Back on an NFL sideline for the first time in 11 years, Pete Carroll has the challenging task of trying to revive the Seattle Seahawks.
Mike Singletary appears to have done that in San Francisco and now hopes to guide the 49ers to their first playoff appearance in eight seasons.
Both striving for improvement, the NFC West foes open the regular season Sunday afternoon in Seattle.
After winning seven Pac-10 titles and two national championships at Southern California from 2000-09, Carroll expects this stint as an NFL head coach to go better than his first two. He was fired after a 6-10 season with the Jets in 1994 before going 27-21 with New England from 1997-99.
“People say, ‘Gosh, why would you do that when you win all the time in college football, and here, you’re going into the meat grinder of the NFL?’ I’m ready. I couldn’t be more prepared for it. I couldn’t be more excited about it,” Carroll said.
It remains to be seen how long the excitement lasts for Carroll, who takes over a team that was 9-23 the past two seasons after making the playoffs the previous five including a Super Bowl appearance.
Matt Hasselbeck(notes) turns 35 this month and is coming off his sixth 3,000-yard passing season, but threw a career-high 17 interceptions in 2009. Hasselbeck, however, has thrown 23 touchdowns while going 9-4 versus San Francisco as a starter.
Gone is T.J. Houshmandzadeh(notes), the team’s disgruntled leading receiver who was released before signing with Baltimore this week. Former Pro Bowl pass rusher Patrick Kerney(notes) retired and returning sack leader Lawrence Jackson(notes) was traded to Detroit.
On the positive side, former Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu(notes) is expected to play after he was limited to five games last year because of a torn pectoral muscle. Rookie Earl Thomas(notes) earned a starting safety spot for a unit that ranked 22nd in the league with 13 interceptions.
Justin Forsett(notes) beat out Julius Jones(notes) and Leon Washington(notes) for the starting running back job after rushing for 619 yards in 2009. After sitting out the last two seasons, former first-round pick Mike Williams hopes to revive his career as the team’s No. 1 receiver under his former college coach.
“I hope we can do things better than it’s ever been done before around here,” Carroll said. “I love setting our sights so far out, setting our standards so high, that maybe it doesn’t even seem feasible.”
A playoff spot seems feasible in San Francisco, where the 49ers avoided a seventh consecutive losing season by going 8-8 last season.
“It’s a very good feeling to know that there can be some continuity,” said Singletary, entering his second full season as coach. “I think that would be the word that connects everything that we did last year and take in the positives and beginning to build on those things and let this be a continuation of building and learning.”
The only team to go undefeated in the preseason, San Francisco could have some of the best young talent in the league.
Entering his sixth season, Frank Gore(notes) joins Steven Jackson and Thomas Jones(notes) as the only players to rush for 1,000 yards in each of the last four seasons. Gore, who scored a career-high 13 TDs in 2009, posted his only two 200-yard games against Seattle.
He rushed for 207 yards and two scores in a 23-10 home win over the Seahawks on Sept. 20, but was held to 25 yards on nine carries in a 20-17 loss at Seattle on Dec. 6.
Alex Smith threw a career-high 18 touchdowns last season, but also was intercepted 12 times. Vernon Davis(notes) was a Pro Bowl selection after tying Antonio Gates’(notes) NFL record for touchdowns by a tight end with 13 in 2009.
Receiver Michael Crabtree(notes) hopes to blossom during his first full season in the league. The 10th overall pick last season, Crabtree didn’t sign until Oct. 7 yet caught 48 passes for 625 yards and two TDs in 11 games.
However, the 49ers must play better on the road if they hope to end their postseason drought. San Francisco went 2-6 away from home last year, and has split its last four trips to Seattle.