FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian expressed appreciation for Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll for putting him in position to be in the NFL as the teams prepare for Monday night's matchup.
Sarkisian worked as an assistant coach under Carroll at USC from 2001-03 and came back for a second stint with Carroll after one year with the Oakland Raiders. Sarkisian first worked as a quarterbacks coach and later was the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator before taking over as the head coach at the University of Washington.
"I can honestly say if there's one person that I can say that I wouldn't be where I'm at today without that person, that would be Pete Carroll," Sarkisian said. "What he's done for my career, the mentorship that he's provided me as a young coach, as a young position coach, as a young coordinator, as a young head coach, he's just been that person for me in our profession. And fortunate to be associated with him."
The respect is mutual for Carroll, who said he would have had a place for Sarkisian on his Seahawks staff had Sarkisian not resurfaced in Atlanta after leaving Alabama. In fact, Carroll indicated that Sarkisian always has an open invitation to be a part of his coaching staff.
"He was a graduate assistant with us at [USC], so watched him grow through all of his success and accomplishments," Carroll said. "I always care for him as a friend. He's a great guy to be around and coach with and compete with."
Carroll expressed concern and support when Sarkisian went through dark times as the head coach at USC. Sarkisian was fired in 2015 and his bout with alcoholism became public, a battle he continues to fight today.
"I've been very supportive of Sark in all ways, not just in coaching, but in his personal world and all that, as much as I could be," Carroll said. "I think the world of him and really fired up that he got a chance in Dan [Quinn's] situation, too, which is a great organization to be with and a good team.
"He's done nothing but successful stuff when he gets a good opportunity. And he's righted some issues that he's taken at hand and done a great job with, too. So I'm really proud of him. And it will be fun to compete against him."
Sarkisian highlighted one specific piece of advice Carroll once gave him that he continues to carry into his coaching approach today.
"I will say the best piece of advice he's ever given me is when I became the head coach at the University of Washington," Sarkisian explained. "He said, 'Be you. Because at the end of the day, there's going to be adversity, and the real you is going to come out.' And you don't want those players to feel like, 'Who's this guy? We've never seen this guy before.'
"I thought that was really important because when you become a head coach, there's so many things that are thrown at you and come at you in so many ways that you're never going to handle them perfectly, especially not the first time. But if you're you, at least they know the personality that it is that's coming out."
Sarkisian is in midst of handling his first time as a NFL coordinator, and there have been some bumps along the way. Expectations were extremely high coming into the season as he took over an offense that averaged a league-best 33.8 points per game last season under Kyle Shanahan en route to the Super Bowl. There's been an obvious adjustment period for both Sarkisian to his personnel and for the players to Sarkisian. But the Falcons appeared to turn the corner a bit with last week's 27-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys. The Falcons currently average 21.9 points per game, which ranks 16th out of 32 teams.
Now Sarkisian goes up against his mentor Carroll, Seattle defensive coordinator Kris Richard, and a depleted Seahawks defense that just lost both All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and All-Pro strong safety Kam Chancellor to season-ending injuries. Seattle surrenders just 18.3 points per game, which is tied for fifth-best in the league.
Asked if he might have the inside edge on what to expect from Sarkisian's offense, Carroll said, "I don't know about that. We'll see. We're going to use everything we can to put together a great game.
"He's grown a lot over the years. They've got a great system, and they've got great players. We'll see. It will be a fun competition."