“It’s really hard to see them struggling,” Carroll said. “I feel every bit of it. I didn’t leave it, like it’s lost and forgotten. It was too big a deal in my life.”
Win Forever came together at USC, but has its roots in all the years before.
A key influence was Lou and Diane Tice, who, in 1971, founded The Pacific Institute, which sells the message of the power of positive thinking. In 1994, in Carroll’s first year as an NFL head coach, with the New York Jets, an assistant heard of the Tices and suggested the Jets staff attend a three-day session. The ideas Carroll heard there were a natural fit for his instincts.
The NFL didn’t fit, at first.
Carroll lasted one year in New York, where he was 6-10, and three in New England, where he was 27-21, and twice made the playoffs. During his run at USC, even with the NCAA sanctions, his team’s dominance ranks Carroll among the college game’s greatest coaches.
Critics still question whether his approach can work in the NFL. Seattle, however, stands at a possible inflection point. Perhaps you don’t have to coach like a fiery volcano and vengeful god to win in the NFL.
“People get the idea if you’re positive that you’re weak,” Diane Tice said. “That isn’t the case at all.”
Tice, a long-time friend of Carroll’s, says he brings creativity to football, and notes he is a skilled pianist and has attempted screenwriting for Hollywood.
In football, she cited an example of what sets Carroll apart: reviewing game film. A coach can berate a player, rewind and play a mistake over and over in front of the whole team. Or a coach can highlight a blown play but try to draw a positive from it, and also highlight other instances of strong play.
The Seahawks’ main film day, generally, is Monday, a day in the Carroll vernacular called Tell the Truth Mondays, which along with Turnover Thursday and No Repeat Friday were adapted from his USC days for the pro-football weekly calendar.
“His approach is different,” said Wally Buono, general manager of the B.C. Lions, who retired as head coach in late 2011 with the most wins in CFL history. “His approach is more the collegiate or high school where it’s all ‘rah-rah’ stuff. But he does innovative things. He’s not afraid to do new things.”
Buono cites two examples.
One, Carroll puts his first-team offence against his first-team defence in practice, which is unusual in pro football.
Two, after having a hole at the quarterback position for Carroll’s first two 7-9 seasons in Seattle, he brought in promising Green Bay Packers backup Matt Flynn last March on a contract worth up to $26-million, presumably to become the Seahawks’ new starter.
But in Carroll’s world, it is always compete, and in late April, the Seahawks drafted in the third round, 5-foot-11 quarterback Russell Wilson out of the University of Wisconsin.
Wilson won the starting job in training camp, and while the first weeks were imperfect, he is now the No. 7 ranked passer in the NFL, helped by a weekly practice against his own team, one of the best defences – especially the secondary – around.
Buono says it is a rare coach who “pays $26-million for a quarterback and starts a 5-11 rookie.”
“It tells you a lot about his confidence,” Buono said, “and his trust and his belief in what he can accomplish.”
The players are all in, and they are constantly reminded to be: Above every door at the practice facility, the indoor field, the outdoor field, the weight room, there’s a sign, “I’m in!”
People thought Carroll’s approach wouldn’t work with veteran pros. He hasn’t forced it, instead crafting one of the youngest teams. It is just like at USC, where Carroll started a freshman at every position during his nine years.
In Seattle, Carroll found a like mind. Hired one week after Carroll, John Schneider became one of the youngest general managers after eight years in Green Bay. Schneider wanted a young team. Carroll agreed.