The year was 1985. Ronald Reagan was beginning his second term as president. “We Are the World” topped the charts. New Coke was introduced. Pete Rose became Major League Baseball’s all-time hits leader. Microsoft released Windows 1.0.
And a 34-year-old, brown-haired Pete Carroll was hired to be the defensive backs coach for the Minnesota Vikings.
Flash forward to 2013 – past Carroll’s first two stints as a head coach in the NFL; past that ridiculously successful nine-year run as coach at the University of Southern California; past his first three seasons as coach of the Seahawks – and Carroll is preparing his team to face the Vikings at CenturyLink Field on Sunday.
By ’85, Carroll already had spent 10 seasons as a college coach and had his first taste of the NFL as defensive backs coach for the Buffalo Bills in 1984. But his time with the Vikings – and especially Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant – shaped the coach Carroll has become.
“I was really fortunate, because I’d just gotten fired after my first year in the league coaching the secondary in Buffalo,” Carroll said. “So I was lucky to get back into the league and fortunate to get on (Grant’s) staff.
“It was a very special team for me, because coach Grant let me hang around him and kind of follow him around and ask a bunch of questions. After he retired, he still stayed as an advisor to the program. So he was there available for us.”
Carroll worked under two head coaches during his five seasons in Minnesota – Grant, who returned for one season in ’85 after having coached the Vikings from 1967-83; and Jerry Burns, from 1986-89. Carroll also worked with several other coaches who also influenced him – Paul Wiggins, Bob Schnelker and Burns. And Carroll worked with several defensive backs that he still uses as examples when discussing how he wants his current DBs to play – including the All-Pro tandem of strong safety Joey Browner and cornerback Carl Lee.
The size Carroll likes in in defensive backs now can be traced to the 6-foot-2, 202-pound Browner, who was considered even bigger for the strong safety position then that of 6-3, 232-pound
“We had a marvelous time during those years,” Carroll said. “But it was a really extraordinary time for me because of the opportunity to be around coach Grant. I thought he was such a unique figure and such an extraordinary leader in his way. An amazing guy.
“I was really impacted by the time around him. So it’s a great memory, the time I was there.”