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The Void Inside Pete Carroll

Dead man coaching

It was a surprise in how quickly and unexpectedly it happened, but USC needed Lane Kiffin. He understands that there is no job in college football quite like being the head coach of the Trojans and when the position becomes available, you go for it.

It was a surprise in how quickly and unexpectedly it happened, but Pete Carroll needed the Seattle Seahawks. He knew that there was no job in college football that could quite fill the void that rested in his heart. So when the position became available, he jumped at it.

Carroll’s departure from USC had more to do with himself than any NCAA investigation or local pressure. He had to get back to the NFL to satisfy himself, to become the winner that he wasn’t as an NFL head coach previously. He compiled just a 33-31 record in four seasons as a head coach and lost two of three playoff games in the 1990s. I think that lack of tremendous success created an inch in Carroll that he couldn’t scratch in the college game. He hopes that the Seattle job is the ointment, but he will soon know that he never should have left Southern Cal.

Yesterday, Carroll said that 34-year-old QB Matt Hasselbeck will remain the team’s starter. I’ve heard that Hasselbeck will stay because Carroll didn’t sign with Seattle to rebuild. If that’s the case, he shouldn’t have signed with Seattle. Hasselbeck looked like he was ready for retirement this past season. You would be insane if you don’t believe that the team won’t consider a quarterback with one of its two first-round picks.

Past that position, the Seahawks need to find an every-down running back. Julius Jones is a waste and Justin Forsett is cut out more for a Darren Sproles-type role. Seattle desperately needs an offensive tackle with Walter Jones wearing down. It needs to find a pass rush. Its secondary was routinely torched this past season. It doesn’t have a GM and we’re not sure if Carroll or someone else will be making the decisions on player personnel. We all assumed that if Carroll was going to come back to the NFL, he would do so only with complete player control. While he has been named executive VP, his role with players remains unclear.

So, the Seattle Seahawks have no choice but to rebuild. But I hope Carroll understands that the value of his name and his contract — five years at around $35 million — doesn’t exactly scream “rebuilding” to the 12th man in the Northwest. He better find a ton of solutions quickly.

Now, there will always be more pressure to succeed at USC. If the Trojans aren’t in the Rose Bowl every year at the very least, the season is considered a gigantic failure. But USC is bringing in another outstanding recruiting class, has a bunch of returning talent and could easily jump back to the top of the Pac-10 after a 9-4 campaign. More personally important than that, being the head coach at USC automatically makes you a celebrity in a town littered with them. And when you win as often as the former coach at USC did, you become a god in Los Angeles. You are forever a legend. Parents started naming their boys “Pete” and their girls “Carroll” because of what he accomplished at USC.

Kiffin knows the pressure, but I think the facts that he also knows the program, recruited some of its current players, is putting together an all-star staff and knows the personal and financial payoff if he is successful, I think decision to go back to USC was an easy one for him. Even if the kids at Tennessee are a bit perturbed at the news.

I think Kiffin will be a success at USC, much like how the school expects it. Carroll will be unsuccessful at Seattle, much unlike what he expects from himself.  He has changed jobs for largely selfish reasons. He isn’t there to breathe life back into a struggling franchise. He made the move to help him erase his previous pro failures. But this tenure will only strengthen that image. Pete Carroll isn’t a great NFL head coach. He won’t earn the money that’s coming to him. His new team failed before him and it will fail with him. He never should have left USC. But Pete Carroll just couldn’t help himself. He had to fill that void.

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