“It was just probably a very unlucky time. I don’t think a lot of the evaluating was good on a lot of those guys. Some of the guys, they were maybe not the most talented football players. We had some bad ones, too, who would not adhere to the way Pete wanted to do things.”
They took advantage of Carroll, of his laid-back personality, of his lack of control.
So when the Patriots made their coaching change, Kraft had learned enough that he wasn’t going to let that happen again. Though Belichick still had to earn his way in, it didn’t take long before the decision-making was in the hands of the people who could best use it.
As Brown said, “Now [Kraft] doesn’t get involved except signing the checks and signing off on the deals. That’s about it. He stays out of the way and lets the football guys do their thing, and he does his thing upstairs.”
In a good place
The experience changed the Patriots. It changed the way they structure their front office, and the input that goes into football decisions. It also changed Carroll.
“I came out of there having a much clearer idea of what I believe it takes to do this job,” Carroll said. “I didn’t want to be a head coach if I had to share it with somebody else making the decisions. Because I’m a little bit different than other people, and I needed to do it my own way.”
He had fought — and lost — the battle to keep Curtis Martin, a decision that Carroll believes could have altered the history of the Patriots. He fought — and lost — battles on draft picks, guys that were chosen that didn’t seem to fit with his coaching style.
But he believes, too, that the changes he made to himself after that allowed him to get to this point.
“I thought I was really ready to go and carry a great philosophy,” he said, “but I couldn’t carry it out because we didn’t think that way throughout the organization. I thought I would be able to say stuff and we’d do it. But it didn’t work that way.”
So he sat down with his time off, he figured out what he wanted, he came up with the core philosophy of competition, something he carried through his time at USC and something that has come with him to Seattle. As he said, “I had the answers. I just didn’t know it.”
He is in a good place now, with his coaching style, with his control. And he understands what went wrong in New England. Kraft believed he was bringing in a coach who would do what the owner wanted, who would listen to Grier. It didn’t work.
Now, though, it does. It works with Kraft. It works with Belichick. With a bit of a helping hand from the tenure of the man who will be on the opposing sideline Sunday.
“I thought, going in, it was going to be different than it wound up,” Carroll said. “That was my shortcoming, my inability to see what was going on, and that’s what was so clear to me. I wasn’t making the choices, I wasn’t making the calls. I was just trying to coach their team.
“Robert didn’t know at the time, either. He got it really worked out with Bill when he showed up. Gave him a chance, and let him run his show. The rest is history.”