With the Jets, he struggled to articulate a philosophy and with the Patriots he had a difficult time instilling one. Unsure what he’d do next, Carroll took a year off from coaching, intent on crystallizing his methods and motivation. He became inspired reading legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden’s writings, and crafted his “Win Forever” model. Carroll spent the fall of 2000 scribbling notes, trying to make sense out of his values and vision, an entire philosophy centered around the idea of constantly competing.
“If you want to win forever, always compete,” is the Carroll mantra.
Carroll found quick success at USC and was confident his organizational philosophy would work in the NFL. But he didn’t feel like he’d ever get a chance to find out. No pro team, he figured, would give him the freedom to run an NFL franchise the way he ran USC.
“I was always anxious to see if we could do what we had developed — our approach and mentality and the way we cared for people and the way we looked after players and evaluated talent and all those things. I wanted to see if it would fit on the greatest stage on the highest level of competition,” he said.
The NFL became curious, too. The Seahawks fired Jim Mora after just one season and within a day had agreed to terms with Carroll, despite his previous struggles in the pro ranks.
“No one felt it was a huge leap of faith,” said one person familiar with the hiring process, who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk about Carroll. “We just really noticed, man, this guy is hungry.”
Selling himself wasn’t difficult. Carroll believed in his philosophy and was in the process of writing a book about it. Yogi Roth, who’d spent four seasons on the USC coaching staff, was helping write “Win Forever,” and he was with the head coach when Carroll accepted the Seahawks job.
“I remember asking him, ‘How much do you think you’ll have to change?’ ” Roth recalled. “He said, ‘Not a drop. I’m not going to change anything I do.’ ”
Within the month, Carroll assembled everyone in the organization, about 300 in all, half in a conference room and about the same number watching the session streamed live — from coaches to scouts to the sales and marketing teams. The new head coach outlined his philosophy, the one he used at USC, the one he hoped would translate to the NFL.
It was a good first impression. Carroll’s philosophy and energy, team employees say, has infected every corner of the organization in the past three years. “He’s not just a football coach. He’s an inherent leader,” one person said. “If he was a CEO, he’d be a heck of a CEO. He has all the right stuff. He connects with everyone, looks people in the eye, he cares, he can see things quickly.”
The basic tenets are visible every single day throughout the team facility. The coach’s weekly script doesn’t emphasize the Redskins or containing quarterback Robert Griffin III. Wednesday is called “Competition Wednesday.” It is followed by “Turnover Thursday,” “No Repeat Friday,” “Review Saturday,” and “Game Day Sunday.” Finally, regardless of a win or loss in Washington this weekend, there will be “Tell the Truth Monday.”
On Sunday, that truth will be known. The Seahawks will try to continue their run through the NFC. And Carroll will continue to re-write his legacy as an NFL head coach.
“I’ve been in it long enough that I’m more stubborn about doing things exactly the way we want to do it,” he said. “I think we have a real good sense for consistency around here, and I think that’s just by appreciating the style and the way and the philosophy in how we do things, and not listening to people telling us that we can’t do it the way we want to do it.”