Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Oct 2005

USC or NFL? Carroll Rumors are Rumbling

Once again, Pete Carroll is rumored to be returning to the NFL. John Czarnecki's suggestion -- Pete Carroll as coach of the Saints in preparation for a move to Los Angeles in 2007 -- makes some sense. But this doesn't: "Some NFL owner might pay him more than $6 million a season and make him the sport's highest-paid head coach." That sound you just heard is laughter from Hartford to the tip of northern Maine. Apparently "some NFL owner" is not aware that you can't recruit your way to the top in the NFL by stacking your roster with highly sought-after players.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 26 Oct 2005

33 comments, Last at 28 Oct 2005, 10:57am by Paul


by B (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 10:07am

Well, if there's one guy who could make the Saints fans miss Jim Haslett, it's Pete Carroll.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 10:41am

If I was an owner looking for a bang-up head coach to make the highest paid coach in the game, and I wanted someone that isn't already a coach in the League, I think I'd be taking my dump truck o' cash to South Bend and parking it in front of Mr. Weis, before I took it to Los Angeles and placed it in front of Carroll.

Besides, they aren't going to make Los Angeles fans happy by taking Carroll away from USC, but they'll certainly make USC fans in Los Angeles happy by taking Weis away from Notre Dame :)


by pawnking (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 10:44am

I want Pete Carroll to get an NFL job just so I can read Bill Simmons' articles about it. Pete's been Bill's whipping boy since he was the Boston Sports Guy, and I'm sure he'd be absolutely relentless. I wonder what team he'd like to see Pete inflicted upon? Maybe Indy? New York Giants?

by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 10:47am

Ha ha ha ha ha!

That was some of that laughter.

Actually, Bellichick got a second chance, so maybe Carroll deserves one, too. After all, Bobby Grier must share at least some (and probably as much as half) of the blame for the Pats' collapse during the Carroll years. Plus the fact that a very good coach (Parcells) was doing everything in his power during those years to systematically dismantle those Pats.

Still, I often wondered how a coach could be so wildly successful even in college football when he couldn't even figure out how to run an offense where Curtis Martin could have a 1000 yard season. Curtis Martin has consistently been one of the best RB's in the league for his entire career...except for his time under Pete Carroll.

by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 10:50am

As to what team owner might pay for Carroll--what team is probably desparate for a new coach? What team is noted for having difficult to manage players and therefore might be interested in a "player's coach" like Carroll? I hope Carroll has some warm clothes--it's get's cold in Minnesota.

by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 10:58am

If Pete Carroll's dumb enough to go back to the NFL, he deserves whatever he gets.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 11:18am

Of course, there's another angle - whether or not they win a 3rd consecutive championship this year, Carroll is a legend at USC. He came in when the program was at the lowest it'd been in a long while, and in 5 years has made them national championship contenders. He's essentially standing next to USC legends like Howard Jones and John McKay as it is, and if he left he'd be forever placed beside them in the USC Pantheon.

Perhaps he's thinking that he should get out while the getting's good. Nothing he does (or doesn't do, as the case may be) in the NFL would ever destroy his reputation at USC - he will always be remembered as the coach that returned USC to "glory". However, stay at USC for years, and if the program slips, the memory of those titles and years of excellence fade pretty quickly (right, JoePa?).

But I still think it would be stupid of him to return to the NFL ranks - he has complete control of his program as it is, players love him, recruits want to play for him, and on the USC campus, he's a god among mortals.

And, for USC's part, his success hasn't just helped the football program and its finances. The investment in Carroll's salary has paid off handsomely. A new basketball arena, which had been in the planning stages for a decade, but with no money for building costs, is nearing completion, and it was the success of the football program that finally got the big donations required to build it. Donations for academic scholarships and new academic buildings have also been skyrocketing, and the school is using football success to try and get donors to pony up for donations toward academic causes. The university endowment has gone up as wealthy donors line up to give give give. The return to national prominence in football has helped every student on campus, athlete or no.


by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 11:58am

Unless one has an unquenchable ego-driven desire to be seen at football games with higher t.v. ratings, ya' gotta be nuts to leave a highly successful college job for an NFL job. College coaches can actually see their families during the season, and at the right program can go into the season knowing they have a huge talent advantage over more than half their competition, all while making nearly as much money.

If Carroll does leave, it won't be for the Vikings job, given his reputation as a players' coach. Tice is already perceived that way, and when he goes, ownership will follow the template of hiring the opposite of the guy fired. They'll find somebody Coughlinesque.

by Yuri (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 12:08pm

Is FO's Will Carroll related to Pete Carroll? How else does he get all the inside knowledge on the Black and Blue report?

by Drew (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 12:15pm

That sound you just heard is laughter from Hartford to the tip of northern Maine.

As post 4 alludes, Patriots fans should know better than anyone that an unpopular, unsuccessful coach can turn it around with a new team. That said, I think Carroll would be stupid to leave USC. He's got it made.

by Erasmus (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 12:28pm

I always thought Pete Carroll himself said he is never going back to the NFL. The guy is having a blast coaching college kids and winning.

by Phil (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 12:41pm

RE: #4 & #10
If I'm not mistaken, Pete Carrols stint with the Pats was his second chance. He was a coach for the Jets for a couple years prior. B.B. only had once chance with Cleveland, and was in the league for a couple of decades before that.

#11--yeah, and Parcells himself use to say he was done coaching in the NFL every time he left a team.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 12:51pm

If I recall, he was with the Jets only one year, and he was fired so that Parcells could come in, if I recall.

So not sure if one can really hold that against him - the Jets sucked for years when he got there, and still sucked, and I think many owners would fire their coaches if Parcells were willing to go there, regardless of whether they thought there was promise.


by Dennis (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 12:56pm

The Jets fired Carroll to replace him with Kotite, not Parcells.

Carroll would be nuts to leave USC.

by pawnking (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 1:02pm

This brings up an interesting point, actually. What was the last truly successful transition from the college to the NFL? Jimmy Johnson, maybe?

The NFL is certainly littered with coaches who failed miserably trying to adjust to the NFL, even the very best college coaches have totally failed more often than not. And even the ones who have succeeded have found rather limited success. Why would we expect that Carroll's success at USC would automatically translate to success in the NFL?

by Drew (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 1:06pm

Re: 12

I'm not going for similarity scores here; I'm just saying that Belichick represents a model that Carroll could attempt to follow. If anything, Pete Carroll was more successful in his NE stint than Belichick was in his Cleveland stint.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 1:26pm

I wouldn't expect Carroll's success at USC to transfer to the NFL. He's simply not that type of coach.

Everyone wants to be able to reach the supposed "height of their profession" and it's true that the NFL is the height of the football coaching profession. But all the things that work so well for Carroll at the college level didn't mesh before, and won't mesh now at the professional level.

He should stay where he is, where he's got a championship caliber team, he's considered a wonderful coach, and can do with players as he pleases.


by DMP (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 1:42pm

Re: Tarrant #7

I very much believe you that the football program's success is increasing donations for everyone else at USC. But haven't there been some studies showing that success of the football program did not contribute to the overall financial picture of a school, or even the non-football sports programs?

In any case, it is my opinion that you have to be an unrelenting idiot if you only think of donating to your school because the football (or men's basketball) program is doing well. Is a good football program supposed to prove to you that the school earned your donation? Don't have any pride, anything to give back unless you can live vicariously through the sports accomplishments of 18-22 year-olds?

(Tarrant, obviously I'm not accusing you of this. "You" above means "people in general.")

by Phil (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 1:47pm

Drew, I think we might be splitting hairs here, but although BB record may from his CLE days may not be that good, he did mangage to coach well enough one season to secure a home game for a wild-card--during which, his Browns did defeat the Parcells led Pats that wasn't as close as it looks on paper. I don't remember Carrol having any kind of success with the Jets (although, I could be wrong), and with the Pats, his record got worse every year he was here.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 1:58pm

Carroll took over the Jets from Bruce Coslet, who had a 26-38 record, and had a 6-10 record in his single season. Given that Kotite didn't exactly put up an incredible record after him, I'm hard-pressed to hold the Jets experience against him.

The Patriots, he indeed did worse each year - going from 10-6, to 9-7, to 8-8, with two playoff appearances, and one home playoff game (a win).

By the way, if you want real comedy, make sure your speakers are on, and head to http://petecarroll.com/ - a bit pretentious, to say the least :)


by Basilicus (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 2:33pm

I still want June Jones to get his second chance.

by Alan P (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 2:55pm

Why hasn't Ray Handley been given a second chance ??

by Sean (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 3:22pm

Actually, Pete was fired after one year with the Jets so Rich Kotite could come in. That should tell you about the state of the Jets at the time, not the quality of Carroll's coaching.

I expect Carroll to return to the NFL, and honestly I wish him well. He's got an excellent football mind- he's not just outrecruiting every other college coach, he's also outcoaching them. NFL caliber coaches like Carroll and Saban can take their teams and beat the pants of off fraudulent college coaches like Bob Stoops. It's true that Pete's New England teams were sloppy, and that in some ways it was a bad fit for him, as he inherited a team that thought too much of itself after Parcells left and played like it. He also inherited a ghastly GM in Bobby Grier, who did an appalling job of turning over the personnel. Pete's not blameless in what happened- his teams did look sloppy and unprepared and that's on the head coach- but I think he's probably learned from his mistakes and would do a better job the next go-round.

And there's no question that he will want to come back to the NFL, just as there is no question that Charlie Weiss will ditch Notre Dame just as soon as he gets a pro offer. These guys want to coach in the big leagues, not junior varsity.

by Erasmus (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 3:23pm

I guess it depends on how you define, success and transition from college to the NFL-Steve Mariucci and Dennis Green were both college coaches before they became NFL coaches-but I think both also worked in the NFL before they became college coaches as well.

by pcs (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 3:33pm

re #15:

Barry Switzer! he took a Super Bowl champion and made them winners.

by Phil (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 4:05pm

RE: #25
That comment doesn't even merit a counter-argument.

by T. Diddy (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 5:48pm

#25: Dammit, I just knew somebody would beat me to the Barry Switzer joke. That's what I get for not reading Extra Points early enough...

by ChrisS (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 7:23pm

The financial security argument for moving to the NFL is crap. If he gets a 5 yr $6 million contract (which seems high for a failed former NFL coach), that is $30m. My, and everyone else commenting, assumption is that he sucks (based on past NFL performance) and doesn't renew, maybe going back to college for a lot less. Or, he stays at USC and gets a new contract in 2006 for $4m for 5 years (I believe $3.5m is now the highest paid college coach), and renews in 5 years for say $6m a year for another 5 years and one final contract for the same amount for 5 more years. This adds up to $80m over the next 15 years.

by Jake (not verified) :: Wed, 10/26/2005 - 10:50pm

re 15:
"Jimmy Johnson, maybe?"
We'll have to see with Saban...

by kite (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 1:20am

When Carroll was with the Patriots, he had Bledsoe for his quarterback. His teams weren't great or terrible, there was just something missing and having Bledsoe as your QB or Bobby Grier as your GM can do that. Belichik didn't win many games with Bledsoe or with Grier's talent either.

If Carroll didn't look so damn confused on the sidelines sometimes I don't think he would get the flack he gets sometimes. If he was fatter, had more wrinkles on his face, had a plainer haircut, I don't think he would be thought of as being a clueless coach whom players can just run over.

by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 1:39am

I wouldn't consider Bobby Ross a failure. Got to one Super Bowl with San Diego, couldn't do much in Detroit, but who could?

Of course, now he's coaching Army and they're like 1-6, so maybe I should just drop it.

by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 12:30pm

Carroll should leave college football at the peak of his accomplishments, run for Congress, win, then run for governor of California and be a shoo-in.

Wait, that's Tom Osborne.

by Paul (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 10:57am

re #28

Last I checked, 5-6 million a year, starting next year, is a whole lot more money than 4 million.

There's no guarantees beyond what he has already signed. No one knows what will happen in 5 years.

If he wants to make money so his family doesn't have to work, then more power to him.