Pete Carroll? Seahawks had better hope this pays off — big

  • Fri Jan 8th, 2010 11:40pm
  • Sports

By John Boyle, Herald Writer

The surprising news Friday morning was that the Seattle Seahawks had fired head coach Jim Mora.

After one season. And without a general manager in place to make the decision.

Gut reaction? They must have somebody big lined up to take the job. Somebody who might come to Seattle in a dual role of coach and GM or president.

But Pete Carroll? Didn’t see that one coming at all. A name like Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden wouldn’t have been shocking. But when reports started surfacing Friday that the USC head football coach is likely coming to Seattle? Let’s just say Mora’s firing became the second most unexpected Seahawks story of the day.

Carroll, who has turned the Trojans into a Pac-10 dynasty, hasn’t coached in the NFL since he was fired after three unspectacular seasons in New England from 1997-1999. Before that, he had one season as the head coach of the New York Jets, going 6-10.

Sure, Carroll’s name has been linked to NFL jobs in recent years following USC’s annual romp through the conference. But recent unsuccessful NFL stints by college coaches like Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino seemed to be indicators that success in college doesn’t carry over to the NFL.

Yet all signs point to Carroll taking over the Seahawks soon. While nothing was official as of Friday night, the Los Angeles Times was reporting that Carroll and the Seahawks were close to a five-year deal worth $7 million per year that would make Carroll not only the new head coach but also team president.

Again, nothing is done and we all know things can change quickly in the NFL. But if Carroll is indeed about to take over the franchise, the Seahawks had better hope this move works out. Because right now, well, let’s just say they’re not riding a hot streak in the court of public opinion.

The majority of Seahawks fans were upset last month when the Seahawks failed to secure former Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren — who ended up in Cleveland as the Browns’ president — as the replacement for former team president and general manager Tim Ruskell, who resigned last month. And now the Seahawks appear to be bringing in a head coach with a less-than-stellar NFL record who has spent the last nine years running a college program loathed by many in the area.

Mora, meanwhile, was fired just two days after he spent nearly 40 minutes addressing the media about the past season, seemingly unaware of his fate. Asked if team CEO Tod Leiweke had told him about his future, Mora said he hadn’t talked to his boss about that, adding, “Tod’s busy with some other things right now.”

As it turns out, those other things might have involved meeting with Carroll. While Mora was in the dark, Leiweke must have had a pretty good idea of Mora’s fate, as he was, according to the Los Angeles Times, in Los Angeles earlier this week to interview Carroll.

Making the Mora firing and possible Carroll hiring even riskier is the fact that the decision apparently is coming from nonfootball people in the organization since a general manager has not been hired.

There are plenty of good arguments to be made both for and against Mora’s firing. Yes the Seahawks struggled, but he was coaching a team put together by a GM who didn’t do enough to keep his own job. Or on the flip side: Sure, it takes time to adjust, but why did the Seahawks seemingly get worse, losing their final four games, three in blowout fashion?

In the end, it appears that Leiweke and owner Paul Allen were ready to hit the reset button, starting over with a new coach and front office.

“Today’s decision, while difficult, is part of the process in building a franchise with a new vision in 2010,” Leiweke said in a statement released by the Seahawks.

That new vision, it seems, involves Carroll trying to revive a franchise that is 9-23 in the last two years.

Carroll, 58, will certainly have his work cut out for him, but unlike other recent college coaches who made the jump to the NFL, he will at least have some experience to fall back on. Before taking over at USC in 2001, Carroll had been in the NFL as an assistant or a head coach since 1984. Whether that experience along with his 97-19 record at USC translates to success in another NFL job remains to be seen, but again, the Seahawks better hope it does.

And even if Carroll doesn’t work out for the Seahawks, this could at least be good for fans of other football teams in the state. Carroll leaving USC could lead to the Trojans slipping a bit even after a 2009 campaign that was their worst season since Carroll’s first year in L.A. And with investigations regarding the USC football program ongoing — and possible sanctions looming — perhaps Carroll views this as a good time to return to the NFL because he fears that the NCAA may soon drop the hammer on the program.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.