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Pete Carroll is a bad coach, except when he’s terrific

Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll admitted he had a bad game while his team beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football. Or, he admitted he had parts of a bad game. Good on him for that at least, because, well, he did.

Carroll is unquestionably one of the more complex figures at head coach in the NFL. Hopefully Seahawks fans are at least somewhat refreshed by the way Carroll is able to own his mistakes, something at which the hierarchy of sports leadership is terrible.

But at the heart of the “Pete Problem” is this stark dichotomy of elite leadership and abysmal management. Some would argue that such a thing isn’t even possible, but it does seem to be the way to describe Pete Carroll as a coach.

If “Separation is in the Preparation,” why is every game within one score?

Start with the obvious, and most recent: he’s bad at the pace of football decisions within a game, without explanation. It’s been seen, and it’s been noted.

And as Mookie pointed out in Winners / Losers, I will die never knowing why after 10 years Carroll refuses to burn down whatever systemic malfunction makes their play-calling system SO SLOW. The play clock usage on this team should get a book written about it.

Against Philadelphia, Carroll was vintage Carroll. Even when he seemed to make the right decision (go for it!) they were plays the team didn’t seem prepared for, with timeouts taken before each.

Long-term health over short-term success?

Now. Take a breath, and imagine you had a map of the United States. If you close your eyes and throw a dart at the map, chances are better than not that you’ll hit reasonably close to a dysfunctional NFL franchise. The three major contributors to the health of a team are owner, head coach, and general manager, and yes I’d put them in that order. (There is also apparently a fourth influence, which is the county in which a team resides who has the ubiquitous and unparalleled ability to just....make the 49ers go away).

The owner sits atop this list because they possess the greatest power for doing evil. We’ve seen it with the Washington team that cannot choose a non-racist name, along with the free sexual harassment passes they handed out. We’ve seen it with the numerous travesty of hiring decisions, firing decisions, and friend-of-a-friend nepotism in countless teams.

The general manager has some influence, but it’s not as strong as one might think. It takes a critical mass to sway a large group in any direction, and a GM usually doesn’t have the ability to suddenly bring in so many personalities - good or bad - that it clearly tanks or revitalizes a team.

But the head coach has the greatest ability for positive influence, and it is here that Carroll thrives. We have empirical evidence of this in Seattle, over the course of several years.

We’ve pointed out here that the list of NFL athletes who praise, love, or specifically choose Seattle continues to grow. It’s getting a bit embarrassing at this point. Jadeveon Clowney did it, Josh Gordon has done it and is trying to again. Jimmy Graham. Duane Brown. DJ Fluker. Quandre Diggs. Carlos Dunlap. Snacks Harrison picked the Seahawks even when he couldn’t play for four weeks. It’s been six years since the disgruntled Richard Shermans of the world popped off, and it has not happened since.

While John Schneider brings these players in, it’s Pete Carroll who has built this culture.

This has been 500 words, what’s the point?

Can the Seattle Seahawks win (or get to) more Super Bowls with Carroll as head coach?


However, if we also included the question, “could Pete Carroll cost this team a playoff win” or something of similar stakes, I think I’d also have to answer “yes.”

It would be the greatest shame upon Carroll’s legacy if some timeout or inexplicable play call shattered another Seattle postseason because Carroll has also done something not one of his peers can claim. Carroll is the only current coach who’s never had a rebuilding season besides when they took over. Some will want to put an asterisk next to Bill Belichick for this season, but the New England Patriots are fighting for a losing season while Carroll is fighting for a #1 seed.

For crying out loud the great Sean Payton had three 7-9 seasons in a row a few years after winning the Super Bowl.

A winning culture is intangible. It’s non-measurable. We can point to the obvious Pete Carroll things like positivity, belief in self and team, defending one’s brother, honesty, competitive practices, and fantastic choice in footwear.

An unexplainable avoidance to go for it on fourth down one game, and then approve multiple fourth down attempts without Chris Carson on another game - that is measurable. It’s also more emotional and potentially more costly in the moment, and that what has gotten Carroll shredded over the years.

To his credit, Carroll has consistently led out of his strengths. He has built an organization that seems able to avoid attrition or implosion. He turned Seattle into a place where good players come from bad teams - quite regularly.

But his strength is not managing the 60 minutes following kickoff, and Carroll could take this team from great to ferocious if he found a system that worked better.

It’s similar to any boss or manager most people have had at various times in their life. People are gifted in some ways of leading, and not in others. It’s far easier said than done that someone could just do what they’re good at and not do what they’re bad at. Many times, that option is unavailable. It may be with Carroll, but he’s paid well enough to get an administrative assistant to help him call time outs correctly and ensure he doesn’t ruin his own legacy.

It’s an uncomfortable place to be for Seahawks fans, looking at the Eagles plus the next three games, thinking that the greatest enemy might be their team’s own coaching staff on game day.

But this team is steaming straight towards its ninth playoff appearance under Pete Carroll, and right now that’s worth celebrating.