Pete Carroll's Two Faces Are Both Self-Serving

Kevin StricklandCorrespondent IJanuary 17, 2009

It's a good thing USC head football coach Pete Carroll has two faces. It makes it easier to talk out of both sides of his mouth. 

Travel back in time to the Rose Bowl, circa 2006. Carroll's Trojans had just been bested 41-38 by the Texas Longhorns in one of the most exciting BCS title games of all time.

More specifically, Vince Young, Texas' dynamic dual-threat quarterback, almost singlehandedly trumped the entire USC team.

Young, then a Longhorn junior, threw for 267 yards and rushed for 200 more, including the game-winning 13-yard touchdown run with 19 seconds left to play. 

The loss was proverbial egg on the face of a Trojan team that had been hyped to mythic status by the sports media. ESPN, in particular, had a crush on the team and its head coach that bordered on both psychotic and unprofessional.

In the weeks leading up to the Rose Bowl, the sports network promoted USC one of the greatest teams to take the field in the last 50 years, methodically comparing it to and then dismissing as inferior some of the finest teams in college football history. As it turned out, USC wasn't even the best team that season, much less of all time.

In the aftermath of the loss to the Longhorns, Carroll was asked his opinion of Texas quarterback Young's stated intention to return for his senior season in Austin.

After heaping praise on Young and noting that it was the "best performance by one guy" he'd ever seen, Carroll blatantly and openly encouraged Young to leave Texas and go pro.

"He's got to rethink that decision," Carroll said then.

Young did leave Texas after his junior season and has seen mixed results in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans.

Fast forward to January 2009. Less than a month after toying with and easily dispatching Penn State in the Rose Bowl, Carroll had the opportunity to weigh in on the professional aspirations of another junior quarterback.

This time, however, the quarterback was his own. Mark Sanchez, who led USC to the Rose Bowl win and was 14-2 as a starter for the Trojans, opted to declare for the NFL draft.

Carroll, who had been so effusive in his praise of Young and had so strongly urged him to leave Texas was less than thrilled with the Sanchez decision. Petulant is one word that comes to mind. Petty is another. Selfish is a third.

The Trojans lose a significant portion of the defense that helped carry them this season to graduation. Carroll was clearly counting on a senior-led offense to take pick up the slack.

The departure of Sanchez complicates that tremendously

At the press conference where Sanchez made his intent known, Carroll took the opportunity to trash his quarterback.

"We don't see this decision the same," Carroll said. "Mark's going against the grain on this decision, and he knows that. He knows coming out early is a tremendous challenge for a quarterback, and the statistics don't back up that it will be easy, the way he's going about it.

"The facts are so strong against this decision," Carroll said. "After analyzing all the information, the truth is there, he should have stayed for another year. He lost out on a chance to fully prepare himself. The facts are there's a 62 percent failure rate for underclassmen quarterbacks."

Then Carroll walked out in the middle of the press conference, effectively upstaging his chagrined star.

The problem is that Carroll is either lying now or he was lying then. Depends on which face you choose to believe. 

If Young was as ready as Carroll claimed, then Sanchez is as well. 

Sanchez actually had better stats in 2008-09 than Young did in his final year. 

In 2005, Young threw for 3,036 yards and 26 touchdowns. Sanchez had 3,207 yards and 34 touchdowns last season.

Granted, Sanchez doesn't have the rushing wheels that Young displayed, but the ability to make plays with his legs was more of a novelty for those considering drafting Young than it was a necessity.

Sanchez actually fits the mold of a prototype NFL quarterback much more than Young did. He's a dropback passer with adequate mobility. He played his best game of the season when he had the national spotlight in the Rose Bowl.

Most draft analysts predict that Sanchez will be among the first three or four quarterbacks taken in the draft.

At the time Young made his decision, he had a similar report. Most analysts predicted that Young, USC's Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt would be the first three quarterbacks picked, but few agreed on the order of selection. There was no guarantee Tennessee would use the third pick of the draft to select Young.

Maybe Carroll isn't two-faced so much as he is self-serving. The plea for Young to leave was motivated by the elimination of potential rivals to his Trojans in both attention and potential mythical championships.

The classless dismissal of his own player was spurred by his own self-absorbed desire for success, regardless of what might be best for the individuals on his team.

Even those who make their living following the Trojans and are generally gushing in their praise of every strand of Carroll's hair, even those who are willing to justify virtually any transgression committed by their golden Caesar, seemed perplexed by Carroll's vindictiveness toward Sanchez.

It's simple. Carroll is used to getting his way. He's fawned over by the media, his team gets often unwarranted national hype. He'd talked his last three starting quarterbacks (Leinart, Carson Palmer, and John David Booty) into returning for their senior seasons.

When Sanchez rejected his emperor’s command, Carroll showed his true color. Red. Like the face of a spoiled, tantrum-throwing baby.


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