USC's Pete Carroll expected to join Seahawks, but with what titles
By Danny O’Neil
The Seattle Times
SEATTLE — A deal to make USC’s Pete Carroll the next coach of the Seahawks is down to semantics at this point.
According to ESPN, an agreement has been reached in principle to make Carroll the coach and president in Seattle. A team official indicated that nothing is done and the sides will talk again in the next day or two. The Associated Press reported the Seahawks do not plan on giving Carroll the title of president.
So while all indications are Carroll will be coming to the Seahawks, there’s a question of just what titles will be on his business card.
But all the prerequisites for a deal are in place after the Seahawks interviewed Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator on Saturday morning. Frazier is African-American, and the league hiring protocols require NFL teams to interview a minority candidate for a head-coaching job in the NFL, referred to as the Rooney Rule.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, before Saturday’s playoff game in Cincinnati between the Jets and Bengals, told reporters the Seahawks had satisfied the Rooney Rule, according to a league spokesman.
Frazier’s interview occurred only after the Seahawks clarified the prospective interest in Carroll with the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the group that monitors compliance with the Rooney Rule.
“Our position is that they laid out to us that have been in conversation with Pete Carroll, which they have every right to do,” said John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance.
However, Wooten said the Seahawks had to clarify the role Carroll might fill with the organization and he was told by the Seahawks that Carroll’s potential role would be just like “most” of the coaches in the league.
“Here was their statement to us,” Wooten said. “If Pete Carroll does in fact accept the job and is in fact the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks he will not be in charge of football operations.”
Those football operations would encompass final say over trades, draft picks and other personnel decisions. The extent of Carroll’s final say would not go beyond the 53-man roster.
The Seahawks fired Jim Mora on Friday morning after a single season, the shortest tenure of any coach in franchise history.
“I was extremely shocked,” Mora said in a telephone interview.
Just as shocking? The man the Seahawks have targeted to replace him: Carroll.
Carroll has become one of the most successful coaches in Pac-10 history.
The Los Angeles Times has reported that while nothing was signed, an agreement was close between the Seahawks and Carroll on a five-year contract worth $7 million per year that would make Carroll both coach and president.
Attempts to reach Carroll were unsuccessful, and Carroll’s agent, Gary Uberstine, did not return phone messages from The Seattle Times.
Tod Leiweke, CEO of the Seahawks, also could not be reached, but indications from the Seahawks were that nothing had been finalized with anyone for either the Seahawks’ vacancy atop its football operations or the head-coaching spot.
Carroll has coached USC the past nine seasons, winning two national championships and having seven seasons of 11 wins or more. This season was the Trojans’ least successful since Carroll’s first year, and USC could be facing NCAA sanctions in the near future.
Carroll’s college career came after a pair of NFL failures, first with the New York Jets and then with the New England Patriots. He went to the Patriots in 1997, inheriting a team coming off a Super Bowl appearance, but won progressively fewer games the next three seasons before he was fired.
Carroll’s career record as an NFL head coach is 33-31 for regular-season games, 1-2 in the playoffs.
Mora has the same number of seasons as an NFL head coach and a comparable record. He is 31-33 in the regular season, with a mark of 1-1 in the playoffs.
Mora’s dismissal came without much warning, despite a 5-11 record in 2009.
Just three days ago, he conducted his final news conference of the 2009 season and said that while he hadn’t explicitly been told he would be returning, he wasn’t worried about it.
But on Friday morning, Mora met with Leiweke, who informed Mora he would not be returning.
“It became apparent after conducting an extensive internal audit, that a new direction was needed to provide an opportunity for the organization to be successful,” Leiweke said in the team’s announcement of the firing.
That marked a turnaround from Leiweke’s statement five weeks ago that he “fully expected” Mora to be retained after it was announced Tim Ruskell was out as Seahawks president.
But Seattle went 1-4 after that announcement, losing its final four games — three of them in lopsided fashion.
Mora came to Seattle in 2007 as an assistant coach, choosing that over a chance to become the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator. He was also considered for Miami Dolphins head coach that offseason. In 2008, he interviewed with the Washington Redskins, and after he withdrew from consideration, he officially agreed to become the successor to Mike Holmgren.
Friday’s decision to dismiss Mora was the equivalent of the Seahawks hitting the reset button after Seattle finished with fewer than six victories for the second successive season.
Mora held his first news conference as Seahawks head coach on Jan. 13, 2009. Less than a year later he is out, the only head coach in franchise history to have a tenure shorter than three years. Mora had three years and $12 million remaining on his contract.
“(Friday’s) decision, while difficult, is part of the process in building a franchise with a new vision in 2010,” Leiweke said.