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Originally published January 12, 2010 at 10:00 PM | Page modified January 13, 2010 at 2:28 PM

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Jerry Brewer

Pete Carroll shows sincerity instead of swagger

Pete Carroll was honest, raw, introspective, real during his introductory news conference as head coach of the Seahawks.

Seattle Times staff columnist

RENTON — He was, well, human.

If you expected the Seahawks' charismatic new A-list coach to greet you with hyperbole and bravado, to offer more glitz than insight, then Pete Carroll just called his first audible in Seattle.

The man who created excitement everywhere he went at USC, who inspired a Tacoma sports radio personality to gush that he's the "coolest coach in the NFL," appeared nervous as he was introduced. He rambled. He stammered. He turned defensive at times. It wasn't the expected salesman's pitch of a hello.

It was better.

Carroll was honest, raw, introspective, real. During the 40 minutes he spoke, his genuine enthusiasm and self-deprecating candor became so captivating that it obstructed skepticism about his so-so NFL record. Of course, as soon as he was done talking, the skepticism resumed, but, hey, trust isn't built in a day.

But Carroll established plenty with his first impression. Most significant: The Seahawks matter again.

The buzz is back, baby. Carroll gives the franchise a face it's been missing since Mike Holmgren left a year ago. He gives them a voice that the entire sports world wants to hear. He makes them relevant because there's a national curiosity about whether he can turn his impressive college success into NFL glory.

On Tuesday, television trucks overwhelmed the parking lot at Seahawks headquarters. Inside, the auditorium was equally stuffed. As Carroll spoke, the clicking sound of all the cameras made it seem like you were being attacked by celebrity.

Only a Derek Jeter/Minka Kelly wedding announcement could've caused such a ruckus.

"I am so fired up to be here today," Carroll began.

And then he didn't stop talking for the next 11 minutes, 42 seconds. He might have taken a single breath during that monologue. Might have.

He said "extraordinary" so many times that you figured his old defensive coordinator, Nick "Awesome" Holt (now with Washington), tutored him on incorporating a word of the day into his intro. He called the Seahawks' situation "dreamlike," which tells you he has yet to see film of this offensive line. Then, after all the niceties, he saved his most sincere and revealing remarks for an interesting public self-examination.

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Carroll answered what everyone wants to know: Why, after being fired from two previous NFL jobs, can he be successful on the third try?

His explanation (or maybe we should consider it an opening argument): He has grown.

Allow him to expound.

"I know so much more clearly where I'm coming from than I did then," said Carroll, who, before coming a super coach at USC, compiled a 33-31 NFL record during stints with the New York Jets and New England Patriots. "I was not at my best in New York; I can't tell you how far away I was then from where I am right now. I was not at my best in New England. I think the Seahawks have benefited from the facts of what I've been through and what I've gone through. I don't have any problems going to the league and going to these players and helping them be the best they can possibly be.

"So I'm not the same. Hopefully, I'm better."

In Carroll's mind, he was a young coach with the Jets and Patriots, an uncertain coach who was still trying to figure out himself. Now, 10 years later, carrying a 97-19 record and two national titles with him from USC, he knows what he believes and knows his philosophies can work. Winning bred that confidence. It wasn't NFL winning, but it was winning nonetheless.

Today, as a humbled 58-year-old coach who found success, he's prepared to step into an NFL meeting room and impose his will. If you believe people evolve with experience, you know that it's possible, despite all the cynicism, he can succeed.

"What transformed me was I had an epiphany of what was most important to me as a football coach," Carroll said, describing how he went from being fired in New England to revolutionary at USC. "In that process of putting those thoughts together, it kind of just solidified a mentality and an approach that now has been put in practice for 10 years. I feel like I'm bringing a very, very clear message to our football team when we get in our meeting room. When we start this thing off, they're going to know where I'm coming from, because I know where I'm coming from."

On his first day as a Seahawk, Carroll wasn't smooth. He wasn't the coolest coach in the NFL. He wasn't a supernatural force sent here to deliver instant hype. He was, well, human. He impressed with his sincerity, not his swagger.

Didn't expect Carroll to peel back so many layers so soon. The revelations were, to borrow his favorite word, extraordinary.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer

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Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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