The League

Gene Wang
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Gene Wang

A sports staff writer at The Washington Post

Don't bet the nest

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From Lou Holtz to Steve Spurrier to Nick Saban, some of the most iconic figures in college coaching have failed miserably in the pros. Now Pete Carroll is taking another shot at NFL coaching, and he's doing so with a sinking franchise in Seattle.

Carroll has a better chance of succeeding the third time around, if for no other reason than having learned from the pitfalls of his first two NFL stops. Carroll went 6-10 in his first NFL season in 1994 with the New York Jets, then coached three seasons in New England (1997-99) before being fired.

Carroll also has the benefit of having been the architect of USC's pro-style offense that included current NFL quarterbacks Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez.

But that doesn't mean we should expect Carroll to take the Seahawks to the same heights as he did the Trojans, who were stocked with NFL talent and whose backups probably could have started for most division I programs.

In college, you can win so long as you have superior talent. In the NFL, it's not that easy, since every team has big, strong and fast players.

Spurrier thought he could turn some of his former players -- Danny Wuerffel, Shane Matthews and Taylor Jacobs, to name just a few -- into NFL stars with the Redskins. We all know how that turned out.

Saban thought he could coach up his players in Miami, and that didn't work either. He found out multimillionaires sometimes have little reason to listen to a coach who makes considerably less.

Holtz's misadventures with the New York Jets were so bad that he resigned with three games left in his first and only NFL season in 1976. He won three games.

Jimmy Johnson is the the only highly successful college head coach who went on to win multiple Super Bowls. Barry Switzer, who guided Oklahoma to three national championships, won a Super Bowl with the Cowboys, but he gets an asterisk by his name. That Cowboys team was so talented that even Holtz probably could have won the Super Bowl.

Carroll won't have that luxury in Seattle, where quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has become an injury liability and the starting backfield is a mess. The Seahawks paid a lot of money for free agent wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but he failed to meet expectations, and Deion Branch's career is just about over.

It's one thing to be young and bad, as the Cowboys were when Johnson was rebuilding the franchise. At least you have hope.

Seattle, on the other hand, is old and bad. Where's the promise in that?

Circumstances are so depressing in Seattle that fans probably would settle for nine losses next season. That would be an improvement from back-to-back seasons of double-digit losses.

That's the situation Carroll is getting himself into, and by the time his third stint as an NFL coach is over, that 33-31 combined record with the Jets and Patriots may not look so bad after all.

By Gene Wang  |  January 11, 2010; 10:23 AM ET  | Category:  Seattle Seahawks Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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