To illustrate why I like Pete Carroll, let me compare him to two other football personalities: quarterback Jim Plunkett and coach Bill Walsh.
Not too many of you young whippersnappers who read this site are old enough to remember Jim Plunkett. He was a Heisman trophy winner who led Stanford to two Rose Bowl victories, and the Raiders to two Super Bowl championships. Although their chronologies differ, he and Carroll have some commonalities. They both had stellar college careers. Both of them bombed out with the New England Patriots, but hung in there to find success in the NFL. After the Patriots, Plunkett played in San Francisco for a couple of futile years, while Carroll did the same coaching with the Jets. Plunkett finally landed with the Raiders, where he found success. In Carroll’s case, NFL success is yet to come, but if comparable history is any predictor the third time will be the charm.
Pete Carroll also has similarities with Bill Walsh. He was known as a genius for creating the West Coast offense, which made profound and lasting changes in the way that professional football is played. What most overlooked about Walsh was his superior eye for spotting talent and putting that talent in a position to succeed. His eye for talent was not limited to guys playing football — he also knew how to spot coaches. Remember Mike Holmgren? The Bill Walsh coaching tree has branches and twigs intertwined with every franchise in the NFL, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame is well represented by Walsh draftees. That eye for talent is what Carroll shares with Walsh, and Carroll may yet prove to be an even better draft executive than Walsh.
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Pete Carroll really became a master at evaluating talent while building a dynasty at USC. He simply out-recruited, out-scouted, and out-hustled every other collete in the U.S. Like Walsh, players and coaches from the Carroll coaching tree are everywhere, including the University of Washington. It is Carroll’s eye for talent that could bring the Seattle Seahawks to the Promised Land.
First of all, Carroll played a major role in the hiring of John Schneider, who is the other half of Seattle’s talent acquisition department. For the coaching staff, Carroll has put together a mix of experienced vets and promising youngsters; Tom Cable, Darrell Bevell, and Gus Bradley exemplify that mix (hiring Cable was an especially brilliant personnel move). In my observations, each of those coaches is doing an excellent job in their area of expertise to build a solid future for the team.
To further illustrate Carroll’s eye for talent, compare his two drafts to two of his predecessors, Tim Ruskell and Mike Holmgren. As GM, Holmgren brought in some very good talent with his first round draft picks. In six years, he drafted Shaun Alexander, Steve Hutchinson, Marcus Trufant, and Marcus Tubbs in the first round — not a bad crop of draft picks. However, his choices in later rounds (what used to be called “day two” picks) were simply not very good. In those same six years, other than Rocky Bernard and a few others, few players really stand out from rounds four through seven. That pencils out to maybe three or four good, solid picks out of more than thirty. The second day is where Super Bowl-winning coaches like Bill Walsh and Bill Belichick excel. Those later rounds are where draft dynasties are built, and that was why Holmgren had his GM position taken away.
Tim Ruskell had somewhat of an inverse track record for his five drafts. His entire collection of first round picks was a washout. Astoundingly, not one of his first rounders was retained by Carroll. Not one! Five years, and he found no impact players; for that alone, Ruskell deserved to be fired. His only good move in all that time was to obtain an extra first round pick in his last draft that he passed on to Pete Carroll. That said, Ruskell had much better picks in the second and third rounds like Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill, Brandon Mebane, and John Carlson. His second day picks were much better than Holmgren’s, netting players like Cameron Morrah, Red Bryant, Justin Forsett, and Ben Obomanu. With the exception of Tatupu, all of those players are still with the Seahawks.
Now let’s look at Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s two drafts. In the first round, choosing Earl Thomas alone put the entire Ruskell era to shame. Russell Okung has been holding down the left side of the o-line nicely, and if James Carpenter can develop into a decent right tackle over the next few years, then he should also be considered a solid first round pick.
Just as Carroll’s first round picks have been superior to Ruskell’s, his later round choices have outdone Holmgren’s drafts. Rounds four through seven have produced impact players and starters like Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Walter Thurmond, and KJ Wright, as well as guys like Anthony McCoy and Malcolm Smith who are contributing and show plenty of upside. This many good players don’t come to a team like the Seahawks by accident. To me, Carroll and Schneider have already proven that they have a far superior eye for talent, and are better at executing at all phases of the draft than either of their two predecessors.
I grew up in the Bay Area, and was a Stanford, 49ers, and Raiders fan. I also paid close attention to Jim Plunkett’s career just like people in Seattle are doing with Jake Locker’s. I was disappointed in his failures with the Patriots and 49ers, but celebrated his success with the Raiders. However, unlike Jim Plunkett, I will not be satisfied with only two Super Bowl rings for Pete Carroll’s Seahawks.
Hey Matthew, pass that Kool-Aid over here, will ya? [Flavor-Aid. They drank Flavor-Aid at Jonestown -- my Kool-Aid is perfectly safe to drink. Well, as safe as anything that brightly colored can be, anyway. -Ed.]
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Louis Bacigalupi posts comments on Seahawk Addicts under the name LouieLouie. He’s an accountant by trade and worked in a USFL front office. He can be reached by email at Louie@fiercelyi.com.