It’s fitting that Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick will set a record for the oldest coaching matchup in NFL history this week – the same week Carroll turned 69 (Belichick is 68).
It’s a great matchup between the NFL’s two best coaches of the past decade, and it begs the age-old question: How much longer will these guys go? Most important to us: How much longer will Carroll coach the Seahawks?
When he signed his latest extension, in 2018, Carroll said he takes it “one year at a time, with the projection of I’m kind of on a five-year plan.” He repeated that this week, saying, “I’m feeling great. I’m kind of on a five-year plan. Five years from now, I’ll figure it out and I’ll reassess.”
That sounds like a guy who fully plans to sign another extension soon, joining his quarterback through at least 2023 (Carroll is signed through 2021 now). Jody Allen, who signed him in 2018, surely will want to keep him on.
Fans have been mixed about keeping Carroll, with seemingly half thinking he is a coaching dinosaur whose conservative nature will keep preventing the Hawks from getting back to the Super Bowl.
But consider this: Carroll is the best coach, hands down, in Seahawks history. He has eight playoff appearances in his 10 seasons – and certainly looks primed for No. 9 this season.
He has the most wins (101) and playoff wins (10) in team history. He just eclipsed Mike Holmgren for most games coached; Holmgren won 86 of his 160 and won four playoff games in six playoff seasons.
Carroll is one of 33 coaches to win a Super Bowl. If not for his colossal gaffe against Belichick’s Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, he would be one of 14 to have won two. Just four guys have won three or more, led of course by Belichick’s six.
Carroll has failed to get back to the Super Bowl over the past five years mainly due to key injuries and/or his and his staff’s own poor playoff coaching. The stellar Legion of Boom defense faded in the 2015 and 2016 seasons, injury-filled years that ended in bad playoff losses. And that unit was basically done in 2017, when Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril and Richard Sherman all suffered major injuries that were key to Seattle missing the playoffs for the only time in Russell Wilson’s career.
In 2018, Carroll largely started over on defense, and the Hawks surprised most people (not us) by getting back to the playoffs. But Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer frustratingly cost the Hawks a playoff win in Dallas by not letting Wilson throw the ball. In 2019, injuries, a bad defense and another poor offensive plan led to another playoff loss in Green Bay.
Carroll clearly is motivated to show he can win another Super Bowl, with a mostly new cast and crew (Wilson and Bobby Wagner are probably the only guys from the Super Bowl teams who will be with Carroll beyond 2020).
Carroll has always said he wanted to do it “better than it has ever been done.” Well, Belichick, who is third on the NFL’s career wins list and has six Super Bowl wins (including the head-to-head vs. Carroll), clearly owns that distinction. But Carroll has been No. 2 to him over the past decade.
“The two of us, the two teams, have really played similar in a lot of areas in terms of big numbers and stuff, turnovers, winning games, divisions, stuff like that,” Carroll said this week. “They’ve been way ahead of us with a lot more wins than us, but we’re out there kind of. So there’s been some similarities in the consistency.”
In addition to another Super Bowl, Carroll likely has his sights set on passing some key coaches on the career lists.
In NFL history, Carroll is 30th in games coached (225) and 23rd in wins (134, counting his time with the Jets and Patriots). He should pass Tony Dungy (139) and Marv Levy (143) on the wins list this season. Levy coached until he was 72.
If Carroll goes five more years, winning his average 10 games per season, he would hit 183 wins and pass his mentor, Bud Grant (158 wins in 259 games), plus Holmgren (161 wins in 272 games) and seven others on his way to 12th place. Next up would be former Hawks coach Chuck Knox (186 wins with three teams), and Carroll also could pass Dan Reeves and maybe Chuck Noll (193) for ninth place in NFL wins in 2025, when Carroll would be 74. If he went two more years, he could get to sixth, matching Paul Brown’s 213 wins.
Of course, that assumes Carroll can keep up the Belichick-like pace – which he should be able to do as long as Wilson stays with the Hawks (as he says he wants to do) and keeps up his own winning magic.
There are those who have hated the pairing of Carroll and Wilson, ridiculously claiming that Carroll has held Wilson back from more success in his career. The fact is Wilson has had a stellar career – and no other team gave him a chance to do it back in the 2012 draft.
Yeah, Carroll has certainly been remiss in not allowing, encouraging and helping Wilson to be more aggressive early in games over the past three years.
But, in this year of extremes in the real world (a pandemic, social unrest, historic wildfires, a divisive election), Carroll made an extreme change for the opener in Atlanta: He got aggressive and Seattle put together its best opener since beating Green Bay in 2014 on the way to that Carroll-Belichick Super Bowl.
It bodes well not only for the season but for the playoffs – assuming the Hawks can minimize their injuries at the end for once.
If Carroll can finally get the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl, it would be a great springboard into his next contract – and that next five-year plan.