If opposites attract, Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick would be bosom buddies.
About the only thing that the two head coaches have in common is the New England Patriots. One has famously taken the team to the top three times and is considered a coaching genius. The other left town with a 27-21 record over three seasons, one playoff appearance and the same smile he arrived with.
Carroll and Belichick will face each other Sunday as opposing head coaches for the first time since 1994 when Coach Belichick was with the Browns and Coach Carroll was with the Jets. For the record, Belichick's team won that game, 27-7.
Pete Carroll's time with the Patriots was sandwiched between the imposing presence of Bill Parcells and the dour but effective nature of Bill Belichick.
I was there when each of these coaches was introduced, and it was Carroll's first presser that holds the big memory. As Carroll stood at the podium in the crowded room, a member of the media sneezed. Carroll looked over at the writer and said, "God bless you."
Right then I knew we weren't in Big Tunaville anymore.
Carroll is said to be the perfect college coach. At Southern Cal, his high fives, player hugging, and Heisman winners led him to national championships. It all worked perfectly in the world of boola boola, bowl games, and beautiful beaches. But when Carroll sensed the foul smell of an NCAA investigation, it was time to go. Pete left USC faster than you could shake a pom pom.
He took over as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks in 2010.
From the day he gushed the words "I am pumped and jacked" back with the Jets, Carroll has been viewed as a coach whose enthusiasm is maybe a bit over the top. He is definitely a guy who always sees the glass half full - even if the liquid it holds is toxic.
Carroll is not the type to strike fear into the hearts of his players or the media. There is a hesitancy to ask Bill Belichick the tough question- especially after a game- win or lose. Anyone who watches the Patriots 5th Quarter postgame show knows how awkward and brief those Q & A sessions can be.
No question was too inane for California Pete. I remember a writer asking Carroll about the dynamics of the coin toss. The question was, "Are you a heads guy or a tails guy?" And there was Pete, with his boyish grin answering, "Hmmm. I am definitely a tails guy." Everyone laughed, including Carroll.
On the day he was let go from the Patriots, the news vans were lined up in the Foxboro Stadium parking lot. Local TV stations figured they could at least get a shot of him walking out of the team offices for the final time. Instead of walking hastily to his car on one of the worst days of his life, Carroll approached the throng of reporters, photographers and cameramen. He shook each and everyone's hand and said thanks for everything.
Carroll owns the second-highest winning percentage among all Patriots coaches (.549). No need to tell anyone who leads the pack.
In 2007, Carroll was asked by Sports Illustrated about his experience with the Patriots. He said, "I was there for three years, and it was the hardest 10 years I ever had."
Carroll had some tough times in New England, but his memories aren't all bad.
"I loved living there and representing those fans. I thought they were awesome," said Carroll in a press conference earlier this week. "They were so intense and loved the team so much in all the sports, not just football. Whether it was basketball, hockey, baseball, this is a great fan base, and I loved being connected with them. And I appreciated it more the tougher they got on us, because I knew how much they loved it and how much they cared about it."
Pete Carroll did not work out for the Patriots. It doesn't make him a bad guy- just not the right guy. Two years after Carroll was fired, the Patriots were Super Bowl champions, and no team in football has had more success since.
The Patriots have the right guy to thank for it- Bill Belichick.
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