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Carroll's first year in Seattle a success

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John Czarnecki

John Czarnecki has been the editorial consultant for "FOX NFL Sunday" since its 1994 inception. This season marks Czarnecki's 32nd year covering the NFL. He is one of 44 selectors to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Although he looks every bit the sideline cheerleader, Pete Carroll will be 60 years old next season, and only Tom Coughlin has him beat in the coaching age department.

But there is no doubt that Carroll has brought a lot of enthusiasm and energy to the Seattle Seahawks. Plus, he shocked most experts by winning the NFC West with a constantly evolving roster while fearlessly discarding high-priced mistakes of the previous regime.

Despite a youth movement, Seattle has a mere seven rookies on the roster and only free safety Earl Thomas has been a first-year regular — as No. 1 pick Russell Okung, a left tackle, has dealt with an ankle injury all season.

The general consensus is that Seattle’s world will come to a crashing halt today, and that the worst team among the dozen in the playoffs will be eliminated quickly by the defending-champion Saints. It makes total sense because the Seahawks are undersized on defense and also have one of the league’s worst rushing offenses. And who wouldn’t take Drew Brees over Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback?

But Carroll has kept this group together despite allowing 87 more points this season than they’ve scored. They "prepped" for the playoffs by losing five of their last seven games and only beat one team (the Chargers) with a winning record this season.

But the Seahawks played great team defense last Sunday night against Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams. Plus, young coordinator Jeremy Bates has proven to be a creative play-caller for the offense, which is usually physically outmatched on most game days.

Overall though, this team isn’t battle-tested enough to tackle an experienced team like the Saints, who won a showdown game with the NFC's top-seeded Falcons a couple weeks ago. Seattle’s only advantage is that the Saints may be a little weary from the long flight from New Orleans. Believe me, no team likes flying across country to play in Seattle.

Owner Paul Allen has to be excited about the future and the immediate results after paying Carroll almost double what Steve Spagnuolo and Mike Singletary earned this season. However, what is strange about the Seahawks’ rise is that their quarterback situation remains unsettled for next season as they are unsure about both Hasselbeck and backup Charlie Whitehurst, who cost them two draft choices in an offseason trade. And that’s very unusual for a playoff team.

Carroll could actually become involved in possibly drafting the U. of Washington’s Jake Locker in April, whose draft stock dipped this season as he struggled with reading defenses. You can also bet that Carroll will focus on upgrading both his offensive and defensive lines for next season. There may be a league-wide lockout after March 4, but you can bet that Carroll will be still working with his young general manager, John Schneider, on every way to improve this franchise.

If Carroll finds the perfect quarterback, well, the next time Seattle is in the playoffs, they’ll actually have a winning record.

Tagged: Saints, Seahawks

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