Category Archives: New England Patriots

A People’s History of Pete Carroll In the Time of the Starter™ Jacket (with scrollable photo gallery)

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If the past week-plus of Super Bowl coverage has taught us anything, it is that sports media can be nauseatingly trite and supremely reductive when it wants to be. Everything boils down to the easy explanation, the elevator pitch, the character-capped snipe.

The local discourse is typically binary. You take a side, I take a side. It’s either Brady or Bledsoe. Parcells or Belichick. Bud Light or Coors Light. The unbridled euphoria of Gary Glitter’s Rock & Roll Pt. 2 or a public relations stratagem that includes eliminating the Patriotic right to scream ‘HEY’ after home team touchdowns. You get the point…

When it comes to the Patriots and Pete Carroll’s tenure from 1997-1999, the reductive and universally accepted narrative from the media is that it was a disaster. It was the failure that drove him to grow professionally and prove doubters wrong at USC. Locally, it was the bridge between the two contradicting yet equally polarizing styles of Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick.

The prevalent memory of Carroll’s time is that he possessed a damaging level of over-exuberance, embodied most infamously by his proclamation that he was “jacked and pumped,” a throwaway line he gave the media once or maybe twice during the build up to important games for the team he was being paid to motivate.

Predictably, the local scribes ran with that little nugget and the rest is (revisionist) history.

Carroll had his flaws and was ill-prepared at that time to be an NFL head coach. The Patriots record fell from 11-5 in 1996 under Parcells to 10-6 in 1997 under Carroll. He lost a win each year, bottoming out at 8-8 in ‘99. He lost mainly with other people’s guys. And the team’s draft picks were horrendous – though Carroll had limited say in personnel.

A .500 record in some years in this age of parity would still be good enough for a playoff slot. With that in mind, it is intellectually dishonest to paint his time here as an unequivocal failure as many do. It is a simpleton’s narrative that fails the memory of a period of a franchise that was on the cusp of greatness but not yet in its midst. To trash the guy that preceded The Guy isn’t fair.

Each of the three teams Carroll coached fell short of expectations. Go ahead and debate how much of a hand he had undoing Parcells’ accomplishments. However, for those of us with the capacity for complex thought, those years served as a worthy prelude to what has transpired in the 15 years since.

Elated, newly hired Pete Carroll:

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Hands-on, slightly creepy Pete Carroll:

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Athletic Pete Carroll (better release than Russell Wilson!):

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Life-is-good Pete Carroll (1997):

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Life-is-hard Pete Carroll (1998):

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The face Patriots fans hope makes an extended cameo on Super Bowl Sunday:

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Lest us forget Bledsoe’s heroics in playing with a broken index finger on his throwing hand. Without a banged up Drew at the helm to steal a couple of games NE had no business winning, the 1998 Patriots would have missed the playoffs and Carroll would have one less playoff loss on his resume right now.

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The ’98 Patriots beat the 49ers at home for the first time since 1975 in a game they needed and which Fuckin’ Scott Zolak started, replacing Bledsoe – who had broken his index finger earlier in the season. (The shy, soft-spoken Zolak handled his success as a back-up with the utmost grace and was never heard from again…)

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Let’s close with this mindfuck: What if Bills linebacker John Holecek, who missed Drew Bledsoe on this scramble in 1999, had managed to gain the same angle going toward the sideline that Mo Lewis had two years later?

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Jason Bay to Belichick: ‘The best defense is a good offense’

Letters continue to pour into Foxboro. On Monday, former Sox skipper Grady Little outlined why Bill Belichick ruined his life. Yesterday, Larry Lucchino sent the Patriots coach some words of encouragement. And today, free agent Red Sox outfielder Jason Bay:

Dear Bill,

I’m with you, dude. Why is everybody overvaluing defense so much these days? The writers, the fans, the coaches, the front offices. Everyone is doing it! Why can’t we go back to the glory days a decade or two ago, when runs (or points) on the scoreboards were what earned guys the big bucks?

Needless to say, I was right with you all the way when you went for it on fourth down on Sunday night. Minimizing the effects of a suspect defense and concentrating on such a worthy strength as high-powered offensive prowess is just fine by me.

Look, you’re talking about a top-tier offensive unit led by one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. It’s pretty simple. If you can’t keep the other team from scoring, you better be able to beat them at their own game. Outslug the bastards.

Six or seven times out of 10, you would have picked up that first down and the game would have been over. I’ll take those percentages every time in my profession.

It’s really not fair when you think about it. Tom Brady throws for almost four hundred yards and three touchdowns. Yet, somehow, everyone forgets about that beautiful, high-flying home run ball to Randy Moss. All they want to talk about is some isolated, relatively rare moment when he didn’t manage to generate a positive play.

I’ll admit it, I’m a hockey fan. I’ve never understood certain things about football and punting is one of those things. There really is no place for it in the modern game. It isn’t 1950 anymore. Why is it that people insist on perpetuating antiquated concepts? Offense is what professional sports teams should be focused on these days.

When it comes down to putting asses in the seats, there’s nothing more effective, more exhilarating than a high-powered offense anchored by a guy who hits a bunch of dingers…or throws a ton of touchdown passes.

Punting on fourth-down-and-two? That’s like Big Papi or Youk laying down a bunt with guys on base. What a waste!

I weep for the next generation if this is the direction professional sports is headed. I really hope everyone comes to their senses in a hurry and realizes that Albert Einstein was right: ‘The best defense is a good offense.’

– Jay Bay, free agent middle-of-the-order slugger, walk machine, run producer (and outfielder)

Larry Lucchino to Belichick: ‘Thanks for the assist’

Grady Little’s email to Bill Belichick that appeared on Fenway Pastoral on Monday night was apparently not the only letter sent to the New England Patriots coach by someone with ties to the Red Sox. To wit:

Dear Bill,

That was awesome. It really was. I admit it. I don’t know the first thing about football, but I guess going for it on fourth down deep in your own territory is kind of a big deal, huh? I’ve faked my way through enough cocktail parties during which a football game was on TV to know that we can do just about anything we want this week and the spotlight is going to remain on you.

Originally, our public relations people were thinking the day before Thanksgiving or perhaps the day after for the annual announcement on ticket prices increases at Fenway Park. Now, though? I’m thinking we didn’t raise them nearly as much as we could have.

I know, I know. We’re raising ticket prices in this economy. Deal with it. If we had known you were going to stir such a ridiculous media frenzy, maybe we would have had a trade in place to deal away David Ortiz, too.

Sometimes good fortune just falls into your lap unexpectedly. I’ve gotta tell you, this is one of those rare moments you savor. You guys have stolen the spotlight away from us a number of years during the crucial ‘Hot Stove’ period in late fall and early winter with your perennially competitive, sometimes dominant teams. Unfortunately, the timing has often been quite poor for us. When we make a splash in free agency or via trade, we don’t want it to get swallowed up in the news cycle just because Tom Brady throws four touchdown passes against a mediocre defense.

Other times, though? When we have to issue a regrettable press release that will be construed by some in Red Sox Nation as a slap in the face? Well, let’s just say you’re something of a hero in our PR offices right now. Sure, some of the minions lost some sleep late Sunday night expediting the seat price increases press release. But it was definitely worth it from where I’m sitting.

Looking ahead to next fall, we’ve got a lot of decisions to be made that could be unpopular. If we do have to let Big Papi or Josh Beckett walk, we would definitely  appreciate some help during November sweeps week when the Colts are in town. Maybe next year, you can try a fake punt inside your own 20-yard-line with under two minutes to go?

Like this year, every blowhard and their mother will undoubtedly pontificate on whether or not they agreed with your decision. Meanwhile, we’ll remain Boston’s media darlings no matter what we do. After all, we’re the Red Sox. Face it, Bill, it’s a baseball town. What the hell have you done in the last five years?

Larry Lucchino, Red Sox President and CEO