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Far from USC, Carroll not fooling anyone

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Alex Marvez

Alex Marvez is a Senior NFL Writer for FOXSports.com. He has covered the NFL for the past 18 seasons as a beat writer and is the former president of the Pro Football Writers of America. He also is a frequent host on Sirius XM NFL Radio.

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Pete Carroll ended his video response to sanctions against the University of Southern California football team by invoking the school mantra of “Fight on.”

He should have used another cliché during Thursday’s spiel: The buck stops here.

But taking ultimate responsibility for the rules violations that have decimated his former college program wasn’t part of Carroll’s agenda. It was easier for the new Seattle Seahawks head coach to attack the NCAA than channel the spirit of Harry S. Truman.

What we heard in the two-minute video was whining and excuses rather than any admission of guilt. Carroll proclaimed himself “absolutely shocked and disappointed” at the penalties that will strip USC of 30 scholarships, erase all 2005 victories and ban postseason appearances for the next two years. Carroll said he and the university were unaware of the findings that showed, among other things, a strong lack of institutional control as running back Reggie Bush received improper benefits through sports marketing agencies.

“The facts don’t match the sanctions,” Carroll declared.

Maybe not, but there isn’t any gray area in the NCAA report. USC cheated. Forget about “fight on.” How about admit it and move on?

Carroll already has done the latter. His use of the words “we” and “Trojan family” in the same sentence was disingenuous. There is no more “we.” Carroll jumped ship in January when the Seahawks tossed him a $33 million life preserver. Because of the infractions that occurred under his watch, the Trojan family is about to become even more dysfunctional with junior and senior players free to transfer elsewhere.

Carroll did plenty of good at USC. He restored the program to its past glory while reinventing himself after failed NFL head-coaching stints with New England and the New York Jets. He helped reduce gang violence in Los Angeles through community outreach programs. Those accomplishments shouldn’t be forgotten.

Let’s also remember there’s a snake-oil salesman inside every head coach. Some are just more slippery than others.

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Like anyone who gets caught breaking the rules, there’s only one way for Carroll to restore his reputation: By winning.

Bill Belichick may never live down the Spygate incident, but it won’t keep him from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Mike Shanahan is known for leading Denver to two Super Bowl titles, not the fact that the Broncos circumvented the salary cap during those seasons to gain an unfair competitive advantage. Nobody will care that Baltimore’s John Harbaugh and Oakland’s Tom Cable held illegal practices this offseason if their teams capture division titles. Even the winningest coach in NFL history isn’t immune to scandal. The Miami Dolphins were stripped of a first-round draft choice when the league ruled Don Shula was signed to a contract in 1970 when still employed by the Baltimore Colts.

Carroll has inherited a major rebuilding project with his new team. The Seahawks won just nine games combined in the past two seasons. Expecting an immediate turnaround is unfair, but the pieces are in place for Seattle to reemerge as a legitimate playoff contender in 2011.

If they don’t, Seahawks fans will start having bad flashbacks about their head coach from 15 years ago. He also won college national championships with Miami, but left to Seattle amid looming NCAA violations that would cripple the program for years to come. He never led Seattle to a winning record in four seasons before getting fired and slinking back to the college ranks like Carroll might be tempted to do.

His name: Dennis Erickson.

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