Throughout the different eras in football, there have been various moments of serendipity where the right innovators found themselves in the right place at the right time, matched with the right owners and the right talent to not only dominate their environment, but to change it all together.
Pete Carroll has carved out such a place in time, or more appropriately, the times caught up with him. At the time of his hiring it was a common refrain that his college style wouldn't translate to the pros, which was not true then, nor now, but what was unforeseen at the time was how the rookie wage scale would bring the college game to the pros.
Football fans naturally draw a mental distinction between college programs and pro football franchises. When people think of a college power houses like Carroll's USC they think of them as football factories, sometimes simply referred to as the "the program" and it is understood. These are not supposed to be possible in the pro leagues because of salary caps and equal access to talent, and they aren't really, for very long at least. But they do pop up at times when the circumstances are just right.
The rookie salary cap has simply changed the calculus on roster construction. People point to the advantage that having a cheap QB is, but that is missing the point, it's an advantage to have a cheap anything. Meaning, the more production you get out of year 1-4 guys the more you are able to spend on elite veteran talent.
Player development has always been split between the coaching staff and the veteran players, but in an era where there is extreme incentive to put the apprentices on the field and cut all the journeymen you can then those coaches that can teach/develop coach best. This is where football factory experience is valuable.
We saw an example of this dynamic in last week's suffocating win over the Giants. Tom Coughlin runs an old school, reward-the-vets and stay-the-course franchise and they could not keep up in any way with Carroll's young and physically pounding team. In a bit of irony, they are the two oldest coaches in the league.
When Carroll took the job he said they were going to get young, and they did. For the coach that would give senior's jobs away to freshmen who could take them, this is a permanent state of operation though. It's part of the scheme. To wear you out. It is a core of his always compete philosophy.
As has been evidenced by the successful run of next man up, and the 12 camp cuts that went onto regular season rosters for other teams it's quite evident that the VMAC Football Machine is fully operational. Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane make previous drafts look even better. Or the scouting. Or the coaching. It's hard to tell wear one starts and the other ends.
That's why Pete Carroll and John Schneider are the Coach and Exec of the Year, and it's not even close. There is no better combination of player scouting and player development in the league right now. Late season substance abuse suspensions appeared to be a glaring weakness, instead revealed a strength. The number of players from camp getting meaningful snaps on other teams is a testament to the program's strength. The fact the circumstances of the day are catered to their strengths is a bit of good favor.
(note: I had been working on a 3 part article earlier in the season and around November both my hardrive and the cartilage in my knee went out. Since that time Danny along with Mike Chan have done a number of pieces that made much of that redundant. So I summed up most of what I remembered and tried to make it timely. Damn you and your hard drive crashing Gremlins Danny. Carroll/Dazed and Confused photoshop was lost forever)