The sheer definition of an architect is one who designs a structure, or supervises the construction. In Pete Carroll’s case he was asked to build a winning team and lead a group of men to Super Bowl contention. In the past two seasons, Carroll has done just that. Carroll was hired by the Seattle Seahawks in 2010 and has his team on the cusp of their second Super Bowl victory in as many years. The Seahawks have missed the playoffs just once with Pete Carroll at the helm, but how exactly was he able to resurrect the Seahawks’ franchise so quickly?
What did he do to return his team to prominence? Did he sign a ton of veteran free agents? Force a particular scheme on his incumbent players that didn’t fit them? Become rigid and conservative as a coach because he had yet to acquire the players he wanted?
The answer is none of the above.
Carroll’s reign at the top of the college ranks granted him familiarity with the most talented college football players in the country. As a result of his time recruiting high school players at USC, he had greater knowledge of players entering the professional ranks compared to the other 31 teams in the NFL. During Tuesday’s Media Day event, Carroll spoke about his ability to cast a wider net in the realm of scouting to quickly improve the Seahawks depth chart.
“When we went through the first few years, we had a lot of knowledge of guys around the country, who were coming in and coming out,” Carroll said. “… We turned out a lot of players at [USC] but we knew players throughout the entire country. That did help us for a while.”
Though Carroll was quick to point to his familiarity with talented college players as a reason for his success in Seattle, he deserves to be credited for having the gumption to “reach” for players he felt could help his team. Talents like left tackle Russell Okung and free safety Earl Thomas were projected to be outstanding players in the NFL, but Carroll also took calculated risks on several talented players in the draft.
Carroll has stated on multiple occasions that he does not subscribe to conventional wisdom. That statement never held truer for him than in the 2012 NFL draft.
In 2012 the Seahawks took a chance on defensive end Bruce Irvin. Many NFL draft pundits considered Irvin a character concern and a classic underachiever in the college ranks. Carroll was able to see through Irvin’s lack of production and came to the conclusion that his skill set was misappropriated at West Virginia University. Carroll stood firm in his convictions and selected Irvin with the fifteenth pick overall when many pegged him as a second round selection at best. Carroll’s investment in Irvin would not be in vain as he lead all rookies with eight sacks.
The Seahawks also selected Russell Wilson with the No. 75 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Wilson was considered by many as too short to be an effective NFL quarterback. Fortunately for Carroll, Wilson was able to prove his critics wrong. Wilson was talented enough to beat out newly acquired free agent quarterback Matt Flynn for the starting position as a rookie. Most coaches would’ve awarded the starting position to the player with this highest salary, but not Carroll. He did the right thing, and gave the starting job to the best player. Wilson has since led his team to two trips to the Super Bowl.
In previous drafts, Carroll selected Richard Sherman, a raw athlete making the switch from wide receiver to cornerback; Kam Chancellor, a hard-hitting strong safety who many thought was too slow to play the position in the NFL; and K.J. Wright, a supreme athlete with “suboptimal” linebacker instincts.
If NFL draft selections were punches in a boxing match, the Seahawks have been able to land nearly every blow in recent years. Carroll took risks on each of the aforementioned players, and each of them are making him look like a genius for selecting them at a higher draft slot than the “experts” thought they should’ve been taken.
Carroll has also signed some quality free agents during his time with the Seahawks, but only one — running back Marshawn Lynch has made the type of impact for the team his draft picks have.
Building through the draft is paramount to resurrecting a franchise, but success in the draft is not the sole reason for his accomplishments in the NFL. When asked what makes Carroll a great coach Richard Sherman put it best,
“He allows his players to bump their heads and scrape their knees, and learn from their experiences on and off the field. He trusts his players more than I think a lot of coaches do, and we appreciate him for that.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick also offered up high praise for Carroll during Tuesday’s Media Day event.
“Not a coach in the NFL I respect more than Pete Carroll. He’s a tremendous coach. … I’ve studied Pete from afar over a long period of time. I’ve learned a lot from what he does, and indirectly, I think he’s made me a better coach. I have all the respect in the world for Pete and his staff.”
Carroll is clearly one of the best coaches in the NFL. With that said, his ability to rapidly construct a perennial playoff contender should cement his is status as one of the greatest architects the NFL has ever seen.