Seahawks' Carroll 'pumped, jacked' to get another chance at NFL
Pete Carroll's 7-9 Seattle Seahawks shocked defending champ Saints Saturday
Carroll has always rejected the dour, self-importance of a head football coach
Carroll has failed in previous NFL head jobs, but has found himself in Seattle
So Pete Carroll and his 8-9 Seattle Seahawks have advanced into the second round of the NFL playoffs. Pete and his guys will be in Chicago to play the NFC's second seed Sunday afternoon.
You know Pete is pumped and jacked.
Pumped and jacked. That was Pete's M.O. when he coached the Jets.
That was his style when he coached the New England Patriots. Then he took the boola-boola stuff to USC and it was a perfect fit.
Now he is back in the NFL and he has a sub-.500 team still playing while 24 others have gone home for the winter.
Carroll's Seahawks bounced the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints Saturday in Seattle. It was pure Pete. I thought he was going to pull a hamstring running up and down the sideline. I thought he might pop a blood vessel when he was screaming for joy.
It's never been about decorum with Pete. He's always rejected the dour, self-importance of the head football coach. He's been a head coach who'd play basketball with his players. He's one of the guys. Part Knute Rockne, part Bob Barker. Carroll doesn't take himself too seriously. And he's always believed that you don't have to do it the Belichick way in order to succeed. It doesn't have to be all grim and gray.
The Seahawks are officially the feel-good team of these NFL playoffs. We all laughed at them when they beat the Rams on the final Sunday night of the season, becoming the NFL's first sub-. 500 playoff team.
We laughed some more when they were established as 10 1/2 point dogs for wild card weekend at home against the Saints. We stopped laughing when Marshawn Lynch rumbled 67 yards, breaking five or six tackles to seal Seattle's 41-36 shocker over the Saints.
Pete was predictably pumped and jacked after that one.
"We did it with our crowd and we fit together so beautifully,'' the coach said. "We kind of expected to win. I know that sounds crazy, but we did expect to win.''
Carroll always expects to win. He brings the sunshine to any situation. He's pom-pom Pete. It's rare in football, especially in the NFL. The knock on Pete has always been that he can't win as a head coach in the pros.
He was first wounded by the experience of coaching the New York Jets in 1994. He'd been a fine defensive coordinator with the Jets, but the top job ate him up -- as it has so many others who attempted to be head coach of the Jets. Carroll went 6-10 with the Jets and was fired. The 49ers brought him home to northern California where he again succeeded as a defensive guru.
Then came the job that unfairly defined him as an NFL failure.
Carroll was the man who coached the Patriots between Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. He was the first head coach ever hired by Bob Kraft and he remains the only coach fired by Kraft.
Carroll coached the Patriots between Super Bowls. He lost Curtis Martin to the Jets and still won 27 games in three seasons with the Patriots. He made the playoffs twice and won the division once. He owns the second-highest winning percentage (. 549) among all Patriot coaches (guess who is first?). But it was never enough. He wasn't Parcells and he had to go after an 8-8 season in 1999.
In 2007, Carroll told me, "I was there for three years and it was the hardest 10 years I've ever had.''
Carroll went to USC and won national championships. He won the Pac-10 seven straight years. He was the football king of Los Angeles. He coached Heisman Trophy winners and entertained movie stars at practice. His band won Grammy Awards. L.A. is a town of stars and Pete Carroll was the city's football star.
Still, he was dogged by the image that he'd failed in the NFL.
He was also trailed by a posse of NCAA investigators. And so when Seattle came calling, Carroll said yes. He got out of Dodge -- Calipari style.
And then he came out of the blocks with a 7-9 season -- worse than any of his years in New England -- and still made the playoffs.
Forever young and fit, Carroll is 59 years old which makes him the second-oldest coach in the NFL (the Giants' Tom Coughlin is the oldest at 64). In a league of grumpy younger men, Carroll brings charm and enthusiasm.
"I love where this is right now,'' Carroll said after dethroning the Saints. "It's so exciting to have a game like this, and then you get another one ... We did not do this in the fashion we had dreamed. But the fact that we got it done, the result suited the goal well.''
He makes no apologies for being alive in the tournament. The sub-. 500 Seahawks have a chance to go to the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl.
And Pete Carroll is pumped and jacked.
Dan Shaughnessy is a columnist for The Boston Globe. Read more of his columns here.