*Pete Carroll is one of the greatest football coaches of all-time.
The asterisk is there because to make this statement, one would need to clarify that he’s one of the greatest college coaches of all-time. Unlike Barry Bonds though, there’s still time to remove the asterisk.
Anybody who paid any sliver of attention to college football in the 2000s is aware of Carroll’s pedigree at the collegiate level. His USC Trojans won two national championships, played for another, and appeared in BCS bowl games in eight straight years during his reign.
However, he’s yet to match that level of success in the NFL.
After one forgettable season with the Jets, a winning tenure in New England that unfairly ended prematurely, Carroll is at his 3rd NFL post with the Seahawks, leaving USC for Seattle in 2010. So far, he’s been spectacular in the Pacific Northwest. Now in his 4th season, Carroll has the ‘Hawks in the playoffs for the 3rd time and playing for the right to go to the Super Bowl.
But to get to the Super Bowl, he had to defeat the man that’s been his biggest nemesis since his days at USC: Jim Harbaugh.
In 2007, when Harbaugh first took over at Stanford, he led the Cardinal to what was the biggest upset of all-time (41 point underdogs) in winning at Carroll’s #1 ranked USC Trojans. Two years later, Harbaugh returned to the Coliseum and shellacked Carroll’s Trojans 55-21. But it was what happened after the game that was notable.
Meeting at midfield for the postgame handshake, an obviously perturbed Carroll asked Harbaugh, “What’s your deal?”
While both excellent football coaches, there’s a strong dichotomy between Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh’s personalities. The Roger Waters/Richard Gere look-alike Carroll likes to surf, is into music and is laid-back. Conversely, Harbaugh is a coach’s son who’s known to be as rough and tough and his massive jawline would lead you to believe.
Carroll has been able to exact some revenge on Harbaugh in the NFL, flat out embarrassing his 49ers in the last two meetings in Seattle. However, it was Harbaugh who ultimately got to the Super Bowl last year. And a loss on Sunday could have permanently stained Carroll’s legacy for not ever being able to get past Harbaugh. Seahawks fans would have to question, “If you aren’t going to win a Super Bowl now with homefield advantage, when will you have this good of an opportunity again?”
That’s all moot now.
In the same way that Peyton Manning’s performance against Tom Brady and the Patriots next week could define his legacy, how the Seahawks perform could decide Pete Carroll’s NFL legacy.
If Seattle wins next Sunday and hoists the Lombardi Trophy, Carroll enters elite company. Discounting Barry Switzer’s gift-wrapped Super Bowl, only he and Jimmy Johnson would have lead a college and an NFL team to a championship.
At age 62, it’s not likely that Carroll will stick around long enough to really make a case to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But the aforementioned Jimmy Johnson isn’t in the Hall of Fame either. Many who bring up the greatest coaches in NFL history mention Johnson though. With a Super Bowl win this year and 2-3 more good years, Carroll’s legacy could be in a similar place.
If he loses on Sunday though, the asterisk will remain forever.
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