we hired the best GM we could. We need to have a collaborative approach.''
The Seahawks won just nine games over the last two seasons. USC had its problems in 2009, but Carroll's Trojans generally won nine games a year just by showing up, such was the level of their talent. To get the Seahawks up to that standard is what Carroll calls his overriding goal.
"I hope we can do things better than they've ever been done around here before,'' Carroll said. "There are extraordinarily high expectations, and I love living in that world. I love setting our sights so far out and our standards so high that maybe it doesn't even seem feasible.''
The 58-year-old Carroll has had a handful of what he termed "serious'' talks with NFL teams in recent years, but he said he never found a reason to leave USC until being sold on the Seahawks by Leiweke.
"When you have an organization that believes in you and that embraces your approach, that's what you have to have,'' Carroll said. "I've been looking for that trust and support. That's what was necessary.''
Carroll floundered in his first two go-rounds in the NFL because, he said, "I did not know who I was.'' He said the transformation for him came after leaving New England and before taking the USC job, finally understanding "what I wanted to be as a football coach.''
"I'm almost embarrassed to say I coached an NFL club and I didn't know what I was doing. Now I can clearly express what I want to do.''
What he wants to do, and what Leiweke needs him to do, is to win. And win in a hurry. The Seattle franchise peaked under Mike Holmgren with an appearance in Super Bowl XL in 2006, but 2007 saw elimination in the divisional playoffs before the complete collapse of the team in 2008 and 2009.
"What it's about is the relentless pursuit of the competitive edge,'' Carroll said.
There is ongoing speculation that Carroll's departure from USC comes before NCAA sanctions hit the school. There are questions about whether Trojan stars Reggie Bush and Joe McKnight received special treatment.
Carroll dismissed that talk.
"I've been dealing with [NCAA compliance issues] for five years now,'' he said. "I'm not involved. I'm confident it will all work out.''