Thirteen years ago, the New
England Patriots didn't exactly demand the type of respect and allure that they
do today. That was before Bill Belichick brought his winning philosophy to the
Boston area or Tom Brady was even thought to be an NFL-caliber quarterback.
In the two years directly after
Bill Parcells' departure and ahead of Belichick's arrival, Pete Carroll was the
man in New England. Now the head coach in Seattle, Belichick and the Patriots
will visit Carroll's Seahawks on Sunday, pitting two connected eras in New
England's history. But that simple connection might be the only similarity
between the two divergent coaches.
Carroll's fiery personality
and captivating enthusiasm initially are intended to spark a fire in fans and
players, and it even worked among the Patriots faithful for a time. Meanwhile,
Belichick's mild-mannered, reserved and even boring style doesn't necessarily
produce the same excitement, but one thing it does produce is wins.
Deion Branch was in Seattle
for four years and spent some time under Carroll, and the Patriots wideout
definitely notices the differences between the two sideline sergeants.
"Oh yeah, they're
different," Branch said. "Both great coaches, but they're different."
Branch wouldn't get into
specifics about the differences between the two coaches, but was sure to
establish how much, or little, they had in common.
"They're different, I'm
not going to get into [details]," Branch said. "I think both of
these guys have proven they get a lot out of their players. Those are the
similarities, and then I think different."
Carroll's enthusiastic style,
while very different than Belichick's, stirred up excitement among fans and
players in New England. But with middling results, including two early playoff
exits and a record that grew worse annually, came disenchantment.
Carroll was fired after three
good but not great seasons with the Patriots. The failed relationship isn't one
often fondly remembered by local fans, especially considering the success that
immediately followed. But Carroll still looks back affectionately upon his days
in New England.
"I loved living there
and representing those fans. I thought they were awesome. They were so intense
and loved the team so much," Carroll said. "I loved being connected
with them. 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. It was a really big deal
Carroll's exit may have
ultimately been best for both parties, as the Patriots went on to become the
premier franchise in the NFL and win three Super Bowl titles under Belichick.
Meanwhile, Carroll went on to become one of the all-time greats in college football, leading USC to three national championship games
and two titles during his nine-year stint in Los Angeles.
While the parting of the ways
was undoubtedly a good move, Carroll still regrets not being able to find a way
to succeed during his time in New England.
"We did some really good
things and we were close but I learned so much coming out of that experience
that it changed me," Carroll said. "I wish I would have been able to …
I'm never going to give up on a situation. I would have loved to have that, to
fix that and finish it but we didn't get to."
Looking beyond his failed
tenure with the Patriots, though, Carroll is looking forward to entertaining
New England upon their visit this weekend. Although he agrees it will be
special to go against his former employer, Carroll's not willing to admit that
this game will mean more to him than any other the Seahawks schedule.
"It's a regular game for
me that I look forward to because of Coach Belichick and [Tom] Brady and [my]
relationship with Robert [Kraft]," Carroll said. "I've always liked
playing against people that I like and that I know. It always adds something a
little bit special to it."
Sunday's showdown featuring two
of the NFL's best teams should offer up some fireworks even beyond Carroll's
checkered past in New England. But the intersecting paths of both coaches as
well as their polar opposite styles should insert an added element of intrigue
Carroll photo via Twitter/@PeteCarroll