Why Pete Carroll Is Underrated
I've had a few jobs growing up. All of my employers have required a résumé submitted with an application.
Of course, I have not held jobs that are nearly as publicly scrutinized in the NFL, so most outside of my employers do not know my résumé.
When it comes to the NFL, we -- as spectators -- focus on the important part of a player's résumé: college, position, production, combine results, measurables, etc.
With head coaches, we sometimes overlook their playing days to focus only on their coaching experience.
When it comes to glossing over a résumé, Pete Carroll -- prior to his time as head coach in Seattle -- is most talked about for his time as the head coach for USC. There, he was known for his prolific offenses featuring stars such as Reggie Bush and Carson Palmer. However, Carroll was a safety in his playing days and only coached on the defensive side of the ball until becoming a head coach.
As the Seahawks' head coach, Carroll has groomed Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn into head coaches for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons, respectively. They both served as Seattle's defensive coordinators under Carroll and helped create the vaunted "Legion of Boom" defense.
Now, Kris Richard is the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks, and Carroll has helped pave the road for him to get to this position.
Let's look at how much Seattle's defensive success relies on Carroll's assistants and how well it stacks up historically. Is it actually Carroll who is the mastermind behind this sustained greatness rather than his various coordinators?
Revolving Defensive Coordinator Door
Before Carroll arrived in Seattle, Bradley served as the defensive coordinator in Seattle for Jim Mora's final year as head coach in 2009. According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, Seattle finished with the 22nd ranked schedule-adjusted Defensive NEP.
Although Carroll inherited Bradley as a coach, 2009 shows that Carroll did not inherit an already stellar defense.
In 2010, Carroll drafted Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Walter Thurmond; all three of these players became key members of the Legion of Boom. However, only Thomas became a starter in his rookie year, as the Seahawks fell to 29th ranked in Adjusted Defensive NEP.
After drafting more contributors such as K.J. Wright and Richard Sherman in 2011 and Bobby Wagner in 2012, the Seahawks improved their Adjusted Defensive NEP to 13th place in 2011 and 8th place in 2012. With this strong improvement, the Bradley era as defensive coordinator ended on an upward trend.
Once Bradley left for Jacksonville, Quinn took over as defensive coordinator. During Quinn's tenure, the Seahawks did not draft another key contributor for the defense, but they improved to first and third in Adjusted Defensive NEP in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Now, -- with Quinn in Atlanta -- Richard is the defensive coordinator, and the success in Seattle remains. Currently they are third overall on defense for Adjusted Defensive NEP. Even with Chancellor's holdout this year and a rocky start, the Seahawks defense remains the force it has been for the past four years.
When Bradley became the Jaguars head coach in 2013, he inherited the 32nd ranked (dead last) defense based on Adjusted Defensive NEP. This gave Bradley nothing but room for improvement as the coach in Jacksonville.
Although Bradley has brought over former Seahawks Will Blackmon, Red Bryant, and Chris Clemons, this only led to the 31st and 18th ranked defenses based on Adjusted Defensive NEP in his first two years. Now, the Jaguars defense has tumbled to 25th place for Adjusted Defensive NEP in our power rankings, and Bradley is only 12-33 as the head coach.
This year, Quinn inherited the Atlanta Falcons' 29th ranked Adjusted Defensive NEP unit. Even with a former Seahawk, O'Brien Schofield, on the field for Quinn, he has only improved them to the 23rd ranked Adjusted Defensive NEP unit, and the team is 6-7. Although the team has struggled after a hot start, the improvement does give hope that Quinn can replicate his Seattle success in Atlanta.
Since 2000, only 14 teams have gone three consecutive years with defenses ranking the top 10 for Adjusted Defensive NEP.
Of those 14, only half of them have extended their streaks past year three.
This chart shows the seven teams to maintain a top-10 Adjusted Defensive NEP for at least four consecutive years. If you include ranks through Week 14 of the 2015 season, only the Seahawks and Cardinals have accomplished this since 2010. Bruce Arians inherited his strong defense and has maintained it with two coordinators during his tenure.
|Team||Years||Head Coach||D Coordinator|
|Seattle||2012-2015||Pete Carroll||Gus Bradley (2012), Dan Quinn (2013-14), Kris Richard (2015)|
|Arizona||2012-2015||Ken Whisenhunt (2012), Bruce Arians (2013-15)||Ray Horton (2012), Todd Bowles (2013-14), James Bettcher (2015)|
|Philadelphia||2005-2009||Andy Reid||Jim Johnson (2005-08), Sean McDermott (2009)|
|Minnesota||2006-2009||Brad Childress||Mike Tomlin (2006), Leslie Frazier (2007-09)|
|Chicago||2004-2008||Lovie Smith||Ron Rivera (2004-06), Bob Babich (2007-08)|
|Baltimore||2003-2006||Brian Billick||Mike Nolan (2003-04), Rex Ryan (2005-06)|
|Tampa Bay||2000-2005||Tony Dungy (2000-01), Jon Gruden (2002-05)||Montee Kiffin|
While Arians' feat is impressive, Carroll is the only coach on this list to accomplish this success with three defensive coordinators. This defense is also one of two here in the top-three in Adjusted Defensive NEP for three straight years (Chicago from 2004 to 2006 was the other).
As this is Richard's first time being a coordinator, and -- while he is doing well to maintain success -- Carroll deserves plenty of praise for putting his coordinators in positions to succeed.
Carroll turned a team that was 5-11 with a nondescript defense the year before he arrived into a Super Bowl champion with the most feared defense in the league. He has maintained this success with three different defensive coordinators.
Although Carroll was known for his prolific offense at USC, his defensive pedigree is shining through in Seattle.
As it stands, Carroll is a true defensive mastermind.