There should be a statue of Pete Carroll at Patriot Place. He should have a place in the Patriots Hall of Fame alongside Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, and Troy Brown. Pete is on a short list of folks who can claim responsibility for the Patriots winning a Super Bowl.
Pete did not do this by conventional means. He did not coach the Patriots to a championship. He did not design a defensive scheme that enabled them to beat the Rams, Panthers, or Eagles.
No. Pete delivered a Super Bowl to New England with the worst in-game coaching decision in the history of sports. Worse than Fourth and 2. Worse than Grady sticking with Pedro. Worse than Johnny Mac leaving Bill Buckner on the field in ’86. Worse than Joe McCarthy starting Denny Galehouse in the one-game playoff in ’48.
Less than two years ago, when good fortune (and some great plays) were about to hand Pete Carroll a victory in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz., Pete said “no thanks” and handed the Lombardi Trophy to the New England Patriots.
Sorry, fanboys. I know you hate hearing this. I know the brilliant, ever-prepared Patriots practiced their big defensive stop two days before the game. I know cornerback Malcolm Butler made a sensational play, picking off Russell Wilson’s slant pass. I know that Bill Belichick and Ernie Adams masterfully maneuvered the clock and suckered Pete into putting the wrong package on the field. I know there are no sure things in sports and that Marshawn Lynch was sometimes stopped on 1-yard runs in 2014.
But we all know that the Seahawks would have won Super Bowl XLIX if Pete had not panicked, let the defense dictate his offense, and called a high-risk slant pass into traffic instead of going Beast Mode for at least one or two carries into the end zone.
The Seahawks were 1 yard away from back-to-back championships and Pete gave the game away. Fortunately, Pete was miked for the play, and the audio is priceless. It sounds like something you’d hear from the flight recorder of a crashed aircraft. The last words you hear are Pete saying, “Oh, no.’’ Then silence after Pete slammed his headset into the ground.
If Pete made that call while he was coaching a New England team, it would have been his final moment as head coach. There would have been no coming back from that in Boston. But Pete works in laidback, grunge-heavy, coffee-fueled Seattle, where the living is easy. So it’s, “Attaboy, Pete, you’ll get them next time.’’
Which is why he is still coach of the Seahawks as they prepare to come to Foxborough to play the Patriots Sunday night.
Pete owns a special place in Patriot history, and not just because he gave New England a Super Bowl. He was the first coach hired by Bob Kraft, back in the days before Bob morphed into Hugh Hefner and the Most Interesting Man In The World. Bob was still carrying a stopwatch to practice in those days and regularly got in the way of his coaches. Pete was hired to replace Bill Parcells, who wouldn’t stand for the meddling, and won 10, nine, then eight games before he became the first coach fired by Kraft. In 1999.
When he reminisced about his New England experience Wednesday, Pete acknowledged Kraft’s interference, saying, “When I went to New England, I was really committed to being able to bring the philosophy and do it exactly the way you wanted to do it and be in control of it, and it didn’t really work out that way, the way I hoped.
“When Bill got the job there, Robert gave him the chance to take that thing over and run it and do it exactly the way a football guy sees it, and the rest has been a great history and a great success story.’’
Translation: If Bob had let me have the control Bill has, I could have done the same thing in New England.
After Foxborough, Carroll drove west and never returned. The left side of the country suits him. He took over what was Los Angeles’s unofficial NFL team — the USC Trojans — soaked up the celebrity culture (Will Ferrell and Al Cowlings used to hang out at practice), won a couple of national championships, then got out of Southern California before the NCAA posse arrived.
Back in the NFL in Seattle, Pete won a Super Bowl and would have won a second if not for . . .
Never mind. We’ve covered that already.
Ever youthful, ever pumped and jacked, Pete is officially the oldest coach in the NFL. He is 65, one year older than the man who succeeded him in Foxborough. This is his first trip back for a football game since he last coached here 17 years ago.
“I like coming back,’’ said Carroll. “I had a good time there. It’s kind of fun, you guys have so much good stuff.
“It’ll be fun to go back. It’ll be fun to see the players, see the area, but as far as being emotionally connected to it, that’s not going to be part of this experience.’’
We will always be emotionally connected to Pete. He delivered a Super Bowl. Get him the XLIX game ball. Commission Armand LaMontagne to start sculpting. Arrange a halftime cremony with a new red jacket for Sunday night.
Put Pete in the Pats Hall of Fame now.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org