Five reasons why it didn’t work for Pete Carroll in New England
|10.12.12 at 1:09 am ET|
Pete Carroll, who coached the Patriots from 1997 through 1999, took a few moments this week to reflect on his time in New England. Carroll, who was with USC from 2001 through 2009 before taking over in Seattle, had an eventful time with the Patriots, but said Wednesday it was a great experience.
“I loved living there and representing those fans — I thought they were awesome,” said Carroll, who took over as coach in Seattle in 2010. “They were so intense and loved the team so much — in all the sports, not just football. Whether it was basketball, hockey, baseball … this is a great fan base, and I loved being connected with them. And 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 being there. I regret not being able to get it done the way we wanted to. We did some really good things and we were close, but I learned so much coming out of that experience that it changed me. I’ve had a lot of good stuff since then, and I’m grateful for that, but I wish I would have been able to … I’m never going to give up on a situation — I’d have loved to been able to fix it and finish it, but we didn’t get to.”
In our opinion, despite the fact that Carroll won more regular-season games in his three seasons with the Patriots than Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells in their first three years in New England, there were five primary reasons why it didn’t work between Carroll and the Patriots.
He was hamstrung by the front office. Carroll didn’t have control of his roster — instead, that went to vice president of player personnel Bobby Grier. As a result, he had little control over his draft board and free agent selections. The players knew it, and if a player wasn’t happy with his playing time, he could go up the back stairs and complain to management. It resulted in Carroll appearing weak and ineffectual in the eyes of his team — one reporter who covered the team during Carroll’s tenure compared him to a substitute teacher.
“What I learned from the situation (in New England) is to be a really successful head coach you have to have control. Otherwise it’s somebody else’s job that you’re dealing with. That’s why everything that came out of that experience changed me and I haven’t been the same ever since,” Carroll told Seattle-area reporters on Wednesday. “It took me 10, 11 months before I got going on the next job, but from that time, everything that is the philosophy, the approach, the mentality, everything, the language, everything came out of that experience. It’s classically one of those deals where you get kicked in the tail and you come out better. I hate to learn the hard way.”
He was working for an ownership that didn’t understand how to operate a successful team … yet. Much of this is tied in to the previous point. While Robert Kraft has matured and evolved as an owner in the last decade-plus, he was still learning on the job when Carroll was working as head coach. (In addition, he was likely still feeling his way after things went sour with Parcells.) Kraft hired Carroll, but didn’t yet feel comfortable placing the future of the franchise in Carroll’s hands. The owner would eventually learn to back away and trust his coach, but it would take a few years.
Terry Glenn. The wide receiver was perhaps the most skilled position player on the roster — he was coming off a rookie year where his 90 receptions were the most ever in a single season by a rookie in NFL history — but did a lot to sabotage Carroll in his three years as head coach of the team. According to many ex-teammates, it was common practice for Glenn to go to Carroll and complain about how he was being used. The chaos created by Glenn had a debilitating effect on the team — the wide receiver wasn’t truly dealt with until 2001, when Belichick deactivated him.
He was following Bill Parcells. The swing from a hard line legend like Parcells to a coach like Carroll — who was far more laid back than Parcells — was difficult for a locker room to deal with. Carroll didn’t help matters by trying to be one of the guys as opposed to being a coach — he participated in the pickup basketball games that were organized by the players. Loosed from Parcells’ grip, the veterans constantly pushed the limits when it came to discipline. (Even a respected team leader like Drew Bledsoe felt OK going out to a club and stage diving.)
John Elway and the Broncos. Carroll inherited one of the best teams’ in the AFC, but the Patriots had the bad fortune to be coming of age the same time Elway and the Broncos were finally putting it all together. Denver would go on to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles under Mike Shanahan, while the Patriots lost a divisional playoff contest to the Steelers in 1997 and a wild-card contest to the Jaguars the following year.
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