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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pumped and Jacked!

Pete Carroll made a splash over the weekend at the NFL Draft. The Commish takes a look back at his time with New England and why Pete is easy to cheer for...

When Bill Parcells resigned from being the head coach in New England, I can’t remember a fan, or prognosticator who believed New England would be better off without him.

It’s been 10 years since Pete Carroll marched the sidelines of New England. Carroll had that unenviable task of following the footsteps of the man who saved football in New England.

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Carroll was the anti-Parcells – cordial, respectful, forthcoming, and ultimately an easy target. To look back at Carroll and consider his run a failure may be true based on numbers, but may not be the full story.

While Belicheck has enjoyed a run of legendary porportions – the circumstances were different. Belicheck took control and built a system where he was the boss. Remember Bobby Grier in New England? No Bobby Grier’s with Belicheck.

Carroll spent 3 years here – with a combined record of 27-21 in the regular season – the trouble is he went 10-6, then 9-7, then 8-8, progressively moving in the wrong direction. And reporters began chewing him up – ala Ron Borges. Fans doubted, players went up the back stairs to Bobby Grier. Carrol was undermined and no one stopped it – including Kraft. Carroll was probably so excited to be a head coach again, those terms and conditions of the job were not closely investigated. A mistake he has adamantly said would change the next time.

Seattle is Carroll’s 3rd and likely final chance to be a head coach in the NFL. He didn’t get a fair opportunity in New York with the Jets, where he went 8-8 his only season as the coach – the year before Keyshawn joined them. After NYJ, Carroll went back West to become the defensive coordinator for the 49ers where he built a very strong defense.

Then 1997 was his 2nd chance. In New England, Carroll was in a no win situation. Had they won, Parcells would have received the credit. Had they lost, Carroll would have been blamed.

The pressure in New England back in 1997 was ultra-intense. Parcells constructed a legit football team in a time when none of the other Boston franchises were seeing any real success. The Patriots were the only real game in town. But the way everything unfolded, with McDonough leaking the Parcells to Jets story. I remember how a reporter asked Chris Slade on Bourbon St before the Super Bowl, how he felt about the news of Parcells leaving to go to the Jets after the super bowl. And Slade had this look of astonishment.

The Patriots were a young team filled with talented, but not fully matured, guys. Think about it – Bledsoe, Glenn, Slade, Curtis Martin, Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson, Willie McGinest, Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law. They were the core of the team and they were all young. In addition, they were all brought in by Parcells.

They were betrayed, bewildered and unprepared to face the ways of a ruthless coach looking out for himself. The way Parcells treated them and the way he left them definitely had an effect on the players and management. Foxboro was burning and they gave Carroll a garden hose to extinguish it.

Going to USC for Carroll was probably his best ever career move. He had an opportunity to re-establish himself as a coach, leader, and strategist. It brought Carroll back to relevance. And while the NCAA regulators are itching to drop the hammer on USC, those sanctions aren’t a complete reflection of the Carroll tenure at USC.

A better reflection is the success he had over 10 years, along with the pedigree he rolled out to the pros.

Before Carroll got to USC, do you remember how many USC grads turned into studs, or even solid contributors? Keyshawn Johnson and Rodney Peete are the only names that come to mind. And Rodney Peete was back in 1988.

Carson Palmer
Troy Polumalu
Lofa Tatupu
Steve Smith (NYG)
Reggie Bush
Lendale White
Rey Malaluga
Clay Matthews
Brian Cushing
Matt Cassell
Duece Latui
Matt Leinart

And these are off the top of my head. USC became a breeding ground of pro talent out West, under Pete Carroll’s watch.

People like to point out that Carroll is getting out before the hammer gets dropped, which seems convenient. But I don’t think that’s the only reason. If you’ve listened to Carroll since being at USC, all along, his opinion has been that he would only leave for the right situation.

Seattle could be that right situation. Two years after Holmgren had Seattle consistently competitive, Carroll takes over a team who still has some of that talent, but missing leadership.

Matt Hassleback is 35 yrs old and not long for the NFL. He could play this year, and maybe one more year, but realistically, Carroll has a chance to bring in his own franchise guy – something he didn’t get to do in New England.

In short, Seattle isn’t looking too good right now. So coming into a situation like this may give Carroll the chance to rebuild after Seattle had already burned down last year.

In summary, Carroll has always been likeable, and while I called for his head in 1999, I’ve rooted for him to succeed wherever he went – Seattle is no different.

The Commish is a contributor to the Bingo Bar Blog and aspiring journalist. He's made his bones covering the MVFFL as a beat writer and now enjoys a freelance career.

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