The Los Angeles Rams have a vacancy at head coach and a desire to improve the organization, so Pete Carroll makes sense in almost every way imaginable. As a coach who built his reputation as a football genius who could turnaround a “franchise” in LA with USC, and then solidified it at the pro level with the Seattle Seahawks, why wouldn’t the Rams want to lure Carroll back to Cali?
Yahoo! Sports writer Charles Robinson says multiple sources within the Rams organization have noted that Carroll is a “want” or “wish” list candidate who significantly intrigues them, as you could expect. However, it doesn’t go much further than being a rumor — not necessarily a “baseless” one but sort of the type that exists alongside, “The Rams want a head coach like Bill Walsh,” who of course is no longer alive. Walsh may be easier to acquire, because then all you’d have to do is hire a medium.
Carroll just signed a contract extension this year that keeps him in Seattle through 2019. Whereas contracts at the college level often feel as binding as licorice handcuffs, NFL teams aren’t just going to let their premier coaches leave willy-nilly. To acquire Carroll, LA would have to be giving their biggest competition in the NFC West some significant compensation. (It would also cost them a lot of money, but owner Stan Kroenke can pretty much afford whatever — he basically just gave Jeff Fisher a $7 million exit bonus.) Not only that, but Carroll would have to want to leave a franchise with a bonafide quarterback and plenty of other hard-to-find, cornerstone pieces at cornerback, safety, linebacker, defensive end, receiver, tight end, and running back. And he’d have to turn his back on a city that embraced him in 2010 and pretty much gave him everything he wanted in his desire to return to the NFL.
In order to acquire Jon Gruden from the Oakland Raiders in 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had to give up two first and two seconds; the Rams don’t even have a first or third round pick next year because of the Jared Goff trade.
However, the idea of them wanting someone like Carroll makes plenty of sense. The attributes they’d most like are probably someone who has a lot of NFL experience, someone who makes good decisions not just on a game level but also a personnel level, someone who has been able to “right the ship” for other organizations in the past, and someone who can help Goff and re-tool a defense that already has some talent into one of the top units in the league.
Gruden himself makes some sense and his name has been brought up already, with him reportedly being open to discussing the idea. Like Carroll, he actually has coaching experience with the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California (Carroll was a player and graduate assistant there, and then later the defensive coordinator in 1983, Gruden was the tight ends coach in 1989). In Gruden’s first season with the Raiders in 1998 he improved them from 4-12 the year prior to 8-8, then he had them as a top-five offense in 1999, then into the AFC Championship game in 2000. During his first season with the Bucs, he helped them to a Super Bowl title after losing in the wild card round in each of the previous two years.
Another name that is being thrown around a lot is Jim Harbaugh, Carroll’s former rival with the San Francisco 49ers. Harbaugh has turned around every program he’s made a stop at — San Diego, Stanford, the 49ers, and Michigan. He also moves around frequently. Acquiring Harbaugh from Michigan would also be a lot easier than taking Carroll from Seattle, as it would just cost money and there’s a better pitch to be made of “You can come back to the NFL” as opposed to “You’re already in the NFL, and this team is much worse.” Of course, as many have already pointed out, Harbaugh has it great with the Wolverines, his alma mater, and he probably will be happy there for a long time. But also just look at what happened with Michigan this season: a couple of tough, close losses and you’re playing for a Citrus Bowl (as they did a year ago) or an Orange Bowl. Will that be as satisfying for a coach who was in the Super Bowl four years ago? Harbaugh was also the one who mentored Andrew Luck, revived Alex Smith, and got the most out of Colin Kaepernick. Think of what he could do with Goff. There’s good reason to think that the Rams would make a huge push for Harbaugh because he might be at least as desirable as Carroll from a football standpoint, but way less complicated from a logistics angle.
Perhaps nearly as difficult to acquire as Carroll would be Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, an LA native. Reid has the Chiefs fighting for the number one seed in the AFC, so it seems unlikely that the team would let him go easy after four pretty successful seasons. Then again, another early playoffs exit does a good job of reinforcing the stigma surrounding Reid that he’s nothing more than a great regular season coach and a terrible postseason one. Not that that stopped the Rams from keeping Jeff Fisher for too long. Reid also has experience getting the most out of a defense and a quarterback.
Others who fit the mold experience-wise (not limiting these names to whether they’re currently employed or not) include Mike Shanahan, Lovie Smith, Rex Ryan, Bill Cowher (he said in 2013 that he believed he’d return to coaching some day), Brian Billick (similarly didn’t rule out a return), Marvin Lewis, Norv Turner, Dom Capers (think he’s too old? He’s one year older than Carroll), John Fox, Tony Dungy, Tom Coughlin, Mike Holmgren, Mike Smith, Ron Rivera, Sean Payton, and Steve Mariucci. Coaches with less experience but some experience include Josh McDaniels, Todd Haley, Leslie Frazier, and Jim Schwartz.
The names that stand out in that list? Perhaps Shanahan, Turner, Fox, Holmgren, Payton, and McDaniels. If some of those names underwhelm you, did you know that Jeff Fisher once coached the Rams?
Finally, why not Nick Saban? An unsubstantiated rumor from the very reliable source of comedian Tom Arnold said that Saban wanted the job with the New York Giants last year but also wanted $10 million per year. Arnold may not be the greatest source, but he does apparently have relationships with both the owner of the Giants and Saban. It also makes a lot of sense, because Saban may not feel he got a fair shake in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins, has done just about everything he could ever do with Alabama, and is still perhaps the greatest football coach in the country at any level. He’d not only be able to handle personnel duties, he’d probably outright demand them, and as Joe McAtee told us on 3000 NFL Mock Draft on Monday, Kroenke basically only wants people on board who will handle everything without his guidance. Kroenke wants a hands-off approach and Saban is as hands-off as you can get. Los Angeles would also put him in a huge market, he’d be the type of name that would lift ratings and attendance from the disappointing levels they’ve been at in their first season back in California, and Kroenke might actually pay him the $10 million per year he could be seeking. Also, when is the last time an NFL team made a huge splash by getting an NCAA coaching legend to make an unexpected leap to the pros?
I believe it was the Seahawks and Pete Carroll.
The more I write it, the more I believe that Saban, not Carroll, would be atop any wish list for the LA Rams. It would also make more sense just because of course Saban could leave Alabama, whereas it’s nearly impossible to think of a scenario where it’s worth it for Carroll or the Rams to acquire him from Seattle. Harbaugh and Gruden also make sense, but if you’re just talking about “wish lists” as this rumor with Carroll is wont to do, then why not Saban?
Carroll isn’t happening.