NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Whenever
This time, if reports of the Seattle Seahawks' overtures are correct (according to the
Carroll, former head coach of the Jets and Patriots, has never lost his connection to the NFL world. He watches it. He studies it. Whenever a spot on his coaching staff opens up, he usually fills it with someone from the pro ranks (most recently offensive coordinator
But if ever there were an ideal time for Carroll to make the jump, this is certainly it.
Carroll has had an unquestionably glorious nine-year run with the Trojans -- a 97-19 record; a pair of national championships; seven straight Pac-10 titles. He's the unquestioned CEO of all-things USC football and he's paid royally (a reported $4.4 million per year) to do it.
But this year, for the first time since his debut season in 2001, Carroll faced a slew of adversity, starting nearly a year ago, when he rubbed a whole lot of people the wrong way with his critical comments about
He lost both his offensive (
Carroll, as befits his competitive nature, was fully capable of dealing with all that. You could almost see him relishing the challenge of getting things back on track for next year as much as he did all those championship seasons -- shoring up his staff, hitting the recruiting trail even harder. Whatever he could control, he would, in his mind, overcome.
But then came the
For the first time in recent memory, Carroll, the consummate man in charge, seemed truly blindsided by USC's investigation into the running back's use of an SUV allegedly purchased for his girlfriend by a Santa Monica entrepreneur. Carroll spent the week of the bowl game fielding McKnight-related questions for which he literally didn't have an answer.
L.A. Times columnist
"You're right," Carroll said of his program's recent p.r. hits. "And it hits you right in the gut."
McKnight on Friday disclosed his intention to enter the NFL draft. He's no longer Carroll's problem. But the rupture it may have caused between coach and AD won't go away as quickly.
Garrett this week announced self-imposed penalties (including a postseason ban) for the Trojans' basketball team pending an NCAA investigation into the ill-fated
Whatever the eventual result, it sounds like the Seahawks showed up this week with a conveniently timed "get out of jail free" card. Carroll can stay at Heritage Hall and ride out the storm, or he can move on to a fresh new challenge. His ego would certainly welcome the opportunity for NFL redemption, but he'll need to be assured the type of all-encompassing authority over personnel decisions he's enjoyed at USC -- and which he's long lamented to be a pitfall of coaching in the pros.
If Carroll does leave, the ripple effect is ... wow. Who would have imagined a year in which three of college football's giants -- USC, Notre Dame and (possibly) Florida -- all went through coaching turnover?
For the Trojans, the timing could not be much worse. Had the Seahawks come calling a year earlier, USC could have simply promoted Sarkisian rather than watching him leave for another Seattle coaching job. There is no logical successor on Carroll's staff. Any potential new coach will almost certainly be an outsider, and all those five-star recruits who signed on to be part of Carroll's one-of-a-kind environment (the NFL-replica offense; the practice-field pranks; the team sing-alongs to "Lean on Me") will have to adjust to a completely different personality.
Meanwhile, Carroll's potentially monstrous upcoming class would be caught in upheaval.
Next weekend, USC is scheduled to host official visits from 10 elite prospects, including three players -- receiver
"If Carroll goes, it will put USC into an insane [recruiting] spot," said SuperPrep's
Riley is a great coach -- but he's no Pete Carroll. Not too many guys are. Whoever took over would be stepping into an incredibly daunting situation. How do you follow in the footsteps of a program savior? How do you walk into a school where the expectations are already so high that this year's nine-win season was considered an epic failure while trying to salvage a recruiting class and deal with potential NCAA sanctions?
The Trojans' could avoid all this if Carroll stays put, but based on
Maybe the Seattle deal will fall through. Maybe Carroll will get cold feet.
If not, the landscape as we've known it for most of the last decade, both in the Pac-10 and nationally, is about to change enormously.