Was the Pete Carroll era in New England (1997-99) as bad as we remember it to have been?
Yes and no.
The negative side of Pete featured his team losing one more game per year in each of his three seasons as HC of the NEP. The Pats won 10 games in 1997, nine in ’98 and just eight in ’99. The positive side of Pete featured a guy that had his defense consistently ranking among the best in the league as he groomed a unit that was good enough to win a Super Bowl just two years after he left town.
If we can give Dan Duquette a small shred of credit for bringing in players that would eventually go on to win the 2004 World Series, then we must remember Carroll as a guy who put Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi, Lawyer Milloy, Willie McGinest and Tebucky Jones in a position to succeed in 2001.
But the best case you can make for saying that Carroll’s tenure in Foxboro was more good than bad is starting with the fact that the era between Bills (Parcells and Belichick) was forever wiped out in the minds of New England fans because both future Hall of Fame coaches were able to get the Patriots to the Super Bowl.
It’s near impossible to compete with the two Bills in terms of NFL success and not many head coaches in NFL history have been sandwiched quite like Pete was.
Patriots fans are more than comfortable pretending the franchise itself began on Jan. 27, 2000, when Belichick was hired by Bob Kraft. In large, the Pats history prior to Belichick was putrid. But there was that era from 1994-1999 when the franchise began each and every season with legitimate hopes of a playoff berth. There are many franchises in the league today that would kill for that kind of August optimism.
Carroll proved his coaching worth in the collegiate ranks, bringing a pair of AP national championships to USC. During the mid-2000s one could easily make the case that Carroll was regarded as the smartest man in football outside, of course, to Belichick.
His critics maintained, however, that he was a failed pro coach.
When Carroll was head coach of the Jets in 1994, the team got off to a 6-5 start. But they struggled mightily down the stretch and Carroll was dismissed after just one season.
Look, it’s easy to get annoyed with Pete. The ra-ra, jacked-and-pumped, win-one-for the-Gipper stuff gets “Call Me Maybe-like” stale in a hurry. But to this day, it’s still awfully hard to say Carroll is a bad NFL coach.
His 3-2 Seahawks, and his No. 1 ranked defense (YPG), host the 3-2 Patriots this Sunday. It’s the first matchup between Carroll and the man that replaced him in 2000.
If Pete gets a win, memories around here will be refreshed that he wasn’t, ya know, THAT bad.