Seattle Seahawks head coach and vice president Pete Carroll is a controversial figure from multiple angles. His long college football history ended mired in scandal. Carroll’s run in Seattle veers from rough seasons to NFC Championships and Super Bowl wins. His coaching style is idiosyncratic, to say the least. And, in between all that football stuff, he’s a respected figure in the community that coalesces around a spectacularly controversial conspiracy theory.
Few mainstream figures in any capacity are rarely associated with conspiracy theories, never mind a Super Bowl champion head coach. Let’s take a look at Carroll’s winding career history, before diving straight into the weird world he openly associates with.
Pete Carroll’s bumpy career history
Carroll is an undeniably talented football mind. His initial NCAA run starting in 1973 was a massive success, as he climbed the ranks to ever bigger football-focused schools every few years. By 1984, his defensive coordinator talents landed him in the NFL.
He parlayed his immense success running defenses into his first head coaching job. His 6-10 run with the New York Jets got him fired after just one season. He bounced back to defensive coordinator, this time with the San Francisco 49ers, and again had success running his uniquely aggressive, trick play style. So the New England Patriots put up an offer to get him in as their head coach.
It started strong, with an AFC East win. The next two seasons demonstrated a precipitous decline, leading to Carroll washing out of the NFL entirely.
College controversy and NFL return
Back in the NCAA, Carroll started off meekly with the USC Trojans. A losing season had local fans calling for Carroll’s firing. He torched all dissent soon after, going on a historic 34 win streak.
His boisterous personality helped the Trojans recruit players who might not otherwise have given the school a second look. These aggressive recruiting tactics turned out to verge on outright illegality. Carroll, feeding into a larger culture of recruitment corruption, was one of the top subjects of a major NCAA investigation.
Carroll claims he took the Seahawks offer for personal reasons. Whatever the truth is, it came at exactly the right time. Since 2009, Carroll’s mixed success with the Seahawks includes a Super Bowl win as well as a somewhat disappointed .599 overall win record.
His assertive style includes playing a major role in front office activities. He even chose the Seahawks’ general manager, a rare move for a head coach. His unorthodox aspects don’t end there.
Is Pete Carroll a 9/11 Truther?
Working as head coach of an NFL team involves having sit-downs with fans in very high places. For a guy who doesn’t keep much under his hat like Pete Carroll, these guests often get more than they bargained for.
When retired four-star general and Seahawks superfan Peter Chiarelli got a 2013 meeting with Carroll and a few front office staff and players, he likely didn’t realize he’d be grilled about whether the United States government was the true culprit in the September 11th terror attacks.
Carroll reportedly pressed Chiarelli on the government’s role in the attacks. When the details of the meeting went public, Carroll was unapologetic about his belief in a fringe conspiracy theory. He doubled down publicly, simply saying to USA Today that “any notoriety is good notoriety, I guess. I will always be interested in the truth, yeah.”
The 9/11 Truther community, as they self-identify, immediately embraced Carroll. Stranger still, one even rushed the microphone during a live Seahawks press conference in 2015.
Carroll’s beliefs are likely more complex than a straightforward reading of popular Truther theories. He plays the details close to his chest. But multiple sources confirm his beliefs. Carroll himself doesn’t deny it. One can safely say, at least, that Pete Carroll is sympathetic to the 9/11 Truther community.