By Antonino Buccellato, fantasy analyst at Fantasy Football Maniaxs
Out goes Mora, who becomes the first coach in franchise history to deal with such a disgraceful fate, and in comes Pete Carroll from the USC Trojans (at a rate of $7 Million per year for the next five seasons).
After honing his head coaching skills in college with the Trojans for almost a decade, Carroll, a defensive mastermind by trade, returns to the NFL for his second round of duties in the league, this time as the head coach for Seattle where he last held the position of cornerbacks coach in 2000.
One of his top priorities is to uplift an underachieving defensive yardage unit that has ranked 30th and 24th the past two seasons to a more reputable level. Seattle has not been in the top 10 in yardage defense since 1997, when it ranked eighth.
Will he transform Seahawks players into Fantasy Football studs starting in 2010?
Carroll entered the NFL coaching fraternity in 1984 as the defensive backs coach of the Buffalo Bills. He successfully held a similar position with the Minnesota Vikings for the next five seasons, from 1985 to 1989, when he inherited a 28th-ranked defense and contributed to its positive progression every year to 16th, 11th, 10th, and first-ranked, twice, in his final two seasons there.
That led to his hiring by the New York Jets, where he served as defensive coordinator for four seasons (1990-93). He again worked miracles with New York, taking a previously 25th-ranked defense to sixth and fourth the next two seasons. His defense reverted to a mediocre 14th rank in the '92 season before morphing again to a seventh rank in 1993.
In 1994, Carroll was elevated to head coach of the Jets after the team fired Bruce Coslet. The Jets started 6-4 under Carroll but finished 6-10 (although his defense ranked fifth in the league) and Carroll was relieved of his duties after that one season.
The San Francisco 49ers hired Carroll the next year, where he served as defensive coordinator for the subsequent two seasons (1995-96). He took a good eighth-ranked defense and made it No. 1 in just one season before guiding a seventh-ranked defense in his final year.
His return to success as a defensive coordinator helped him land the head coach position of the New England Patriots in 1997, replacing Bill Parcells, who had just resigned.
His 1997 Patriots team won the AFC East division title, but his ensuing 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--resulting in his firing after the 1999 season. His combined NFL record as head coach was 33-31.
While with the USC Trojans, from 2001 to 2009, Carroll appeared in two BCS Championship Games, won two national championships and guided USC to be the only team in College Football history to win three consecutive Rose Bowl Games. He also led the Trojans to a record seven consecutive 11-win seasons and a November career record of 28-1.
During his nine-year tenure, his teams achieved winning streaks of 34 home victories and 22 Pac-10 wins, a record six BCS bowl victories, a record seven consecutive BCS bowl appearances, a record seven consecutive years as Pac-10 Champions or Co-Champions and a national record of 33 consecutive weeks as AP's No. 1-ranked team.
A winning record of 97-19 (85.6%) and a NCAA record of 63 straight 20-point games were also among his astonishing accomplishments in Southern California.
He helped produce 25 All-American first teamers and had 53 players selected in the NFL Draft, including 14 in the first round. That list includes three Heisman Trophy winners (Carson Palmer, 2002; Matt Leinart, 2004; Reggie Bush, 2005).
Another immediate task for Carroll will be to bring back an anemic offense, which ranked 25th in points scored and 21st in yards gained, and a dreadful offensive line, which caused QB Matt Hasselbeck to throw a career-high 17 interceptions in '09, to higher levels. Their best offensive tackle, Walter Jones, spent the season on injured reserve after he could not return from knee surgery.
Carroll will have his USC quarterbacks' coach Jeremy Bates join his staff in Seattle as the quarterback coach. Bates coached Jay Cutler in his final season in Denver as offensive coordinator when the QB posted a career-high 4,526 passing yards. The Chicago Bears, for whom Cutler plays now, also tried to land Bates and reunite him with Cutler.
Two other USC assistants (assistant head coach for defense Ken Norton and offensive line coach Pat Ruel) should also migrate to the Seahawks staff, causing some fans to suggest renaming the team "USCeahawks North."
To turn this franchise around, on offense, he must count on Hasselbeck to return to his healthy glory days of 2007 when he posted career highs in yards (3,966) and touchdowns (28) before succumbing to injuries that caused him to miss nine games over the past two years.
Even tough Hasselbeck played in 14 games this past season and threw for a respectable 3,029 yards and 17 TDs, his 17 INTs were the speed bump in his season. Hasselbeck, who should be drafted as a QB2 in 2010, could be a fantasy football sleeper next season under Bates.
WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh led the team in his first year in Seattle with 79 receptions and 911 yards, but found the end zone on only three occasions, due in part to a lack of another dominant wideout presence, such as Chad Ochocinco in Cincinnati, to command defensive attention. He will still be a top 20 fantasy WR and could benefit from the coaching changes too, especially if the quarterback play improves like it should.
Eight-year WR Nate Burleson, injured most of the past two seasons, recorded a respectable 812 yards on 63 catches. Much like Houshmandzadeh, his three measly TDs were the problem. Burleson will make it for a nice WR3 sleeper next year.
TE John Carlson, who will enter his third year in the league next season, has played consistently well since being drafted, totaling 106 catches for 1,201 yards and 12 scores. He should be in the top 10 fantasy TEs next season.
The running game, which has sorely lacked ferocity since Shaun Alexander's late career injuries and subsequent release, has depended mostly on subpar performances by Julius Jones (698 Yds-2 TDs in '08 and 663 Yds-0 TD in '09) and Maurice Morris (574 Yds-0 TDs in 2008) the past few years. These dull numbers hurt the passing attack's ability to use its play-action packages, making the team too one-dimensional, thus easy for opposing defenses to game plan effectively.
Last season, however, committee back Justin Forsett, in his first RB stint after a rookie season spent on special teams, brought some hope for the future, as he posted 969 yards from scrimmage, scoring five TDs on 114 carries (for an average of 5.4 YPC) and 41 receptions. If he lands the starting job, draft him as a low-end fantasy RB1 or a top RB2.
If Hasselbeck and Burleson manage to stay healthy next season, and Forsett builds on a promising first season, the Seahawks could have an exciting offense once again.
On defense, there is enough overall good talent, starting with a linebacker corps that's the team's strength, composed of starters David Hawthorne (team-leading 116 total tackles, four sacks and three INTs) and Aaron Curry, (who never lived to his fourth overall selection's expectations) with backups LeRoy Hill and Lofa Tatupu, who are very strong when healthy and might recapture the starting role next season.
FS Jordan Babineaux (105 total tackles and 2 INTs) anchors a position that needs reinforcing with the possible departure of SS Deon Grant.
Cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Josh Wilson struggled with injuries last season, and the lack of depth behind them begs for an immediate upgrade via free agency or draft for a team that allowed 245.4 passing and 110 rushing yards a game.
Lawrence Jackson and Darryl Tapp constitute the future of their defensive line, with 33-year-old Patrick Kerney coming off elbow surgery. Brandon Mebane and Colin Cole provide decent talent at DT, but they could use more depth there too, as this unit ranked 26th in sacks with 28 this past season.
The Seahawks just need a few touches on both sides of the ball to regain contender status in the next two years and recoup some lost ground in a weak NFC West division whose power has shifted in the direction of the Arizona Cardinals, winners of two consecutive division titles.
Carroll's strong coaching background and undisputable coaching experience, three drafts picks out of the first 40 (and how they use them), and a core of talented players should aid Seattle's quest towards respectability rather soon.