Pete Carroll, the Jets, the Dead and USC

Things have worked out just fine for Pete Carroll at USC.

Nearly 15 years ago, I settled into a window seat on an American Airlines flight from JFK to San Francisco, one of a seemingly endless chain of business trips from New York to Silicon Valley.

I opened up my Sunday New York Times (which always makes for great cross country reading) and started reading the sports pages, when a man sat down in the empty seat next to mine.

The guy looked familiar, though I couldn’t place him right away. Then it hit me. That’s Pete Carroll, Coach Carroll. formerly of the Jets.

After my “Hey Coach” introd we struck up a conversation, and talked on and off as AA Flight 15 made its way across the Alleghenies over the cornfields of Iowa and the Rockies and eventually into SFO.

As it turned out, we were born the same year, so we had a lot in common growing up, Carroll in Northern California and me in suburban New York. He asked me if I was a Jets or Giants fan. I told him the Giants were my team, but that like many New Yorkers I also followed the fortunes of the Jets, especially when they were having a good season.

We talked about Grateful Dead concerts we had attended, about Woodstock and some of the other great bands of the 60s and 70s.

A Year with The Jets
Carroll had just been fired by the Jets after just one season at the helm. The Jets got off to a 6–4 start under Carroll in 1994, but in week 12 they were victimized by Dan Marino’s clock play that led to a Dolphins game-winning touchdown.

They lost all of their remaining games to finish 6–10. Carroll was fired, replaced by Rich Kotite. How did that work out Jets fans?

I remember telling Carroll that I felt been giving a raw deal from the Jets, who never really gave him a chance.

He told me he was returning home to San Francisco to interview with the 49ers for a defensive coordinator position.

Well Carroll took that position in 1995 and two years later was named head coach of the New England Patriots. Taking over for Bill Parcells, he led the Pats to a 33-31 record and two playoff appearances in three years before being replaced by none other than Bill Belichick.

Success at USC
Carroll was named the head coach at Southern California in December of 2000,  signing a five-year contract after USC had gone through a tumultuous 18-day search to replace fired coach Paul Hackett. He was not the Trojans’ first choice, and was considered a long shot as USC initially planned to hire a high-profile coach with recent college experience.  Meanwhile Carroll, who had not coached in over a year and not coached in the college ranks since 1983, drew unfavorable comparisons to the outgoing Hackett.

To date, Pete Carroll. He is 93-16 as head coach with the Trojans, with back-to-back national championships in 2003 and 2004. His team won a school-record 34 straight games from 2003–2005, a streak that started after a triple-overtime loss to California and ended with the national championship game in the 2006 Rose Bowl, against the Texas Longhorns.

In a recent interview, Carroll told Esquire magazine: “Jerry Garcia said that he didn’t want his band to be the best ones doing something. He wanted them to be the only ones doing it. To be all by yourself out there doing something that nobody else can touch — that’s the thought that guides me, that guides this program.”

Yep, things are working out just fine for Pete Carroll at USC, thank you.

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One Comment on “Pete Carroll, the Jets, the Dead and USC”

  1. sportslifer says:

    Ever hear of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx. I think Pete Carroll has become a victim of the SportsLifer jinx. How else do you explain the 47-20 loss to Oregon and the record-setting 55-21 smashing at Stanford.


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