JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- When Pete Carroll was sitting at home without a job in 2000, he finally decided to do what Bud Grant told him many years earlier: Do what you feel is right and don't worry about who likes it.
Lesson learned from the long-time Minnesota Vikings coach, who coached his final season in 1985 with Carroll as his defensive backs coach.
But the Hall of Fame coach had a profound influence on Carroll, who is one victory away from a Super Bowl title, something Grant failed to accomplish in four tries.
"Bud's an amazing man," Carroll said. "The confidence he exudes in going with what he believes in his gut was extraordinary to me. It was the calm and commitment that what he built was right.
"He didn't care what anybody else thought. He was really clear about how he expressed that. I thought it was empowering to know when you get to a certain part of your life, you can have a really strong, solid opinion whether everybody agrees or not. It's what you know is right at the time. He talked that way and he lived that way."
It took a personal hardship, however, before Carroll completely embraced that philosophy. It came after he was fired as the head coach of the New England Patriots after the 1999 season.
"There was a time there after the New England job where I knew it was going to be tough to get back in the league," Carroll said. "I had a couple of coordinator job offers, but I didn't want to do that at the time. I wanted to stay with what I started [as a head coach]. So the college route seemed like the right one."
It took a year of looking before the right opportunity came along at Southern Cal in 2001.
"The first few people I called didn't want to have anything to do with me," Carroll said. "People didn't call me back, but SC finally did.
"It gave me the chance to bring out the philosophy and approach that had come through the years of experience, but I finally had a chance to collect it. Really, I haven't been the same since."
Carroll finally did the things he saw Grant do, but not necessarily in actual coaching philosophy.
"Bud and I didn't agree on everything," Carroll said. "Bud used to say that you will lose a game for every rookie you start. I believed in going with young players."
Grant was telling Carroll, "Do it your way, not my way. And don't look back."
That's what Grant always did, and it's the same principle Carroll finally followed when he got to Southern California.
"I was raised as a real traditional coach," Carroll said. "But I found that I saw things a little differently from other guys at times. They told me I was off track, and I went with it because I didn't think I had the answers at the time. I followed along.
"But the biggest change happened after I was fired at New England. I was semi-retired for 10 months and had a chance to sit back and think about it. In that time, the competitiveness elevated in me that I needed to get right."
When Carroll got to USC, he took the less-traditional approach to coaching. He loosened things up at practice, let the players be themselves and used positive reinforcement rather than drill-sergeant techniques. It worked.
"It was about getting close to what was really important to me," Carroll said. "I was hoping to get an opportunity where I could express that. I thought I was ready when I went to New England, but it really happened at SC."
The Trojans played in nine bowls game under Carroll and two BCS championships, winning the title in 2005 over Oklahoma.
Not long before an NCAA report on violations at USC was released in January 2010, Carroll resigned his position with the Trojans to become head coach of the Seahawks.
"I thought I would never leave SC," Carroll said. "I loved it. It was the perfect situation. I had tremendous support, but always knowing the NFL was the most competitive level you could be involved with in football. I always had that in the back of my mind.
"I wanted to see what would happen if we translated this to the NFL. The way we treated people at SC and the way we went about the expectations for individuals was what I wanted to carry to the NFL and see what would happen. In that, we've been rewarded well in the last four years in Seattle, and I'm really thankful for that."
Many people influenced Carroll along the way, but Grant is the one that changed his course.
"It's the direction I got a long time ago from Coach Grant," Carroll said. "We did a lot of questionable moves here, but we've done it with great commitment. It has helped us to accelerate the process."
Carroll said it wouldn't have been possible without general manager John Schneider, who Carroll sees as his partner and a man that embraces the same philosophy.
"John and I have been joined together in every single move," Carroll said. "We really don't care what other people think. We aren't going to be driven by what the status quo may think. We've really trusted our gut.''
Which is exactly what Grant told Carroll to do.
"That's what I came out of my time with him," Carroll said about Grant. "It's a greater sense of confidence that I could get this done if I could do what was really important to me."