Frank Reich played in Pete Carroll's coaching debut
FLASHBACK: Pete Carroll excels in coaching debut, forcing Bills to use backup Reich in garbage time: Seaside Joe 1663
For all the teams thrilled with a 2-0 start, and specifically I’m looking at the Buccaneers, Falcons, Saints, and Moons above all, heed the warning of Pete Carroll’s 1994 New York Jets. A first-time head coach after spending four years as New York’s defensive coordinator, Carroll made his debut on September 4, 1994 against a team that had made the Super Bowl in each year he had been with the Jets thus far.
You read that right right: In all four seasons that Pete Carroll was the defensive coordinator of the New York Jets, the Buffalo Bills won the AFC and reached the Super Bowl. Now his first task as a head coach was to beat them. In fact, in his first two games as the Jets head coach, Carroll had to play against quarterbacks who had reached a combined seven Super Bowls.
Sure, they went 0-7 in those Super Bowls, but still have you ever heard of such a thing? Better yet, have you heard of a head coach beating both Jim Kelly and John Elway in a span of eight days? You can watch his entire coaching debut on YouTube, and with an eerily similar storyline to Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s mentioned in the first minute: Jets receiver Rob Moore had missed the final two preseason games with a broken wrist but made it back in time to play in Week 1.
Facing a team with Hall of Famers like Marv Levy, Jim Kelly, and Thurman Thomas, and on the road no less, Carroll’s Jets were huge underdogs to the only team in NFL history to reach four straight Super Bowls. Buffalo came out firing on the first drive, moving the chains at will, but New York’s defense stuffed Thurman Thomas on third-and-2 to hold the Bills to an opening field goal.
That feels like typical Pete ball. What happened next certainly doesn’t.
On the first offensive drive of his career as a head coach, the Jets converted three third downs, until Buffalo finally stopped them at their own 2-yard line. Facing fourth-and-Goal from the 1, Carroll opted to go for it and running back Richie Anderson punched it in to give New York a 7-3 lead at the start of the second quarter.
I guess old habits don’t die that hard.
In his debut, Carroll’s defense completely dominated the four-time reigning AFC champions, holding the Bills to three points and beating Levy, a coaching legend who got to Buffalo only two years after Carroll had started his career there. Carroll’s players also doused him with Gatorade with three minutes remaining, probably also a first for an NFL head coach: Getting “the bath” during your first ever day on the job.
"What we're happy about is the players' taking it in stride," Carroll said. "We want a balance in our attitude. Our players came in with expectations of winning."
Backup quarterback Jack Trudeau was especially happy about the win, saying “It’s the first time in my nine years in the league I’ve ever been in a winning game in Buffalo.”
Right off the top, Pete Carroll wasn’t just a 1-0 head coach. He was an instant hero in probably the hardest city in the country to be accepted in as a sports figure and he was loving it.
He was also classic Pete, as broadcaster Paul Maguire made the comment in the fourth quarter: “Pete Carroll has walked 326 miles today. He doesn’t slow down.”
So dominant was Carroll’s debut against Jim Kelly that the final two plays of the game were passes by Bills backup quarterback Frank Reich, who is now going to be on the other sideline as Carolina’s head coach when the Seahawks host the Panthers in Week 3. The reunion-of-sorts comes a week after Carroll faced and beat Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, the former Jets cornerback who made his NFL debut in the very same game.
A week after beating the Bills, Carroll’s Jets were tasked with facing a Broncos team with Elway that had been to the playoffs the year before and to the AFC Championship game two years prior to that. Denver took a 19-14 lead in the third quarter, but somebody forgot to tell Elways that that’s not when you win the game.
The game went to overtime, just as it did for Carroll’s Seahawks in Week 2 on Sunday. The Jets won on the first drive of OT, just as the Seahawks did on Sunday.
(In a less related but slightly on-topic piece of NFL history, Elway’s backup quarterback that day was Seattle radio’s Hugh Millen.)
So there you are, Pete Carroll, can’t be defeated and New York is ready to embrace you like you’re the first Aaron Rodgers.
Unfortunately, Carroll’s third game as the Jets coach came against Dan Marino and just like it wasn’t for Elway and Kelly’s Super Bowl appearances, third time was not a charm. The Miami Dolphins shot through Carroll’s defense like Hurricane Dan for a 28-7 victory (head coach Don Shula being the second Hall of Famer he had faced and even Denver’s Wade Phillips has a case as a defensive coordinator) and I doubt Pete was getting free dinners in Manhattan after that.
The Jets lost to the Bears in Week 4, then to Bill Belichick’s Browns in Week 5, scoring just seven points in each game.
Carroll would lead the Jets to wins in four of their next six games, including another over Buffalo, and New York was 6-5 headed into the final stretch. But something may have broken for Carroll’s Jets the next week, when they blew a 24-6 lead against Miami in Dan Marino’s legendary “fake spike” game. If you could possibly imagine “What’s the complete opposite of how Pete Carroll’s coaching career started?” this would be the answer:
The Jets weren’t very competitive in any of their last four games and Carroll was fired after a 6-10 season.
So I don’t want to rain on anyone’s 2-0 parade right now. I’m just saying…heed. Heed.
What would the Seahawks look like today if they had made a blockbuster trade for Bryce Young, the Panthers QB who they will face in Week 3? I take a look in Monday’s bonus episode of Seaside Joe: Read Here!
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Week 3 will not be the first time that Pete and Reich have met since 1994.
In his second game as an NFL offensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers in 2014—20 years and 10 days after the Bills-Jets game—Reich helped Philip Rivers get a win over the Seahawks, 30-21.
Two years later, his first season with the Philadelphia Eagles in the same role, Reich was on the losing end of a 26-15 game against Seattle in 2016. The Seahawks won again the next year, 24-10, but Reich helped the Eagles win the Super Bowl a couple months later and parlayed that into a head coaching job with the Colts in 2018.
Reich wouldn’t face the Seahawks until his fourth year on the job, losing 28-16 in Week 1 of the 2021 season. That is thus far the only time that Carroll and Reich have faced off as head coaches.
Carroll had to go against an extra share of Hall of Fame coaches to start his career. Now Reich gets to face one in his third game with the Panthers.
One more thing: I mentioned at the end of last season that Pete Carroll needed one more win to surpass Mike Holmgren for 17th all-time and he got that on Sunday against the Lions. Carroll now has 162 career regular season wins, one more than Holmgren’s 161. He’s two behind Mike Tomlin for 16th, four behind Paul Brown, eight behind Tom Coughlin and Mike Shanahan, 10 behind Bill Parcells, and 11 behind Jeff Fisher.
Carroll and Holmgren’s careers are almost identical:
Holmgren was 161-111
Carroll is 162-112
In the playoffs, Carroll is 11-11 all-time, while Holmgren retired at 13-11.