Sources: Falcons pursue USC's Carroll as head coach

Updated: January 10, 2008, 5:10 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Southern California coach Pete Carroll and Falcons owner Arthur Blank spoke via phone Wednesday to discuss Atlanta's head coach vacancy, but Carroll was not offered the job.

Sources told ESPN's Joe Schad that having control of player personnel decisions is what intrigues Carroll most -- Blank was expected to include those responsibilities if he offers Carroll the job. A person familiar with Carroll's thinking, though, said it appeared the coach is "headed toward a 'no thanks' " in response to Blank's inquiry.

The Falcons' interest in talking to Carroll about their opening was first reported Tuesday night by ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli. Blank also is looking to hire a general manager.

Carroll, who is currently on vacation in Hawaii, spoke with USC sports information director Tim Tessalone on Wednesday and reiterated he "understands that his name is going to come up for NFL jobs, as it has in each of his past years here, but that he was not going to comment about NFL openings because it would just lead to speculation."

Carroll, who has previously been a head coach in the NFL with the New York Jets and New England Patriots, is the most prominent name on the list of Atlanta candidates.

Carroll, 56, recently completed his seventh season at Southern California with a resounding victory over Illinois in the Rose Bowl. He has led the Trojans to two national championships and compiled a 76-14 record. The 14 defeats have been by an average of just 4.1 points.

Southern California was 11-2 this season and many observers felt that, had it not been for injuries, the Trojans might have vied for the national title. Carroll's .844 winning mark at Southern California is the best in the nation among active coaches with at least five seasons of experience.

Over the past few seasons, there has been rampant speculation that Carroll might be lured back to the NFL, but he has rebuffed all overtures to return to the pro game. Conventional wisdom is that Carroll would only consider an NFL job if he had full control over the football operation.

In his first NFL head coaching stint, Carroll lasted just one season with the Jets, taking the team to a 6-10 record in 1994. He coached the Patriots for three seasons, 1997-99, and was 28-23, with one division title and two playoff berths.

The Falcons suffered a bad experience this season with a coach hired from the college ranks, when Bobby Petrino, formerly of Louisville, resigned with three games remaining to fill the Arkansas vacancy. But unlike Petrino, who had been an NFL assistant for three seasons, Carroll has prior head coaching experience in the league and was an assistant coach and defensive coordinator for 12 years as well.

In the past, Carroll has listened to NFL interest from Miami, San Diego, San Francisco, Arizona and Houston.

Former general manager Rich McKay was offered a two-year extension to remain as president through 2010.

Philadelphia general manager Tom Heckert interviewed with team officials Monday.

The Falcons have interviewed at least three coaching candidates: Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and two assistant head coaches, Jim Caldwell of Indianapolis and Tony Sparano of the Cowboys.

The Falcons plan to interview Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith and Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

Joe Schad covers college football for ESPN. Information from ESPN NFL reporter Chris Mortensen, ESPN.com senior NFL writer Len Pasquarelli and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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