SEATTLE — The chief executive of the Seattle Seahawks is headed to California to meet with Pete Carroll, as the struggling team closes in on a deal with the charismatic coach at Southern California.
A Seahawks spokesman confirmed Saturday night that team CEO Tod Leiweke will fly to Los Angeles on Sunday to interview Carroll for the coaching position and that the talks could last into Monday morning.
The Seahawks still do not have an agreement despite widespread reports, but are closing in on a coaching contract, according to a league official with direct knowledge of Seattle's coaching search.
The official told The Associated Press Saturday the team is in "discussions" with Carroll and does not plan on giving him the additional title of president. The official added the Seahawks will hire a general manager and coach separately.
"No, they do not have an agreement. They are not there," the official told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Seahawks are not commenting on how far talks have progressed. "(Seattle) would not name him GM or president – for obvious reasons."
The last time the Seahawks gave a coach dual authority as a GM was in 1999, when they lured Mike Holmgren from Green Bay. By 2003, they had stripped Holmgren of the GM duties – and only after he was simply the coach did the franchise realize its finest seasons and make its only Super Bowl.
When asked if Carroll will become the eighth coach in Seattle's 34-year history, the official said all signs point that way, just "not so fast" as has been reported.
Carroll coached the New York Jets and New England Patriots a decade ago and has spent the last nine years at USC. He is under consideration by a Seattle team that went 5-11 this season and fired coach Jim Mora on Friday after one miserable season.
ESPN, which hired Carroll to provide analysis for this week's national championship game, said Carroll had reached a preliminary coaching agreement.
The Los Angeles Times had reported that the Seahawks – owned by Microsoft Corp. tycoon Paul Allen, for whom money is no limitation – are believed to be offering Carroll a five-year contract worth $7 million a season to be president and coach. That would be a raise of more than $2 million annually on what Carroll is thought to be earning at USC.
Carroll's agent, Gary Uberstine, did not return calls and e-mails from the AP on Friday and Saturday.
The Seahawks interviewed Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier on Saturday, something that by the league's Rooney Rule had to happen before any offer can be made to Carroll. Teams must interview minority candidates for head coaching jobs.
The Seahawks are 9-23 since their last playoff game in January 2008. Four weeks ago they forced general manager and president Tim Ruskell to resign. Friday's firing of Mora, who had three years and $12 million remaining on his contract, left Seattle without a coach, general manager or president less than four years after reaching the Super Bowl.
Carroll was 6-10 in 1994 with the Jets and then 27-21 while twice reaching the playoffs from 1997-99 with the Patriots. He then restored a dynasty at USC beginning in 2001.
This opportunity is unique for Carroll. The Seahawks still do not have a GM, so he could conceivably have authority over football matters as he has at USC, and far more than he would have had filling any of the NFL coaching openings to which he's been connected in recent winters.
This was perhaps the best time to leave the Trojans since he arrived in 2001. USC's string of seven consecutive Pac-10 titles ended with four losses this season. And the school has been under several years of NCAA scrutiny for alleged improprieties on Carroll's team and in athletic director Mike Garrett's beleaguered department.
When receiver Damian Williams announced he would enter the NFL, the news release of his departure Friday night didn't include a comment from Carroll, who often lavishes praise on his early-entry candidates.
If Carroll is indeed leaving college, USC's recruits must now decide whether to honor their commitments to the Trojans or re-enter the recruiting derby late in process.
University of Washington coach Steve Sarkisian left his friend Carroll and the Trojans 12 months ago for his first head coaching job. He was asked if he'd like to be a head man in the same city as his mentor.
"That would be kind of fun," Sarkisian said. "He's a great coach."