Lincoln Riley’s failures at USC magnify Pete Carroll and what he built

Lincoln Riley came to USC with a very strong track record. Riley made three College Football Playoff appearances at Oklahoma. He won four straight Big 12 championships. He won a New Year’s Six bowl. He developed multiple Heisman Trophy winners.

In Year 1 at USC, the Riley record became even better. He coached Caleb Williams to the Heisman and won 11 games, making a New Year’s Six bowl in his first season on the job before turning 40 years old. It was reasonable to think 2022 was the beginning of a return to dynastic power for USC.

Year 2 — 2023 — has created a very different and unwelcome turn of events at USC. The Trojans are struggling. Riley’s approach clearly isn’t working. Major changes on the coaching staff are absolutely necessary. The future of the program feels a lot more tenuous and uncertain than most predicted.

While Riley has to do some soul searching and figure things out, let’s step back and realize that building a dynasty is hard and is no automatic process. This magnifies what Pete Carroll did at USC.

Carroll not only improved the Trojans; he sustained those improvements and established a baseline standard so high that even in a “down” year such as 2007, USC was still a Pac-10 and Rose Bowl champion. For seven straight seasons — 2002 through 2008 — USC was an elite, nationally relevant program.

Pete Carroll is coaching the Seattle Seahawks. The distance grows between his halcyon days at USC and the present moment. Yet, his legacy — like the enormity of his achievements in Los Angeles — grows in stature.

On a separate note: Where can we get that amazing throwback Seahawks hoodie, Pete?


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Oklahoma fans were right about Lincoln Riley, at least for this specific season.

USC assistants need to be coaching for their jobs.

Lincoln Riley did not assemble an elite 2023 roster, which surprised us and a lot of other observers.

Is USC ready to win in 2024 with Miller Moss or Malachi Nelson at quarterback? Lincoln Riley has to be honest about how he answers that question.

Brent Venables is coaching Oklahoma far better this year than Lincoln Riley is coaching USC. It’s up to Riley to change that reality.

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire