Pete Carroll was hired by Paul Allen and his Seattle Seahawks for one purpose—to win a championship. Headed into the 2012 season lingering concerns with the offense has some asking if his job as head coach and vice president of player personnel is in jeopardy.
Simply put, no, he isn't on the hot seat. Yet.
Carroll's team posted a 7-9 season in his first season and beat the defending champions in a playoff game.
Some NFL fans and analysts felt as though he and the Seahawks should be apologizing for the effort. They weren't about to do so, as the other teams in the NFC West should have been questioned on how they could have let the Seahawks win the division with a losing record.
After all, Seattle was coming off a 5-11 record where they were embarrassingly bad the final four weeks of the season. Seattle had a few quality players left, but the talent Tim Ruskell had inherited had mostly moved on.
Seattle built the 2010 roster virtually from players off the street.
Carroll and general manager John Schneider made roughly 300 roster moves to find players who were worthy of being in the NFL. Roster moves continued the next season as they looked for players who would also fit with their schemes.
While the offense muddled through the changes, maintaining the mid-20s ranking from years prior, changes on the defense were measurable. They jumped from the 20s to ninth overall last season in yards allowed and seventh in points allowed per game.
There are other markers beyond the the team's record that show improvement.
Carroll inherited a team with no players performing at a Pro Bowl level. He had five last season, only one of which required a draft pick earlier than Round 4.
He and Schneider took a player off the waiver wire and turned him into a Pro Bowl fullback. They used a pair of mid-round draft picks for a disgruntled running back who was one of the NFL's top rushers over the second-half of 2011.
They signed a player from the Canadian Football League who became a Pro Bowl cornerback in his first season, and they used first and fifth-round picks on a pair of safeties in 2010 who both made the Pro Bowl in their second season.
There are ample reasons for fans to be optimistic. The defense is responding well to Carroll.
Seattle returned their 10 best starters from last season's defense and look to be a few pass rushers from being an elite unit. They added several options in the offseason who should be able to do just that.
The offense has a lot of promising talent and could be much better in 2012. It takes longer to build an offense, in large part because of the difficulty in finding a franchise quarterback. But there is reason to believe the offense will follow the defense's improvement.
Seattle added two potential starting quarterbacks and another former Pro Bowl tight end. They also have several promising wide receivers to help in the passing game.
But this article isn't so much about how Seattle's season could go terribly right. It is about the few things that could put Carroll's job on the line.
Seattle doesn't have a proven answer at quarterback
Much of Seattle's issues at quarterback can be pinned on the former administration. They were content to roll with Hasselbeck and had no real backup plan in place...let alone a future replacement.
When the Seahawks opted to go young and transition the offensive line it was clear Hasselbeck wasn't the right quarterback to run the offense.
They rode Tarvaris Jackson for a season, but John Schneider stated they had a long-term plan in mind to make over the position. That led to signing Matt Flynn in free agency and drafting Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft.
Carroll's reputation will be tied to one of these passers being able to lead the team. They don't have to be a franchise quarterback in 2012, but Flynn or Wilson needs to show the potential to lead the team to a championship.
Success of early draft picks
Seattle has had three first-round picks with Pete Carroll. One is the aforementioned Pro Bowl safety, Earl Thomas. The other two taken in 2010 and 2011 have had performance concerns and have struggled with injury.
James Carpenter was a questionable pick, but one Seattle felt very comfortable with. He will start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, creating another black mark for the 2011 draft.
But the draft pick who has the real potential to undermine Carroll is Bruce Irvin, the 15th pick last April. If he fails to help resurrect Seattle's pass rush and earns the title of draft bust, it will cast a large shadow over Carroll's ability to place draft-value on players.
He can weather the concerns with Carpenter, as he was a late first-round pick. But there were several other pass-rushers on the board when Seattle surprised most everyone with their pick.
Irvin will either make Carroll look like a genius or be the loose end that starts to unravel his tenure in Seattle.
Seattle has been repeatedly bitten by the injury bug. It was happening before Carroll arrived and has continued with him as head coach.
It is hard to place much blame on the coaching staff for some of the injuries. Russell Okung didn't miss a game in college to injury but has endured three separate issues in his two seasons.
However, there are other issues. The Seahawks opted to make Sidney Rice their featured wide receiver, even though he'd only had one healthy season out of four.
Make that one-in-five.
They also decided to bring in a tight end with injury concerns
Even though the asking price for Kellen Winslow Jr. was right, he's been hampered by injuries the last three seasons. He hasn't missed a game, but he's been slowed and kept out of practice time.
Seattle is counting on both of these players to be big contributors in 2012. If they can't stay on the field, then Carroll needs to be questioned for bringing unhealthy players to a team with a defined need for their team physicians.
Outlook for 2012
It is time for the Seahawks to have their first winning season under Pete Carroll and get back to the playoffs. If they succeed it will be because of how Carroll and Schneider have transformed the team.
Should they fail it won't likely be the end for Carroll in Seattle. He will be back in 2013 for a final opportunity to show he can transform the offense like he's done with the defense.
But if Seattle exits 2012 without a clear franchise quarterback, then Allen will certainly start rounding up some kindling underneath Carroll's chair.
If Seattle's early draft picks aren't showing promise and Rice and Winslow miss ample playing time, Allen should also grab some lighter fluid.