USC Re-Hiring Pete Carroll Could Be a Disaster


Since Steve Sarkisian was fired as the head USC football coach last Monday, Pete Carroll has been a name that has been bantered about for the Trojans.

RELATED: Pete Carroll Responds to Question About Return to USC

The current Seattle Seahawks boss would be a dream hire for a lot of fans, given that he was responsible for one of the most dominant decades in college football history. The Trojans won two national championships and went to seven BCS bowls under Carroll from 2001 to 2009, before he opted to jump to the NFL. He’s won a Super Bowl since.

Despite telling Seattle reporters on Monday that he wouldn’t come back to USC, rumors of his candidacy will not go away. What exactly is he supposed to say when asked about a job opportunity?

“Yeah, I think that would be a great idea,” probably wouldn’t go over too well in his current locker room.

But even if he interested, or more importantly, even if USC boosters demand an open check be written out to him, his return at USC should probably be avoided at all costs.

That is, if you prefer to not eventually be disappointed.

Few coaches have ever had multiple stints at a school and gotten better over the years. That’s a list that includes Mike Riley at Oregon State and Chris Ault at Nevada, neither of which won an outright conference championship.

The reality is that too often, the expectations, progression of the game and the overall age of a coach make it significantly harder to win games the second or even third time around.

Sep 20, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll greets a friend before game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

USC knows it quite well with none other than John Robinson, who left the Trojans for the LA Rams in 1983.

He returned a decade later, and while he won the 1996 Rose Bowl over Northwestern, he never had a viable long-term plan for the program.

The Trojans hit a wall after their greatest player of the decade, Keyshawn Johnson, was drafted as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. Mediocrity ensued, and the legend of Robinson took a hit.

His struggles are typical of coaches moonlighting with their former school while heading into retirement.

Johnny Majors won a national title at Pittsburgh in 1976 and became the city’s hero because of it. After 16 seasons at Tennessee, he went back to Pitt and won just 12 games in four seasons.

Carroll’s return would see much higher expectations, making it considerably easier to be underwhelming, even if he had moderate success.

Winning a Rose Bowl like Robinson wouldn’t be good enough. He’d have to get to the College Football Playoff almost immediately, and win it within his third or fourth year. If not, he’d be a failure by USC’s enormous set of standards.

That’s a tall task for anyone, but especially someone like Carroll, whose carefree exuberance has always needed counterweights within the room.

For as great and dominant as a head coach as Carroll has been at USC and with the Seahawks, he’s only been as good as his staff will allow.

While in Los Angeles, he never won a national championship after Norm Chow and Ed Orgeron left following the 2004 season.

He went from having the best offensive coordinator and defensive line coach in college football, to finishing his tenure with Jeremy Bates calling offensive plays and former graduate assistant Rocky Seto accepting promotions all the way up to defensive coordinator.

In Seattle, the same kind of turnover is happening, as Carroll’s success is leading to brain drain.

First it was defensive coordinator Gus Bradley that departed to be the Jaguars’ head coach in 2013. This year, it is newly named Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn that left the same post.

Carroll now has highly under-qualified former Trojan defensive back Kris Richard as his defensive coordinator, in just his fourth year in coaching.

SEE ALSO: Has Pat Haden Earned Another Shot at Hiring the Next USC Football Coach?

The Seahawks are surrendering 50 more yards per game this year than last, and have a 2-4 record through six games. And that’s despite Carroll somehow finding a way to keep offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on staff.

So the question is simple. If Pete Carroll returns to coach the Trojans once again, what would his staff look like?

Would Richard come with him to coach the defense? Or would that be Seto? Or would Carroll end his run of nepotism and find a way to make an outside hire?

Would interim head coach Clay Helton stay to run the offense? Where does recruiting star Tee Martin go?

A successful Carroll Era Part Deux would require him to reinvent himself and his staff, all while meeting the ridiculous expectations of re-imagined continuity from way back when.

Will it be a ‘band is back together’ moment like Lane Kiffin attempted in 2010 when he re-hired Ed Orgeron and Kennedy Polamalu? Could Carroll even bring Orgeron back into the fold if Pat Haden is still involved?

What about Pat Ruel? Has anyone heard anything from Tim Davis since he got a job at SMU? Surely, Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. isn’t coming back.

Without knowing exactly what Carroll’s staff would look like, USC can’t afford to pull that trigger just for the illusions of a comfort blanket of nostalgia.

A successful Carroll Era Part Deux would require him to reinvent himself and his staff, all while meeting the ridiculous expectations of re-imagined continuity from way back when.

While he has done a terrific job of piecing together good groups of initial staffs to kick off his USC and Seattle jobs in 2001 and 2010 respectively, this go around would be significantly harder and cater to narrower staffing.

If it doesn’t happen smoothly, the original tenure will be swallowed up by the disappointment of the second.

Think outside of the box, USC. And yes, that includes the roots of the Carroll tree.

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