After accomplishing nearly everything possible during his nine-year stint as USC head coach, Seattle coach Pete Carroll is beginning to find the success he never had as head coach of the Jets 18 years ago.
He took over a floundering team and after consecutive 7-9 seasons, the rebuilding seems to be well in hand with the Seahawks second in the NFC West.
“It’s really taken us this time to get going. I think at the middle of last season when we crossed into the second half of last year, we kind of felt like we discovered the guys we want to lean on for the long haul,” Carroll said. “We put together the nucleus of guys that we had chosen. [General manager] John Schneider did a fantastic job of accumulating guys and we started winning games the second half. ... We really haven’t backed off of that.”
On Sunday, he faces a team with which he has long ties and a checkered past. The Jets and Carroll are forever linked by four seasons in the early 1990s as an assistant and then as head coach in 1995 for a 6-10 season. He was then fired.
His resume in Los Angeles with the Trojans includes eight bowl wins and two national championships and the rebuilding project in Seattle isn’t terribly surprising to those who know him. Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow was recruited by Carroll out of high school before choosing Florida.
“I really like coach Carroll; he’s an awesome guy. He’s exciting to be around; he’s fun to be around. He still gives me a hard time because when he came with [former USC] coach [Steve] Sarkisian and [coach] Lane Kiffin to my house in Florida. He turned down the half-mile dirt road and at the front of it, there’s a Gators mailbox. He turned and he told his assistant coach, ‘They have a Gator mailbox, what the heck am I doing here?’” Tebow said with a laugh. “I don’t know if that’s the language he used, but we had a great time [and] a great visit. I spent a lot of time with him, then took an official [visit] to USC and loved it. It was great. I would have loved playing for him, coach Kiffin and coach Sarkisian, but it just wasn’t the right fit for me at the time.”
The kind of talent and lofty expectations he had at USC helped season the coach for his next NFL job.
“Even though we’re still at 5-4 right now, we’ve been close to having all of our games. We haven’t been out of anything and have been involved with the ball in our hands with the chance to win or the chance to stop the win each week,” Carroll said. “We think from this point forward, we have a chance to be a really good club and be very competitive and we’re going to try and prove that this week.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.