Pete Carroll's first team meeting as a head coach could have gone a little better. Then 42 years old and still finding himself as a coach, Carroll opened that meeting, which included New York Jets owner Leon Hess, by telling his players there were no rules on his team, only consequences if things aren't done the right way.
"(Hess) was about 75 at the time, sludge oil magnate and all that, built his whole history of being a billionaire by working hard, pressing people, and I said, 'There's no rules, but if you don't do the right thing, there's consequences,'" Carroll said. "He was looking at me like 'What is this guy talking about?' That was the first meeting we had, I hadn't even met the guy hardly, so it didn't go very well there. Needless to say, I didn't get off on the right foot with the owner. Part of the learning process."
Carroll has become one of the best coaches in football in part because he does things in an unconventional way. Carroll embraces individualism in a sport where many coaches frown upon player’s showing their character; he empowers everyone who works with the team to do whatever they can to help players and coaches be their best, again, even if it is unconventional; and he does all of that while still leading a disciplined, winning program. Yet two decades ago, Carroll was still figuring all of that out. He was unconventional, as that first meeting showed, but he hadn't fully found himself as a coach, and even if he had, he didn't have the power back then to do things his way like he does now.
Asked what kind of pushback he got for being unconventional in his first head coaching job, Carroll quipped, "They fired me 10 months later. I was gone. That's the ultimate pushback… That was a long time ago, I don't know what I was thinking."
Indeed Carroll's tenure with the Jets was brief—he was fired after one season in which New York started 6-5, then lost its final five games of the season. But short or not, Carroll's time with the Jets came up again this week because the Seahawks are heading east to face his former team on Sunday. It's just part of an odd reunion tour Carroll faces this year because of the Seahawks' schedule. Already the Seahawks have gone to Los Angeles to face the Rams in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the same building USC called home during Carroll's nine seasons there, and later this season the Seahawks travel to New England, where Carroll was the head coach from 1997-1999.
Carroll is willing to take these trips down memory lane—even the ones that end with him being fired after one season—because they all helped shape him into the National Championship and Super Bowl-winning coach he eventually became. Carroll has often pointed to his year off between being fired by New England and hired by USC as one of the most crucial times in his career because it was when he solidified his philosophy. And if not for his experiences as a head coach with the Jets and Patriots, he wouldn't have had as clear of an understanding of what he was looking for—and looking to avoid—in an NFL job when he decided to leave USC and take the Seahawks job.
"Coaching in New York was extraordinary," Carroll said the morning after his team won Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium, where on Sunday they'll play for the first time since that 43-8 victory over the Broncos. "I had the greatest opportunity in the world to be a head coach in the New York area. We all understand why that's so powerful, and it was really disappointing I didn't have a chance to see it through, but that moment in time to me is just a moment in time. It didn't dampen my spirits, it didn't slow me down, if anything, it just kicked me in the butt in a better way. I had to get kicked a little harder in New England. I hate to learn the hard way, but sometimes that's what has to happen. I didn't have any ill feelings about it at all. I would have loved to have killed it here, but it didn't work out that way. That's the way it goes."
With Pete Carroll's future in Seattle secure following the 2016 season, take a look back at the head coach's best photos from his time with the Seahawks.