Roughly a year ago, when rumors first started swirling that Pete Carroll would soon be named coach of the Seattle Seahawks, my boss Mike Seely groaned and moaned (it’s what he does best) about how Carroll was the wrong man for the job. Now, 12 months later, I feel it’s time for a rebuttal.But first, a necessary caveat: it’s a lot easier to rebut Seely’s half-assed argument that Carroll as coach would be a disaster now that the Seahawks find themselves in the unlikely position of being one win away from possibly hosting the NFC Championship Game. (Of course Carroll was the right guy all along! Marshawn Lynch’s touchdown run was so 12th-man it registered on the Richter scale! You wouldn’t have gotten that kind of enthusiasm from a team coached by Jim Snore-a™.)But set aside for a moment that Carroll’s first-year success makes this seem like an obvious argument. Look back instead at what Seely wrote one year ago:NFL players are adults, and they won’t play Carroll’s rah-rah-siss-boom-bah, gimmicky bullshit. What works in college doesn’t necessarily work in the pros.The “gimmicky bullshit” of which he wrote was a reference to Carroll’s tenure at the University of Southern California, where he was as known for winning (now vacated) national championships as he was convincing local L.A. celebs like Snoop Dogg and Will Ferrell to prank his team’s practices.In short, Seely was bemoaning the fact that his favorite team had just hired an overgrown, hyperactive kid who likes goofing off, rather than a sober adult who understands that smiling is akin to showing weakness, and therefore unacceptable in today’s NFL (short for No Fun League).Well siss-boom-bah to all that. Carroll’s puppy-who-has-to-pee enthusiasm may not work in the long run–giving your players sideline bear hugs won’t mean anything if he doesn’t also draft smart and develop young talent–but at least it’s a fresh change of pace from the scourge of gridiron tyrants who, as Sports Illustrated writer Stefan Fatsis so succinctly put it in a 2009 article, have been “taking the league by scowl.”Yes, NFL players are adults. But that’s just more reason to appreciate a coach like Carroll.
Although it may look like a glamorous life to us cubicle slaves, when they’re not one snap away from a career-ending injury, today’s professional football player can usually be found in a succession of never-ending, mind-numbing meetings. Plainly put, the NFL is a grind. And in that context, what player wouldn’t want a coach who tried to make the game more fun? I’m not suggesting a 7-9 season and a history-making playoff berth are proof that Carroll the Cuddly Coach is a phenomenon that will catch on in the NFL. And I’m not saying his practices don’t feature their fair share of profanity-laced ass-chewing. (They probably do.)All I’m saying is that until Carroll’s Seahawks shit the bed and finish a season 4-12, the idea that a coach who succeeds by being so goofy he makes the game more fun for his players, and not less, shouldn’t be laughed off as something so frivolous it could only work with kids in college, and not the adults they grow up to be.