Los Angeles (ground zero).
Today marked the end of the Pete Carroll era in L.A.
Let me say that again. On Saturday, November 14, 2009, on the floor of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, The Pete Carroll Era is over.
Just a few observations in the wake of USC's 55-21 emasculation at the hands of the Stanford Cardinal.
OBSERVATION #1: There's a (bunch of) new bully(s) in town.
USC, the bully on the block of college football since 2002, just got ass-whupped by a group of young men for whom pocket protectors are a frat party fashion accessory. While parity in the NCAA has reared its ugly head more and more often in recent years (just ask Notre Dame), not since the year 2000 have the Trojans had to look themselves in the mirror and see Steve Urkel staring back at them.
Once feared - always respected - on this day, in the waning minutes of this precursor of the end of the Mayan calendar, Stanford defensive back Richard Sherman (Compton Dominguez HS) looked into a sideline camera and uttered, "Fight on USC, fight on... look at your crowd leaving..." as he and a teammate mockingly made the Trojan's "fight on" victory gesture.
On this day, the bully went home with two black eyes, and a locker room full of badly bruised egos.
And after "bad" losses to former PAC 10 doormats Washington and Stanford, and new conference power Oregon (with UCLA two weeks away), the tagging is already on the wall.
OBSERVATION #2: That hot chick you took to the prom may turn out to be Rupaul in disguise.
At the height of what was once The Pete Carroll Era, the coach used to ask a rhetorical question of anyone who would listen, a rhetorical question (more often than even a Stanford math major could count) that went something like this: "Why would I want to go to the NFL (more on that in OBSERVATION #3) when I can recruit first-round draft choices at every position?"
Those days are over.
Move over All-World tailback Joe McKnight. Meet Academic All-America tailback Toby Gerhart. In 2006, Gerhart (Norco HS) turned down an offer from USC to play outside linebacker for the two-time BCS Champion Trojans. At the time, USC had pedigreed ball carriers piled up at the entrance to Howard Jones Field almost as high as the number of Heisman statues it has piled up inside Heritage Hall. And everyone knows the world of college football is littered with 18-year-olds who never lived up to all their hometown high school hype.
So Toby Gerhart heads to conference doormat Stanford and the rest is (Trojan) history.
As of tonight, Gerhart is 3rd in the nation in rushing yards, and 1st in number of academic units carried this semester by a running back who just left cleat marks on the backs of what used to be the best defense in college football. This semester, the USC reject carried as many Big Brain Academy course units - 21 - as the Little Men of Troy scored against the enormous frontal lobes of the Cardinal defense. And he looked a lot better doing it than an SC offense that can now boast of more All-America Football impersonators than Marilyn Monroe impersonators at Hollywood and Highland.
Joe McKnight, Allen Bradford, and all the rest of the cast at tailback have been exposed for the frauds they are. And for that matter, the entire offensive playbook since the days when old coordinator Norm Chow and the head coach ended their manly pissing contest, and Chow left for Nashville.
And Pete Carroll and all the rest of his recruiting staff have been exposed for a consistent, glaring inability to pick the right date for the prom.
OBSERVATION #3: That wasn’t just a debacle Pete. That was your Golden Ticket.
Pete Carroll has been waiting for this moment his entire life.
Since being better known as the last coach the New England Patriots will ever fire (because Bill Belichick will be the head coach until that pesky Mayan calendar runs out), Carroll was only Athletic Director Mike Garrett's fifth choice for the vacant head coaching position. Two National Championships later and the flood of persistent rumors about The Prince of the City taking another shot at NFL immortality would not stop coming. Coach Carroll was said to have turned down offer after offer, year after year. Rumor had it that he was just waiting for that one perfect opportunity, that one Golden Ticket - autonomy, authority, the final say - all the power he's enjoyed around University Park, but on the biggest stage. The next big offer will always be there. I mean, he is PETE CARROLL. But the next big reason to take it sometimes only comes along once, and this is it. The whole world (Pete's world) has spent the last 5 years playing catch-up with the USC football program.
Because when Stanford hands you lemons, you take that phone call from the San Diego Chargers.
And no one will remember that you, your team, your school, your fans, and all your living room recruiting cred were blasted all to hell on one sun splashed Saturday Homecoming in November.
Grab that Golden Ticket and make your way as fast as you can (after you lose to that other USC, the University of South Carolina) in the Florida Citrus Bowl) down the 5 Freeway to San Diego, or LAX for a flight to Tennessee, or Cleveland, or... oh, who am I kidding, the Chargers are going to hand you the keys to Sea World, Qualcomm Stadium, and most of La Jolla when the clock strikes midnight on January 2nd, 2010.
And what about the once-mighty USC football program? Maybe after Pete Carroll is out of the way, this town might actually get the one thing it truly needs most…
A real live, honest-to-goodness, bottom-feeding, 2-14, NFL expansion franchise to numb the pain of the fading memories of the glory that once was.
C’mon Pete. All you have to do is grab that Golden Ticket...
Copyright © 2009 Bill Friday