"I've always loved the NFL," Carroll said. "There were some times over the years when an opportunity would come up, to look at going back in, and there were just a few of them. The situation was never situated properly. This was structured well. It was a great time, it was a chance to stay on the West Coast, to work with a terrific owner and a great CEO. All of it just fit together beautifully."
The process came together in a way that others didn't -- team owner Paul Allen and CEO Tod Leiweke were impressed enough with what Carroll could bring to the program that they gave him the control he wanted over the 53-man roster. While his authority falls short of the "Czar" label, and Lieweke will mediate all disputes between Carroll and the eventual new general manager, Carroll was left with the belief that he'll have the control he didn't have in less successful stints with the Patriots and Jets.
"I can't even fathom that it was less than a week ago (Carroll's hire was announced on Tuesday) -- so much has happened in the meantime. To make that decision was very difficult; it was such a great time at SC, and I loved the people and the school and representing it. But there was this window of opportunity to go ahead and make this move, and I just couldn't pass up the competitive opportunity. This is where the most difficult challenges exist."
Where things get interesting is when Carroll talks about the assistant coaches he's bringing along -- two young coaches with NFL experience who worked with him at USC, and one legendary coach who consulted with Carroll at the college level. To listen to Carroll about the formation of the staff, it's pretty clear that he hasn't just been eyeing the NFL from a distance -- he's been assembling a foundation with a plan in mind. Specifically when it came to new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, who coached quarterbacks at SC after working with Mike Shanahan at Denver.
"When I had a chance to hire Jeremy Bates from Denver a year ago, I had in mind that this was the first NFL coordinator had a chance to hire. And in my mind, I knew that if I went (back to the NFL), I would hope that it would work out that we would see eye-to-eye on so many things, and I'd have a guy to go with me. Knowing how difficult it is to get your offense set up. To go along with him, we were able to hook up with Alex Gibbs. Alex is coming in here raring to go again, and this gives us a tremendous stature of a tremendous running game, which we know is so important in the league. That combination of the young guy calling the plays, and Alex in the running game, is just an extraordinary force. Kenny Norton is coming along to coach the linebackers, and Brian Schneider is coaching the special teams. He had been at the Raiders just the year before. It was the same thought I had with Jeremy, where if I had the chance to go back someday, I would love to have my special teams coach in order. All of that worked together beautifully."
The next task is to hire a general manager, and Carroll talked about the process that many believe will have ex-Titans and Patriots front office man Floyd Reese taking the job. "We had four guys come in -- Omar Khan, Floyd Reese, Marc Ross, and John Schneider. We had great interviews with those guys. We decided to take the weekend and come back at it early next week to make a decision on this thing. It's been a great process with these guys -- they're all great candidates, and they bring special qualities; we'll put it all together next week and come up with a decision."
As a coach, Carroll's known primarily for his defensive acumen. How will he transfer what he knows to a Seahawks defense known for subpar results in recent years? For Carroll, the primary answer is continuity. "Fortunately, Monte Kiffin's number-one guy, a guy named Gus Bradley, he was here. He just came in last year. So he's here with us to help maintain the philosophy and the continuity of the system. Gus is a heck of a coach -- he's fired up, and really bright. It gives me great continuity to do the things I want to do. Dan Quinn's going to stay with us, too -- he coaches the defensive line. We'll also add a secondary coach that's just lights out -- you'll see in a couple days when we announce it. That gives me the freedom to do things that I want to do -- to help out, but to also have great leadership in the room, and run with it."
Carroll's first challenge, as he sees it, will be to put linebacker Aaron Curry in better positions to succeed. In his rookie season, Curry was put in positions where he wasn't entire comfortable, was left out in the cold from a schematic perspective when middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu wasn't there to make the defensive calls after his season-ending pectoral injury, and was frequently taken off the field by a coaching staff more concerned with job-saving than actual defensive growth. "Within the first hour I was there, I had Gus make a cut-up for me so that I could watch Aaron Curry. So we were in there watching film of Aaron Curry, and trying to figure out what might be best for him. Looking at him coming off the edge, and trying to come up with a position and a style to really suit his addition to the team. You know, the number-one pick last year -- he played a lot, but he'll have a much better year and be a much bigger factor if we do this right."
After all the legitimate talk about whether Carroll's suited for the NFL, the staff he's putting together might be reason for encouragement. It's possible that instead of the washout college transfers who try to hold on to all control, Carroll will follow the example set by more successful coaches who surround themselves with elite-level talent from different backgrounds. Carroll could have gone after nothing but green college transfers who would approve his every word, but the hire of Gibbs and the soon-to-be-announced secondary coach (believed to be current Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray) tells a different story. It's possible that Carroll has learned from past mistakes, and is ready to go in a different, more intelligent, and more considered direction.