A product of the football business

Posted Jul 14, 2010

Tight ends coach Pat McPherson grew up in the football business with a father coaching for 21 years in the league.

In some strange way, Jim Carrey can be thanked for Pat McPherson’s coaching career.

McPherson, who’s entering his 12th season as an NFL assistant and first as the Seahawks tight ends coach, owes part of the reason for his start in coaching to the famous comedian.

The story why will amaze you.

In 1994 as he was close to completing his MBA at Santa Clara University, McPherson went in to interview for an accountant position at a firm in the Bay Area. Problem was, he was stuck in the lobby waiting for the interviewer to call him in. While killing time, McPherson picked up a Time magazine sitting on the stand next to his chair and read a feature about Carrey, who grew up with a father who was passionate about music but did an accounting job to pay the bills.

Then Carrey’s father got fired, and the comedian was struck.

“I just remember watching my dad and thinking, ‘Life’s too short to not do what you’re passionate about,’” Carrey said in the article.

As McPherson read that, he was leveled. A volunteer varsity high school football coach at his alma mater in his free time between MBA classes, McPherson realized he was just getting caught in the traditional flow. Like Carrey’s dad, he wasn’t following his passion.

“That’s when it hit me — ‘whoa, I don’t want to be an accountant,’” McPherson said. “I want to be a football coach.”

It made sense why McPherson had that interest. His father, Bill, was a respected NFL assistant for 21 years, and Pat grew up in the football business — “it’s in my blood,” he said. McPherson was an all-state and All-American linebacker at Bellarmine College Prep as a senior in high school before going on to a successful career at Santa Clara, including being named most inspirational player during his final season.

Carroll's Crew will feature the new coaches on Pete Carroll’s staff during the coming weeks:

Pat McPherson, tight ends

Jeremy Bates, offensive coordinator
Kippy Brown, wide receivers
Ken Norton Jr., linebackers
Jerry Gray, defensive backs
Sherman Smith, running backs
Jedd Fisch, quarterbacks
Alex Gibbs, offensive line
Brian Schneider, special teams

To come
Chris Carlisle, strength and conditioning
Jeff Ulbrich, asst. special teams
Kris Richard, asst. defensive backs
Art Valero, asst. offensive line
Jamie Yanchar, asst. S&C
Rocky Seto, defensive quality control
Luke Butkus, offensive quality control
Mondray Gee, asst. S&C
Dave Canales, offensive quality control

So the waiting time before the interview might’ve been the best thing that happened to him. Thanks to Carrey, he had an epiphany and a new direction in life.

“I went into the interview, and they might as well have been Charlie Brown to me,” McPherson said. “I didn’t listen to the interviewers at all, and naturally didn’t get a call back for the job. But I went back to practice that day with brand new energy. It breathed new life into me.

“If they had been punctual for the interview, I never would’ve read the article and I would be an accountant right now.”

Instead, McPherson took his MBA to the NFL and began his coaching career as a defensive assistant with the Denver Broncos in 1998. That decision set him on a trajectory that has never stopped skyrocketing. He was an offensive or defensive assistant for five total seasons, and then became quarterbacks coach for four seasons, including instructing Jake Plummer, who went 39-15 under McPherson’s tutelage. McPherson was then tight ends coach for three years until being hired for the same position with the Seahawks this offseason, which marked a major adjustment for McPherson and his family.

“It’s exciting,” McPherson said of the move. “Change is always good.”

The difficulty of a move has been tempered by the familiarity McPherson has with his colleagues. McPherson worked alongside three Seahawks offensive coaches while at the Broncos, including current offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, offensive line coach Alex Gibbs and quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch.

“It’s been great for me, because on one hand, my learning curve hasn’t been too steep because the people I work with on offense are people I’ve worked with before — a lot of concepts and everything have carried over,” McPherson said. “But at the same time, I’m learning new stuff from people I’ve never been with.”
McPherson also said it’s been “refreshing” to work with Coach Pete Carroll, especially after 11 years in one place.

“Sometimes things do get stale,” McPherson said. “But Coach Carroll keeps things pretty loose in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of way. The competitive nature of everything we do is awesome — whether out at practice or in an impromptu 4-on-4 basketball game. It’s been fun.”

While McPherson gets ingrained in the Northwest lifestyle that he’s currently enjoying — “I love Seattle,” he said — he still owes a lot to his past, and we’re not talking about Jim Carrey.

McPherson credits his father with a lot of the foundation he’s gone off of in coaching.

“I learned a lot from him,” McPherson said. “I learned Xs and Os to a certain degree but the biggest thing is how he dealt with players. He always built real good relationships with players. They not only respected his knowledge of the game, but they respected how he cared about them and making them better.”

McPherson tries to live out a certain fatherly message daily as he interacts with his players — “the players want to learn, but they really want to know you care about them,” McPherson recalled his father telling him.

Oddly enough, McPherson is the only one in his family carrying on the father’s football torch. He’s got three sisters and one brother who — no lies — is an accountant.

While McPherson leaves the MBA talents to his brother — after all, “you really use those skills in football,” he sarcastically says while laughing — the tight ends coach carries on with an incredible journey, especially when you consider it started as an algebra and English teacher while volunteer coaching at his former high school before taking a significant turn for the better in the waiting room of an accounting firm.

McPherson said he ultimately wants to be an offensive coordinator or head coach. But he’s content doing the best with his job now and getting the opportunity to do what he loves.

You can thank Jim Carrey for that.

“There are people in this business who are always looking for their next job without getting really, really good at the one they have,” McPherson said. “I just want to be a really good tight ends coach.

“Deep down, that’s what I’m passionate about.”