Emperor Carroll Has No Clothes

by journojames on February 23, 2012

Originally published Aug. 28, 2011

The emperor has no clothes.

Someone please point this out Friday night when Pete Carroll, emperor of the Seattle Seahawks, leads his offensively-challenged birds out onto CenturyLink Field to face the always-challenged Oakland Raiders.

Coach Pete Carroll, Photo courtesy of cbssports

It’s only an exhibition game. It’s the final tune-up for both clubs before the start of the regular season. But this is the NFL, so it will still have all the pomp and nonsense of the regular season. There will be NFL cheerleaders. There will be hours of NFL tailgating. And there will be NFL prices to pay. But in this NFL setting, the man barking orders in the blue hooded sweatshirt along the Seattle sideline isn’t an NFL head coach.

Two decisions made by Carroll in the final weeks of training camp painfully emphasized this fact. He might as well be standing on the sideline naked with just his Motorola headset.

On Aug. 19, Emperor Carroll pranked one of his defensive ends, 8-year veteran Raheem Brock, during a morning team meeting. Police officers and hotel staffers were called in to pull out Brock for failing to pay a bogus $3,000 hotel bill. Carroll based the prank on an actual incident involving Brock, who was arrested in June for allegedly not paying a real $27 bar tab at the Copacabana restaurant in Philadelphia. Then, on Aug. 24, Carroll decided to give his Seahawks the afternoon off and took them go kart racing.

Really? Go kart racing instead of practice? Yes, the team’s first regular season opponent is hapless San Francisco, but still, there must be a better use of valuable training camp time in preparation for the upcoming season. The league’s labor dispute between players and owners shut down everything for most of the summer, leaving the league little time to prepare for the season. Apparently, NFL coaches outside the Pacific Northwest understand this and scrambled to get ready. Carroll, on the other hand, seems to have time to joke and play. What’s next? An elaborate gag involving offensive line coach Tom Cable and a mysterious broken beak suffered by the Seahawks mascot Blitz?

Seattle's football emperor, Photo courtesy of the Business Insider

Old habits die hard. Carroll was a prankster during practices and team meetings as USC’s head coach. An (in)famous one took place on Halloween day in 2005. He staged a fake fight with his tailback LenDale White and then tried to have the team believe White jumped off the top of a nearby building by using a mannequin. During Carroll’s USC tenure, he would also give his teams breaks from practices and take them bowling. These distractions were meant to liven the mood and reward his players. They usually worked. The college kids loved his fun-loving coaching style and played hard for him.

Carroll is built to be a successful college coach. He has high energy, a salesman’s charm, and a passion for the game that excites and motivates. His youthful, aggressive yet fun approach to the game attracted five-star high school recruits like bees to honey. He was able to collect all the best young football talent from across the country and utilize their exceptional skills to national prominence and enormous success. The L.A. Daily News sportswriter Scott Wolf anointed Carroll with the nickname Caesar on his “Inside USC” blog because of how he ruled college football.

Carroll during his bright USC tenure, Photo courtesy of mediadailyla

In fact, during Carroll’s USC tenure between 2001-2009, he compiled an astounding 61-2 win-loss record in blowout games that had at least a 20-point differential. His teams overwhelmed their opponents with talent and they clearly dominated. However, during that same period, when the games were much closer, with a point differential of 7-points or less, his gaudy record deflated to a mediocre 17-16. This should be troubling for Seahawk fans.

There is great parity in the NFL; all the games are seemingly close. Last season, there were a total of 267 games played, counting the playoffs. Out of that total, 128 of them were decided by 7-points or less; that’s 48 percent, almost half of all the games. Only 55 games, or 21 percent of them were blowouts decided by 20-points or more.

Winning and losing close games usually come down to the team’s preparation, their game plan, their attention to detail, and clock management. This has more to do with coaching than talent. The NFL is not about recruiting or hoarding the best talent; there’s plenty of talent throughout the league. It’s more about working hard around the clock to come up with the best possible game plan. It’s not about go kart racing.

Carroll conducts minicamp workout, Photo by Elaine Thompson, courtesy of AP

So far, Carroll’s NFL head coaching record, with short stints with the New York Jets, the New England Patriots, and now with the Seattle Seahawks stands at 40-40. Do you see a pattern too?

The stumbling, bumbling Seahawks with a historical win-loss record of 262-286 have always been mediocre. If the organization’s intention is to continue that long, lukewarm tradition, Carroll is the perfect fit. But, if the emperor thinks his energetic, fun approach to the game will quickly turn them into champions, he should just take off the coaching headset and grab some pom-poms. It may serve him better in the NFL. It’s what fits his personality and what he does best.

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