Peter Clay Carroll (born September 15, 1951, in San Francisco, California) is an American football coach, former National Football League head coach, and the current head coach of the University of Southern California Trojans football team, having held that position since 2001. In his time at USC, the Trojans have made it to multiple national championship games (winning the National Championship in 2004 and splitting the National Championship in 2003) and have consistently emerged as Pacific-10 Conference champions. Carroll's winning percentage (.847) is the highest among all active coaches with a minimum of five years at a football bowl subdivision program.
After graduation, Carroll tried out for the Honolulu Hawaiians of the World Football League at their training camp in Riverside but did not make the team due to shoulder problems. To make ends meet, he found a job selling roofing materials in the Bay Area, but he found he wasn't good at it and soon moved on; it would be his only non-football-related job.
After graduating from Pacific, Carroll's colleague Bob Cope was hired by the University of Arkansas and he convinced Lou Holtz, then the head coach of the Razorbacks, to also hire Carroll. Carroll spent the 1977 season as a graduate assistant working with the secondary under Cope, making $182 a month. During his season with Arkansas, he met his future offensive line coach Pat Ruel, also a graduate assistant, as well as the future head coach of the Razorbacks Houston Nutt, who was a backup quarterback. Arkansas' Defensive Coordinator at the time, Monte Kiffin, would be a mentor to Carroll; Carroll's wife Glena would help babysit Monte's two-year-old son Lane Kiffin, who would later become Carroll's offensive coordinator at USC and then head coach of the Oakland Raiders. The Razorbacks won the 1978 Orange Bowl that season.
The following season, Carroll moved to Iowa State University, where he was again an assistant working on the secondary under Earle Bruce. When Bruce moved onto Ohio State University, he brought Carroll, who acted as an assistant coach in charge of the secondary. The Ohio State squad made it to the 1980 Rose Bowl where they lost to USC.
Carroll next spent three seasons as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at North Carolina State University. In 1983, Cope became head coach of Pacific and brought Carroll on as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator.
Carroll was hired for the next season by the San Francisco 49ers, where he served as defensive coordinator for the following two seasons (1995-96). His return to success as the defensive coordinator led to his hiring as the head coach of the New England Patriots in 1997, replacing respected coach Bill Parcells, who had resigned after disputes with the team's ownership. His 1997 Patriots team won the AFC East division title, but his subsequent two teams did not fare as well—losing in the wild card playoff round in 1998, and missing the playoffs after a late-season slide in 1999—and he was fired after the 1999 season. Patriots owner Robert Kraft said firing Carroll was one of the toughest decisions he has had to make since buying the team, stating "A lot of things were going on that made it difficult for him to stay, some of which were out of his control. And it began with following a legend." Before leaving for college football he coached with the Seattle Seahawks as cornerbacks coach. His combined NFL record as head coach was 33-31.
Even though NFL teams approached him with defensive coordinator positions, Carroll instead spent the 2000 season as a consultant for pro and college teams, doing charitable work for the NFL and writing a column about pro football for CNNSI.com.
USC first pursued then Oregon State coach Dennis Erickson, who instead signed a contract extension with the Beavers; then Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, who similarly signed an extension. The search then moved to the San Diego Chargers coach Mike Riley, who had been an assistant coach at USC before later becoming the head coach of Oregon State. Stuck in contractual obligations to the Chargers (who were still in the midst of an NFL season) and hesitating about moving his family, Riley was unable to give a firm answer, opening an opportunity for Carroll, the school's fourth choice.
Carroll actively pursued the position, as his daughter, Jaime, was then a player on the Women of Troy's successful volleyball team. After the first three primary candidates turned down the position, USC hired Carroll. USC under Garrett had actually tried to recruit Carroll to be their head coach in 1997, while he was coaching the Patriots, but Carroll was unable to take the position. Garrett cited Carroll's intelligence, energy and reputation as a defensive specialist as reasons for his hire.
The choice of Carroll for USC's head coaching position was openly criticized by the media and many USC fans, primarily because of USC's stagnation under the outgoing Hackett and Carroll's record as a head coach in the NFL and being nearly two decades removed from the college level. Garrett took particular criticism for the hire, with the press tying his future with Carroll's after he had to fire two head coaches in four years for USC's premiere athletic coaching position. Former NFL players (including USC alumni), such as Ronnie Lott, Gary Plummer, Tim McDonald and Willie McGinest offered their support for Carroll, who they noted had a player-friendly, easygoing style that might suit the college game and particularly recruiting. The USC Athletic Department received 2,500 e-mails, faxes and phone calls from alumni—mostly critical—and a number of donors asking for Carroll's removal before they would donate again.
In 2008, ESPN.com named Carroll's hiring #1 in a list of the Pac-10's Top 10 Moments Of BCS Era.
The criticism of Pete Carroll became louder when Carroll's first USC team opened the 2001 season going 2-5, with some sportswriters writing off the once-dominant Trojans, who were the only Pac-10 football team to never finish in the national top 10 during the previous decade, as a dying program. However, after the slow start, Carroll's teams proceeded to go 67-7 over the next 74 games, winning two national championships and bringing USC back to college football prominence.
Carroll is considered one of the most effective recruiters in college football, having brought in multiple top-ranked recruiting classes; he is also known for getting commitments from players who are still only Sophomores in high school. His son, Brennan Carroll, is USC recruiting coordinator as well as tight ends coach. He has consistently been on the forefront of recruiting due to his ability to connect with potential players on their level, including becoming the first college coach with a Facebook page.
As of January 1, 2008, Carroll is 76-14 as a head coach at USC. His team won a school-record 34 straight games from 2003-2005, a streak that started after a triple-overtime loss to California and ended with the national championship game in the 2006 Rose Bowl, against the Texas Longhorns. During his tenure, USC has broken its average home attendance record four times in a row, without any stadium expansions (they play at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum); the USC home attendance average in 2001, his first season, was 57,744; by 2006 it was over 91,000.
Despite consistently fielding national championship contenders, Carroll's goal for USC every season is to win the Pac-10 Conference and go to the Rose Bowl. In explaining why, Carroll noted "We can only control getting to the Rose Bowl. [...] Our goal isn't about national championships, because we don't have control of that -- that's in somebody else's hands. We found that out years ago , when we were No. 1 but then we were No. 3."
Carroll has been approached regarding vacant head coach positions in the NFL every year since 2002. Carroll has hesitated to return to the NFL after his previous experiences, and his return would likely rest on control over personnel matters at a level unprecedented in the league. He has insisted over the years that he is happy at USC and that money is not an issue; he also enjoys the Southern California lifestyle. When asked if he would retire at USC, Carroll responded:
In July 2007, ESPN.com named USC its #1 team of the decade for the period between 1996 and 2006, primarily citing the Trojans' renaissance and dominance under Carroll. In 2007, his effect on the college football landscape was named one of the biggest developments over the past decade in ESPN the Magazine. In May 2008, Carroll was named the coach who did the most to define the first 10 years of the BCS Era.
|1994||New York Jets||6–10||0–0||Lost final 6 games; Carroll was fired|
|1997||New England Patriots||10–6||1–1||Division champions|
|1998||New England Patriots||9–7||0–1|
|1999||New England Patriots||8–8||0–0||Carroll was fired|
On defense, Carroll favors a bend-but-don't-break scheme of preventing the big plays: allowing opposing teams to get small yardage but trying to keep the plays in front of his defenders.
Carroll draws coaching inspiration from the 1974 book The Inner Game of Tennis, by tennis coach W. Timothy Gallwey, which he picked up as graduate student at the University of the Pacific; he summarizes the philosophy he took from the book as "all about clearing the clutter in the interactions between your conscious and subconscious mind" enabled "Through superior practice and a clear approach. Focus, clarity and belief in yourself are what allows you to express your ability without discursive thoughts and concerns."
Carroll is known for his high-energy and often pleasant demeanor when coaching. In explaining his enthusiasm, Carroll has stated "I always think something good's just about to happen." In a 2005 interview, Carroll explained his motivation:
Carroll has been known to plan elaborate surprises and pranks during practice to lighten the mood and reward the players; notable examples include having USC alumnus and comedic actor Will Ferrell suit up and play during practice, using a Halloween practice to stage fake argument and subsequent falling death of runningback LenDale White, and having a defensive end Everson Griffen arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department during a team meeting for "physically abusing" freshman offensive linemen. During practices, Carroll frequently gets involved doing drills: running sprints and routes as well as throwing the ball. Under Carroll, nearly all USC practices are open to the public, a move that is uncommon among programs; he believes that having fans at practice helps his team prepare, making mundane drills seem more interesting, causing players to perform at a high level when they know they have an audience and preparing them for larger crowds on game days.
Carroll assigns all jersey numbers to his players, an assignment he takes seriously. When he was an incoming freshman at Pacific, he wanted No. 40, the number he had worn in all sports growing up; however, Pacific had retired the number in honor of quarterback/safety Eddie LeBaron, so Carroll ended up with 46.
Carroll regularly participates in USC's annual "Swim with Mike", an annual swim-a-thon held to raise money for the USC Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund; his participation in 2007 included soundly defeated USC alumnus Will Ferrell in a charity swim match.
Carroll credits Bruce Springsteen's song "Growin' Up" for helping him reach a pivotal moment in professional development during the summer of 1999, while he was under heavy criticism after his second season with the New England Patriots: