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Pete Carroll clearly has found his place in Seattle

The NFL's Seahawks are giving the former USC coach the control of the football operation that he'd sought, not to mention a primo parking space.

January 13, 2010|By Sam Farmer

Reporting from Renton, Wash. — Pete Carroll might be tireless but he does have wheels.

To that end, the Seattle Seahawks gave him the prime parking spot, just outside the front door of their facility, marking the space with a freshly minted sign with his name on it.

It's a reminder to anyone who strolls by that the football world is different now than it was just days ago.

"Not just a little different," Carroll said Tuesday after he was introduced as Seahawks coach. "A million miles different."

And so is his challenge. After nine seasons of spectacular success with USC, where he built a 97-19 record, he's ready to show he's better than the 33-31 mark he had in four seasons coaching the New York Jets and New England Patriots.

"I know so much more clearly where I'm coming from than I did then," said Carroll, 58, named the Seahawks' coach and executive vice president. "I was not at my best in New York. I can't tell you how far away I was then from where I am right now. I was not at my best at New England. I think the Seahawks have benefited from what I've been through."

Carroll has benefited too -- handsomely. His new job will pay him $6.5 million per season for five years, and he's charged with turning around an organization that went 4-12 and 5-11 over the past two seasons.

Is he cut out for it? He now has a chance to show that and disprove the theory that he's more suited for college, where each year he was able to attract some of the best talent in the country.

Seahawks defensive end Lawrence Jackson, who played for Carroll at USC, said he can understand how the departure of that coach could be cause for celebration at other Pacific 10 Conference schools.

"You have to be elated as a player from another school that the head of the horse has been cut off," Jackson said.

And now it can be told: Carroll's fire to return to the NFL never died, even if it was only the pilot light that stayed aflame. The pros did come knocking from time to time, he said, although he wasn't constantly turning away suitors.

"In the past nine years, with all of the speculation, you would think that I was talking to five or six [teams] a year," he said. "Never happened. I've talked to three or four teams in earnest, and in each situation they presented to me an opportunity that sounded like it was different from the normal format for a head coach coming into the league."

It wasn't until the Seahawks came to him with their offer, a deal finalized Sunday, that he finally said yes. A big issue for him has always been control of the football operation, and Carroll will get that, even though the club will hire a general manager to work alongside him. The team isn't going to hire someone who has final say -- not the way Bill Polian does in Indianapolis, for instance -- but someone who understands the final word belongs to Carroll.

The Seahawks offered him that, along with so many other enticing aspects, among them an owner with boundless resources, a first-class stadium and training facility, a West Coast lifestyle, two first-round picks in this year's draft, and a weak division.

"Even the university couldn't come up with anything that would have made a difference in my thinking," Carroll said.

The introduction of Carroll attracted at least two dozen reporters and a convoy of satellite trucks. The news conference was held in an auditorium at the team headquarters and was unusual in that friends, family members and some Seahawks -- including some of his former USC players -- applauded when the coach entered the room. (The news conference took place a few hours before Lane Kiffin got the USC job.)

Jackson said he's thrilled to once again have Carroll coaching him. And he can understand the sense of shock in L.A.

"You can't blame them for feeling that way," he said. "If my girlfriend broke up with me, I'm going to be hurt. . . . L.A. loves Pete Carroll. He did something to L.A. that might never be duplicated on a collegiate level. He brought hope to a lot of people and a lot of alumni. But the important thing to remember is there's nonstop flights from L.A. to Seattle, so if you have a sore heart you can come up."

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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