National Football League
Is Pete Carroll's most impressive coaching job happening before our eyes?
National Football League

Is Pete Carroll's most impressive coaching job happening before our eyes?

Published Oct. 26, 2022 11:02 a.m. ET

Pete Carroll has led the Seattle Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls, handily winning a championship over the Denver Broncos after the 2013 season. Seattle has won five NFC West titles under his guidance, reaching the playoffs in nine of 13 seasons as the team's head coach.

But this year is particularly impressive because after trading franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, creating the expectation from NFL observers that Seattle would be one of the worst teams in the league, Carroll has the Seahawks at 4-3 and leading the NFC West.

"Seven weeks in and look where we are," Carroll told reporters after his team's road win over the Los Angeles Chargers this past weekend. "Who would have thunk it?"


Carroll led the Seahawks to the playoffs in his first season as the team's head coach, winning a game to get into the playoffs with journeyman Charlie Whitehurst, nicknamed "Clipboard Jesus," as his starting quarterback.

He then followed that season up in 2011 with another 7-9 record, when Tarvaris Jackson played most of the season with a torn pec in his throwing shoulder, before landing the best quarterback in franchise history in Wilson in the 2012 draft

But the 71-year-old Carroll can certainly argue this season has been his best coaching job to date, and he belongs in the early conversation for NFL Coach of the Year.

"His Hall of Fame credentials are already pretty far out there," said FOX Sports NFL Draft analyst Rob Rang, who regularly covers the Seahawks. "But this is as good of a coaching job as I've seen from Pete Carroll. And that's saying quite a lot. From a national perspective, I don't think that there's anyone out there who thought this team would be this good. And I'm not suggesting this team is going to finish the season as the divisional leader.

"To me, he's very much showing himself to be a Hall of Fame-caliber head coach, and I don't know if a lot of people view him in that way. But I think they should be looking at that a little closer. He's still having fun. He's still Pete out there. He walks around like he's 20 years old. And it's really remarkable that he's able to motivate players that are so much younger than he is."

The Seahawks were ridiculed in some circles for giving up on their franchise quarterback this offseason, shipping the 34-year-old signal caller and a fourth-round pick in this year's draft to the Broncos for two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round selection, quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant and defensive lineman Shelby Harris.

Some NFL observers believed the Seahawks got fleeced in the trade. But with the hindsight of time, Wilson has been a disaster so far in Denver, playing poorly and suffering a hamstring injury as the Broncos limped through the first half of the year with a 2-5 record.

Meanwhile, Wilson's replacement, Geno Smith, is playing the best football of his 10-year NFL career, leading the league in completion percentage (73.5 percent) and Seattle's offense to 26 points per game. Smith's rebirth is one of the reasons Seattle's a playoff contender almost halfway through the 2022 season.

"I think they accurately saw a player whose skills were diminishing," Rang said about Wilson. "At least it's being proven now. And they accurately evaluated Geno Smith and saw him as a player who could be competitive in a replacement role. And they got some talent back in Drew Lock. So, I think they felt that they could still compete at that point.

"They also recognized that with those draft picks, that's how you build for the long term. And that's really both (general manager) John Schneider's strength in the draft, and certainly Pete Carroll. His ability to make a connection with young players, and then just new players into his program in general, veterans included … They went back to what they do best," Rang said.

Rang said this year's draft haul compares favorably to Seattle's 2012 draft, when they hit on five impact players in edge rusher Bruce Irvin, linebacker Bobby Wagner, guard J.R. Sweezy, running back Robert Turbin and cornerback Jeremy Lane.

This year, offensive tackles Charles Cross and Abe Lucas, along with running back Kenneth Walker III, cornerbacks Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant and edge rusher Boye Mafe have all made significant contributions.

Seahawks' Kenneth Walker III runs all over the Chargers

Kenneth Walker III rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns as the Seattle Seahawks cruised to a comfortable 37-23 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.

According to Pro Football Focus, Seattle's rookie class had the most combined offensive and defensive snaps through the first six weeks of the regular season.

"I thought it was an extraordinary draft class when it happened," Rang said. "But I still didn't believe it would be this good, this quick. Even prior to the season, I had Tariq Woolen as one of the dark-horse, Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates as a fifth-round pick. But where it is right now, I think he's got to be the slam-dunk guy. To me it's like Micah Parsons a year ago. How could you argue against him? Woolen is shutting down everybody. The biggest concern I had with him was run support, but he's been very reliable in that regard as well.

"I think we all saw the type of athlete he was at the combine, but for him to have that type of success already is impressive. Ken Walker has been amazing his first, couple weeks as a starter. And then, the way Coby Bryant's punching the ball out and no one is talking about the tackles anymore, and that was the biggest story. They really have had a draft class that ranks among the best in franchise history, and that's saying quite a lot."

Now that the Seahawks are in first, can Carroll keep it going? The Seahawks host the 6-1 New York Giants at Lumen Field on Sunday. They only have four road games left, but still face the defending Super Bowl Champs in the Los Angeles Rams twice, along with the Kansas City Chiefs, the New York Jets, the San Francisco 49ers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"We are just laying low," Carroll told Seattle-area reporters. "We are in the reeds. There were no expectations for us at all. We haven't done anything yet. We are just getting rolling. I think we are in a different situation and setting than people figured we would be, so they are looking."

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.


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