Saturday, January 09, 2010

Carroll heading to "Starbucks Nation"

It seems the days of Pete Carroll running the USC Trojans football program are done. For years, Carroll has been courted by a half-dozen NFL teams in the past, but he hadn't ever been seriously offered a chance to run a franchise.

The Seattle Seahawks are reportedly giving him that chance. Five years, $35 million.

And while the last nine seasons of USC football have been some of the most prosperous - including seven straight Pac-10 titles and BCS bowl berths, three Heisman Trophy winners, two National Championships - it's hard to argue with Carroll's departure. It would have been great to have him become a Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden for USC, guiding this program for the next 20+ years with a strong national presence. But the right situation has evolved in Seattle, and Carroll has been looking for that situation since his last NFL head coaching stint in the 90s.

His enthusiasm revitalized a college football powerhouse starved for success. He energized the Cardinal and Gold, winning the AP National Championship in just his third year, and the BCS Championship in his fourth. The Carroll era at USC was by any definition a dynasty.

After Thursday's BCS Championship game, college football experts were ranking the preseason Top 5 teams, and USC was No. 4 or No. 5 on most every expert's list. People around college football know what Carroll is capable of, and they know the kind of talent he has stockpiled in Los Angeles. Returning this program to the top after an otherwise forgettable year under Carroll's standards wouldn't be too difficult a task. As long as the Trojans had Carroll, they'd be fine. And now, they don't have that.

It's tough to blame him for leaving. He's never said he wouldn't leave. Instead, he always flipped to the other side of the coin, touting how much he enjoyed having the complete control over the USC football program, power seldom seen in the NFL. But the Starbucks Nation in the northwest has come calling, and Big Balls Pete has answered.

The results he's had at USC have been incredible (97-19). His past NFL success was nothing short of a blip. Four total seasons as a head coach, and only two games above .500 (33-31). But he's the hot hand -- and has been for five or six years -- and the Seahawks are in a weak division. If there's a chance for him to make an immediate impact in the NFL, Seattle is as good a place as any to start.

For a coach like Mike Shanahan taking over in Washington, he has to compete with one team that has won a Super Bowl in the last two years, another coach-QB combo that has been one of the NFC's best for a decade, and another strong team where the owner does not see failure as an option. Forget Dorthy's trip from Kansas, Mike Shanahan isn't in Denver anymore. But Carroll's new division is perhaps the home of the NFL's worst collective football. He isn't going up against too many big boys.

USC is a destination college coaching job. There's no doubt about it. The NFL, however, is a much grander destination. And the Trojans must now work to replace another high profile coach less than a year after the men's basketball team's Tim Floyd unceremoniously left campus. Not a good time for Trojans.


Ryan said...

Logical move to me. He's an NFL coach even though he was uber successful at USC.

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