Most coaches don’t prank their own team by having Bill Withers pretend to give a speech about the possible dangers of a fungus in the locker room, before the legendary singer reveals himself and leads the entire roster in song along to the classic hit, “Lean on Me.”
Then again, the Seahawks’ Pete Carroll isn’t like most coaches.
Coaches of Carroll’s ilk aren’t supposed to succeed in the NFL. In a league where disciplinarians and workhorses in the mold of Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick are considered the standard, and most teams are busy trying to find someone of a similar nature, Carroll is cut from a different cloth.
That’s not to say Carroll can’t lay down the law when necessary or that he doesn’t work hard – but he generally employs a style that’s player-friendly and knows when it’s time to break up the monotony of a long season and have a good time.
Carroll got his first big break in the NFL with the Jets in 1990 when he was named as the team’s defensive coordinator. He remained in the same position for four seasons before being promoted to head coach in 1994.
Immediately, Carroll did things his way.
A basketball court was installed in the parking lot of the Jets’ practice facility, where Carroll and his fellow coaches could often be seen playing pickup games in their spare time.
Bowling and other team-building events organized by Carroll as a way to bring his players together also were not out of the norm.
Carroll’s Jets got off to a 6-5 start. Things seemed to unravel though after Dan Marino pulled off the now-infamous fake spike, giving the Dolphins a game-winning touchdown over the Jets in the final seconds of Week 13.
The Jets would finish the season by losing their final five games and Carroll was fired at the end of the year, after just one season, in favor of Rich Kotite – who is thought to be the worst coach in Jets history.
Carroll would serve as defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers for two seasons before being named head coach of the New England Patriots in 1997, where he took over for Parcells.
Despite making the playoffs twice, New England fired Carroll after three seasons.
Following a year in which he did not coach at all, Carroll was named head coach at the University of Southern California in December of 2000.
In college, Carroll seemed to have finally found his home. At USC, Carroll built the premier program in the country – coaching three Heisman Trophy winners and leading the Trojans to two BCS National Championships.
While his act was sometimes looked down upon at the professional level, it played extremely well when recruiting and coaching younger players.
Withers wasn’t the only celebrity to make an appearance around team facilities as actor Will Ferrell and rapper Snoop Dogg were considered regulars on the sidelines and at practice.
The good times came to a screeching halt though for Carroll after the 2009 season. Under Carroll’s watch, star player Reggie Bush committed major NCAA violations by receiving numerous impermissible benefits – leading to the Trojans later being forced to vacate one of their national championships, getting placed on a two-year bowl ban, and the loss of multiple scholarships.
With the NCAA getting ready to drop the hammer on his school, Carroll left USC for his current job with the Seahawks.
Since arriving in Seattle, Carroll has led his team to the playoffs three times in four seasons, and now has his team one win away from their first Super Bowl victory in franchise history.
Keeping with his player-friendly nature, Ferrell made an appearance earlier this season to speak to the Seahawks and Seattle-based rapper Macklemore’s music can often be heard blasting through the speakers at practice.
Macklemore and Carroll have since become friends and the rapper was even asked to address the team before this year's NFC Championship Game.
Stepping even further out of the box of the typical NFL head coach, Carroll is believed to be the first coach to publicly speak out in favor of looking into the use of medical marijuana for players.
In a recent poll of 320 NFL players, when asked which head coach they would like to play for, Carroll won by a large margin.
“If you always pay attention to the fun, I think it adds to the overall experience,” Carroll said Tuesday at Super Bowl Media Day. “It gives our guys a chance to excel.”
Nearly 20 years after being let go by the Jets, the unconventional coach who puts fun before fear now finds himself with the chance to join Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer as the only coaches to ever win an NCAA national championship and the Super Bowl – just steps away from the old stadium where he got his start.