FOXBORO, Mass. — It’s almost hard to believe, but this Sunday’s New England Patriots-Seattle Seahawks matchup will be Pete Carroll’s first game back in New England since his tenure as Patriots head coach ended after the 1999 season.
Carroll, who’s now in his seventh season with Seattle after nine at USC, acknowledged the novelty of returning to his old stomping grounds but said he no longer feels any emotional connection to Foxboro.
“I like coming back,” Carroll said Wednesday in a conference call with New England reporters. “I had a good time there. It’s kind of fun. (The Patriots) have done so much good stuff. It’s kind of an honor to have a chance to play.”
He added: “That was a long time ago. I’ve been in a lot of games. It’ll be fun to go back. It’ll be fun to see the place, see the area and all that, but as far as being emotionally connected to it, that’s not going to be part of this experience.”
Carroll’s Patriots finished at or above .500 in each of his three seasons in New England, but he never was given the team control he desired and later found at each of his next two coaching stops.
“When I went in to New England,” Carroll said, “I was really committed to being able to bring the philosophy and do it exactly the way you wanted to do it and be in control of it, and it didn’t really work out that way — the way I’d hoped — until I went back to SC, and when I got a chance to be in charge again and be a head coach, I got to see the philosophy through from the head coach throughout.
“And I thought that that was really important. I’d learned that along the way, and it’s proven really true to me. At SC, I had the chance to do it exactly how I wanted to do it and really make all the calls, and you win and you lose. You fail or you don’t. I felt like that was really a learning illustration for me coming out of there.
“I thought I’d be at SC forever, because I would never get a chance to have that much control. And then when we came up here to Seattle, I was thrilled to see that we were able to take the philosophy from one place to another and go forward in that manner, and it worked out.”
Carroll and his successor, Bill Belichick, both have enjoyed great success in the years since Carroll’s departure from Foxboro. Belichick, who was given the type of organizational control Carroll had been deprived of, quickly turned the Patriots into a dynasty, while Carroll led USC to seven BCS bowls and a national championship and the Seahawks to five playoff appearances and a Super Bowl title.
“I think it’s really awesome to watch New England,” Carroll said. “When Bill got the job there, (Patriots owner Robert Kraft) gave him the chance to take that thing over and run it and do it exactly the way a football guy sees it, and the rest has been a great history and a great success story. I couldn’t have agreed with that approach more, and I’m thrilled to see it happen. I think it’s good for football coaches.”
Some additional notes from Wednesday:
— The last time the Patriots and Seahawks played one another was on football’s grandest stage: the Super Bowl. New England, of course, emerged victorious from that contest, squashing Seattle’s hopes of a second consecutive championship.
Super Bowl XLIX is considered one of the best ever played, and a slew of impact players from that game will be suiting up in Sunday’s rematch. But Carroll said his team will not use that loss as motivation when it takes the field at Gillette Stadium.
“We never do,” Carroll said. “I never, ever use the matchup or the buildup or the hype. Every game to us is absolutely the most important game we’ve ever played. It might be the only one we ever get to play, and that’s the way we focus. Every one of them is a championship game for us. We’ve never altered that thought.
“I don’t want to play up to a team. I don’t want to find a way to fire them up about a team. So every game to us is the most important game in the world, and that’s what this is right now again.”
— Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman clearly is fired up for Sunday night.
— The schedule-makers were not kind to the Seahawks this week. They’re being forced to travel cross-country after playing a Monday night game, and their opponent is a Patriots team that’s coming off its bye week.
New England has been dominant coming out of a bye under Belichick, going 12-3 in such games since 2001.
Thumbnail photo via Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports Images