Is Carroll among the best coaches ever?

RENTON, Wash. -- Now that it’s official Pete Carroll will coach the Seahawks for three more years, here's a big-picture question for you: Will Carroll go down as one of the all-time great football coaches?

The opportunity is there for him, something no one could have imagined 15 years ago as a failed NFL coach who was heading back to the college ranks.

That was then and this is now. Carroll has a new contract and is coming off a Super Bowl victory, taking over a 5-11 Seattle team and winning the championship four years later.

Carroll is here to stay with the Seahawks, probably until his coaching career is over. That really wasn't in doubt, but it was a done deal Friday when the team announced a contract extension that keeps Carroll as the head coach in Seattle through the 2016 season when Carroll will be 65.

Maybe Carroll walks away at that point. Maybe he takes a different role in the organization. Or maybe he signs another extension and keeps going. It’s up to him. For now, three more years was what he wanted.

No financial numbers were revealed, but this extension likely is north of $7 million a year, keeping Carroll among the highest-paid coaches in the NFL.

"I'm going to outlast David Letterman," Carroll joked on Friday. "That’s good to know."

Letterman announced he’s retiring in 2015. Not Carroll. He has more to prove.

Has he proved enough to rank with the best? Carroll already has done something only two other coaches have done in winning a Super Bowl and a NCAA championship (at USC). Only Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer accomplished the feat before Carroll.

So what will be his legacy when the next three years are done? Does he deserve mention among the best to ever walk the sidelines?

“Absolutely,” said Seahawks general manager John Schneider. “There’s no doubt about it. He’s special. With what he’s accomplished as a football coach, especially with the way he was in professional football, then found his way and did it his way.

“Pete's football success stands for itself. But what people don’t really know is how special the man is. He truly cares about individuals and has a huge heart. He’s a low-ego guy who has created a very positive, fun culture here in Seattle.”

Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett, who signed a new, four-year deal with the Seahawks last month, attended the news conference Friday. Bennett was asked where he rates Carroll among all the coaches he’s ever played under.

"He's No. 1, without a doubt," Bennett said. "The philosophy he has is a winning philosophy. It's everything, from the way he treats people to his knowledge of the game and his ability to get the most out of each guy."

Others will reserve judgment of Carroll's legacy, and some USC fans will always feel Carroll jumped ship when it became obvious major sanctions were coming.

“I love my time at USC and being part of that wonderful school,” Carroll said. “But I always knew there was another challenge out there. I never thought there would be a situation [in the NFL] where they would trust us to do the things the way we needed to do them to get the job done.”

That happened in Seattle and the rest is history. Now the challenge is whether Carroll can keep the Seahawks playing at a high level, as he did at USC. If he does, no one can argue he belongs on that elite list of coaches.

ESPN did a SportsNation question Friday asking if Carroll would win another Super Bowl at Seattle, and 65 percent of the voters said yes.

"We're in the middle of something very special here," Carroll said. "There is no reason to think we did this one time and that was it. We're in the middle of a great opportunity with great young players like Earl [Thomas] and Richard [Sherman] and Russell [Wilson]. It gives us a chance to be a leading organization and to build something really special.”

Signing a contract extension with Carroll also gives the Seahawks a better chance at keeping the players they need to keep. Thomas and Sherman (who love Carroll and love playing for him) are free agents after the 2014 season, but the team is working on extensions for both players.

"We're trying to take care of our core people and keep our young players together," Schneider said. "But where do you start? You start at the top."

That part is done. The future looks bright for the Seahawks and Carroll.

"In every phase, we want to do it better than it's ever been done before," Carroll said. "Someday we will look back and say, 'Here's what we did.' But for now, it's not what you just did. It's what are you going to do."