Pete Carroll chasing another title

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Pete Carroll left the New England Patriots in 1999 hat in hand, his second stint as an NFL head coach ending as miserably as the first.

His style wasn't a good fit, that much was clear.

More than 14 years later, he's found a niche that works. Carroll is inching closer to a feat never before accomplished since the BCS came into existence in the 1998 season: titles in college football and the NFL.

"It's a pretty cool opportunity," Carroll said. "I never thought that was a goal or anything like that. It's just that now it's available and the opportunity is there, but I think it's pretty exciting.

"The thought that our style and our approach and the way we do it in our fashion demonstrated on the highest level in college and the highest level in the NFL, that's something to feel pretty good about. Sometime down the road, we'll look back and see what it all means."

But it was the next step after the Patriots that helped him get there.

In 2000, Carroll headed to the West Coast and was given the keys to one of college football's Cadillacs. It was at the University of Southern California where he learned what it was like to have complete control over a team.

He ran the Trojans how he wanted them ran.

"I was never in that situation before," Carroll said on a conference call Wednesday with the Arizona media. "When I got a chance to do the whole thing, because in college you're the personnel director, the GM, the head coach, the playcaller and all that, I was able to find the style that I needed to get to bring out the best I could offer my players."

It led to three national championships, although one was later vacated, and it showed Carroll that his system can work. So when the Seattle Seahawks came calling in 2009 and told Carroll he could be the head coach and have the same kind of control he had at USC, it was hard for him to turn down the offer.

"We do things exactly the way we want to do them," Carroll said. "Our owner allows us to do that. John Schneider is a fantastic general manager to work with. We get to call the shots and build this team the way we want to. That's what's different. I never had that opportunity before. I don't know if I could have championed it earlier on. I think I needed all these years and the development at SC, but now it's kind of kicking in, the whole philosophy and approach, into high gear and see what happens. It's coming out pretty good so far."

To say the least.

Seattle is 12-2 heading into Sunday's game against Arizona and the Seahawks are playing for home-field advantage until the Super Bowl in New Jersey. They've been to the postseason in two of Carroll's first three seasons and are heading back again this year.

It's all because of Carroll's system, which he's used to build a roster that boasts the top defense in the NFL and an offense run by one of the young elite quarterbacks, whom Carroll took a chance on in the third round, Russell Wilson. Only four players remain from the pre-Carroll days and 17 were added before this season via draft, trade, waivers, practice squad or free agency.

Carroll's Seahawks are the favorites in the NFC to reach the Super Bowl, and if he wins the Lombardi Trophy, Carroll will be in a class by himself: The first head coach to win a championship in college under the BCS format and in the NFL.