The Pete Carroll Effect
By Jeff Tefertiller
June 7th, 2010

After nine seasons at Southern Cal, Pete Carroll heads back to the NFL ranks as the new head coach for the Seattle Seahawks. The charismatic coach brought most of his coaching staff with him to the Pacific Northwest. Carroll was hired to clean up the mess left by Mike Holmgren. The team transitioned to Holmgren assistant Jim Mora for 2009, but he was fired after just one season. Carroll inherits a Seahawks team that is short on talent at many positions. Seattle has won just nine games the last two seasons combined. The negative 208 point differential over this two-year time period speaks volumes about the state of the franchise. The Seahawks averaged a 6.5 point loss every game the past two seasons. What a downward trend after posting five straight winning seasons. The problem is that the prior regime failed to re-stock the roster with young talent. They preferred to ride the aging stars of yesteryear. It will take Carroll a couple of years to turn around the struggling franchise, replacing the older players.

Many know Carroll for his many years leading the USC Trojans to a 97-19 record. The school produced many NFL All Pros during his time leading the Trojans. But, Carroll had sixteen years of NFL coaching experience, including four as a head coach, before heading to the college ranks. He spent one season in New York with the Jets and three in New England leading the Patriots. He was more successful at the professional level than most remember, with a winning record overall and a division title under his belt. Carroll is a successful football coach that should be able to produce results in Seattle.

The common theme for Carroll's teams in college, and in the professional ranks, has been strong play at the quarterback position. The Trojans had an effective passer for most of Carroll's tenure. He sent several passers to the NFL. A quick look at the former USC quarterbacks during Carroll's watch include: Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassel, Matt Leinart, and Carson Palmer. This represents one-eighth of current NFL starting quarterbacks that played at USC under Carroll's direction. This does not include Matt Barkley, who is thought of as a future NFL prospect. Carroll also had good quarterback play in the NFL. In 1994 with the New York Jets, Carroll had Boomer Esiason under center. The 1997 New England Patriots division winners had Drew Bledsoe at the helm.

In Seattle, Carroll and company inherited the aging Matt Hasselbeck. The injury-prone passer is well past his prime and does not have much left in the tank. He will be 35 years old later this year and has been less than durable behind the porous Seahawks offensive line. With Hasselbeck's age and injury history, the Seahawks made a trade to acquire Charlie Whitehurst from the Chargers earlier in the offseason. Seattle paid quite the ransom for an unproven passer, then they gave him a new contract. The Seahawks have now hitched their wagon to the former Clemson Tiger as their quarterback of the future. Whitehurst has not seen the field much at the professional level, but the Seattle brass has indicated they liked what they saw in limited preseason action. The addition of highly regarded tackle, Russell Okung, during the draft will help. He will replace the retired Walter Jones, who was ineffective late in his career.

Seattle also upgraded the running back position via trades during the NFL Draft and acquired Leon Washington on the cheap. Washington is still recovering from the compound fracture in his leg. He will most likely have a rod inserted in his leg for the beginning of the season. Washington is still very questionable to be healthy enough to start the season. Even if it takes a while to get back to full strength, the ex-Jet should provide explosiveness to the offense and return game of the Seahawks. While at USC, Carroll showed the propensity to get the most out of his smaller, shifty runners. With the way the speed backs were used, fantasy owners should be excited for the prospects of Justin Forsett and Washington. Carroll will find a way to get the ball to those shifty backs in space. Julius Jones is an afterthought. He is past his prime. If the Seahawks were optimistic about Jones' abilities, they would not have pursued Washington. Carroll was known as a passing coach while at USC, especially with the strong quarterback play. This was also the case from his four seasons in the NFL. His Jets and Patriots teams were usually in the bottom half of the league in rushing attempts. Three of the four seasons, Carroll's teams had some of the worst ground games in football ... even though he had some good ball carriers. Also worth noting was that the primary ball carrier was given the lion's share of the carries. Carroll will adapt to his personnel and and get the most out of the group, whether spreading out the carries or leaning on one back.

The wide receiver position was a mess when Carroll arrived. He only had an aging possession receiver in T.J. Houshmandzadeh and the oft-injured and over-paid Deion Branch as viable pass catchers on the roster. This is why the team selected Golden Tate April's NFL Draft. Tate will add a play-making dimension to the slow-afoot Seahawks. Tate will help as a receiver and as a returner. Expect him to be the leading receiver in just a year or two. He will soon be the favorite target of Hasselbeck and Whitehurst. Tate torched the Trojans last year which made an impression on his new coach. With the annual rivalry between USC and Notre Dame, Carroll saw Tate's skills up close. Nothing like 177 receiving yards and two scoring grabs to get the coach's attention.

At the tight end position, Seattle has John Carlson poised for a breakout season. He was held in check last year while being asked to block instead of going out on pass routes. Ben Coates had some good years under Carroll in New England. Carlson could easily do the same. The former USC coach drafted his former player Anthony McCoy in the sixth round. Like most young tight ends, it should take time for him to compete for playing time.

Pete Carroll has started to put his stamp on the Seahawks. It started with the addition of Whitehurst and was very apparent through the draft. It might take him a couple of seasons to get the personnel up to the level he wants, but Carroll has the team headed in the right direction. Fantasy owners ought to take stock in the younger Seahawks players before they breakout. The veteran coach has enjoyed success at the college and professional levels. He should do the same in Seattle. Fantasy owners should look to acquire Whitehurst, Forsett, Washington, Tate, and Carlson on the cheap before this offense gets going. Each has a chance at making a fantasy impact.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to tefertiller@footballguys.com.