NEW YORK -– Control. Alongside money, it’s the biggest draw for a prospective NFL head coach.
The ability to decide on personnel, scheme, coaching staff and salary structure is priceless, and once a coach shows he can succeed when given total control, his earning power spikes.
Pete Carroll got total control when he took over the Seahawks in 2010. He fumigated the joint. Today, only four players predate Carroll’s arrival. All these years later, after the Patriots went belly-up under his leadership, Carroll’s proven he could do what he said he could.
Build a program. The key to putting his imprint on Seattle, Carroll said, simply boils down to control.
“It comes from not having anybody over me to tell you the truth,” Carroll said Tuesday, while getting his Seahawks ready to take on the Broncos in the Super Bowl.
Not having anyone to answer to on football matters allowed Carroll to move boldly. He’s put in his style of defense - pressure-oriented – with his style of secondary players – huge. He pulled the trigger on a free-agent quarterback for big bucks -- Matt Flynn. And when the guy he drafted after signing Flynn outperformed Flynn in the preseason, Russell Wilson became the starter.
Carroll didn’t have a GM looking over his shoulder and whispering behind his hand that the big-ticket guy didn’t get a fair shake. It was Carroll’s call. And he got it right.
In contrast to the Broncos –- who have signed or claimed more than half their 53-man roster in the past two seasons –- the Seahawks have signed or claimed just 15 players in the past two years.
They’ve gotten it done through the draft.
* In 2010, Carroll drafted Earl Thomas, Russell Okung, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond and Kam Chancellor.
* In 2011, he (and his valued GM John Schneider) drafted James Carpenter, Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell.
* In 2012, he drafted Wilson, Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Malcolm Smith and Jeremy Sweezy.
That’s 13 of the 22 starters drafted in the past four seasons. Additionally, linebacker K.J. Wright is one of the most versatile linebackers in the league. He came in 2012.
"The time I had USC to be in charge of personnel as well as coaching and everything else really helped me tremendously in our philosophical approach, in our commitment to young players,” Carroll explained this week. “When you’re a coach, you don’t like playing the young guys. When you’re the GM you want to see all the young guys. When you’re a GM and a coach -– in essence what you are in college -- I made the choice to go with young guys. We developed a whole approach about that and a philosophy about how that worked out for us and it paid off in a tremendous way."
Schneider and Carroll shared the philosophy of going young and putting plenty on the young guys’ plates.
“For the most part, the personnel guys will think that way, but the coaches don’t coincide because they feel like when you play the young guys you’re going to lose,” Carroll pointed out. “As a matter of fact Bud Grant (the Hall of Fame Vikings coach whom Carroll was under decades ago) used to say that for every rookie you start, you’re going to lose a game. Bud and I didn’t agree on everything. College did help, and it helped in a lot of different ways than you would think. For the first few years it was very helpful because we recruited a bunch of these kids, but from then on it was John (Schneider) and I putting together and melding a whole new approach to it and with a lot of confidence. The reinforcement and the confidence we put in one another allows us to make the choices that we do. We’ve had a tremendous run in the lower rounds. In these past few years, John has done a tremendous job of getting guys in the fifth round. There’s a whole list of them, guys in the fourth round and sixth round that are starting for us, have contributed in a big way, and have allowed us to recreate our football team in a short time.”
Aggressiveness on trades has also played a role. Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin were both acquired through deals with the Bills and Vikings, respectively.
“(Schneider’s) done a great job of having the competitive will to keep pushing and fighting and clawing and scratching to have the opportunity that has sent us down the road early on with the hundreds of guys that came through the program,” praised Carroll. “It sent us on the road to stay after Marshawn Lynch for months to get him to come to our club. The deal that (Schneider) got done with Percy (Harvin) and everything that fell in between that really was an attitude of competing and going for it. Because John and I just have to look at each other to make these choices, it’s pretty easy for us. We really don’t care about what other people think and we’re not going to be driven by what the status quo may think and we’ve really trusted our gut on decisions,”
Good call. The gut’s been great. And Carroll’s got everything under control.
Tom E. Curran is the Patriots Insider for CSN New England. Follow him on Twitter @tomecurran.