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Lawyer Milloy remembers his first meeting with Pete Carroll as if it was yesterday – not today, when Carroll was introduced as the eighth head coach in Seahawks history.
No, this meeting took place in 1997, Milloy’s second season with the New England Patriots and Carroll’s first as the team’s head coach.
“Coach Carroll is one of the best motivators I’ve had,” Milloy said Tuesday, moments after Carroll completed his news conference.
And that is saying something for a safety who just completed his 14th NFL season, after playing at the University of Washington and Tacoma’s Lincoln High School.
“This is a guy who sat me down in his office and told me I was going to be the Tim McDonald in his defense,” Milloy said. “At the time, in my second year, I was like, ‘Ah, what are you talking about?’ ”
Carroll had just come from a two-year stint as defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers. They had gone 11-5 and 12-4, and the 49ers had the league’s top-ranked defense in ’95 when McDonald was a Pro Bowl safety.
“But listening to him talk and showing me tape of what I did my rookie season, he made me believe,” Milloy said. “I think you see that by all the players in the NFL going back to USC and generally liking the guy.”
Milloy definitely liked the results of the first-time meeting with Carroll, as it was Milloy who went to the Pro Bowl in 1998 – the first of his four trips – and the Patriots advanced to the playoffs in each of Carroll’s first two seasons.
Still, this has been a difficult five-day period of Milloy, who refers to himself as a “believer in Jim Mora.” Mora, of course, was relieved of his duties as head coach on Friday – after only one season.
“Jim is one of the reasons why I didn’t retire last year,” said Milloy, who signed with the Seahawks on Sept. 6. “This day is kind of weird of me, personally, because I think I’m friends with both coaches. One coach I feel very, very sorry for, only given one year to try and make magic happen. Then another coach who I think very highly of has another shot.”
Defensive end Lawrence Jackson also has played for Carroll – at USC. In his five years at USC, the Trojans lost a total of six games and won a pair of national championships. In his two seasons with the Seahawks, the team has won nine games.
“The ultimate thing is winning,” Jackson said. “If you set that as the bar, everything else falls underneath that. Everybody wants to win. Nobody wants to lose. And everybody wants to be the best they can be individually.”
Not surprisingly, Jackson sees all of that happening under Carroll, if the players buy into what the team’s third coach in as many years is selling.
“The onus is on the players to open up and embrace the change, and know that if you want to be a great football player and you want to reach the individual goals that you set for yourself within the team perspective, that this is a great situation,” Jackson said. “Coach Carroll is very passionate about getting the most out of every player because it produces a winning program.”
Jackson also likes that the defensive system Carroll will install because is similar to what the Seahawks ran last season.
“It’s not like where we’ll have to clinch our brains to figure out what’s going on,” Jackson said. “It’s a seamless transition. The terminology will be different, but a lot of the stuff is something that as players and dealing with the change we’ve had in the past, it shouldn’t be a problem at all.”
Milloy, meanwhile, is well aware that the differences between the college game and the NFL for a coach go beyond the age and talent level of the players.
“This is not a very patient level,” Milloy said. “No matter how many years your contract says, you only have one or two years to get it right. You don’t interact with players at the pro level the same way you do at the collegiate level.
“He’s familiar with that. I think it’s easier for a guy who’s been at the NFL level to come back into the NFL versus a college coach with no NFL experience.”
Carroll is entering an important stage in his reentry into the NFL, Milloy says, because it’s the offseason where coach-player relations are formed.
“You have to establish who’s boss,” Milloy said. “All this players’ coach thing, yada, yada, yada, is all good and dandy once the player and the team understand who’s boss.”