It’s Deja Vu For Patriots Coach Carroll
When New York Jets owner Leon Hess abruptly dismissed Pete Carroll after only one season as coach in 1994, Hess confided to associates that he thought the team quit on Carroll in the wake of a devastating loss to the Miami Dolphins, the game that ended with the famed “Fake-Spike Play” by Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, the game that began a season-ending five-game losing streak.
Three years later, Carroll is confronting a frighteningly similar situation with the New England Patriots. After starting 4-0 and showing remarkable offensive firepower, the Patriots have lost three of their last four and now face three straight road games. It could be a defining stretch for the team and the coach.
Should the Patriots continue their skid, questions about Carroll’s competence as a head coach threaten to further erode his increasingly fragile credibility. Even now, several Patriots players are saying privately that Carroll’s style, which is far more permissive than the man he replaced, Bill Parcells, has had a negative effect on the team. Indeed, the Patriots have beaten only one team that has a winning record, and that was only because Jets kicker John Hall missed a chip-shot field goal in Week 3.
The Patriots have subsequently come up small in big games against the Denver Broncos, Jets and Green Bay Packers.
Carroll acknowledges doubt has crept into the locker room, but he believes the team’s problems are nothing that a few wins won’t cure.
The Jets’ Neil O’Donnell is the AFC’s fourth-rated passer, on pace for 24 touchdowns and six interceptions. But he also is looking over his shoulder at Glenn Foley.
“Forget those numbers,” coach Bill Parcells said. “They don’t count. Get your team in the end zone. That’s how you judge quarterbacks.”
In O’Donnell’s last 27 possessions, the Jets scored three touchdowns, the same number Foley put on the board in his first three series against New England.
If the Kansas City Chiefs are beating the Pittsburgh Steelers at halftime Monday night, watch out. In the last six games, the Steelers’ Kordell Stewart has a second-half passer rating of 135.2, close to the perfect score of 158.3. In the first half, his rating is a miserable 50.9. He has thrown eight touchdown passes and no interceptions in the second half of those games. In the first, he has thrown two TD passes and seven interceptions.
“He’s definitely a second-half guy,” receiver Yancey Thigpen said. “He’s a winner, a guy who is going to get it done by any necessary means. That’s what it takes in the second half when you’re behind.”
Minnesota’s Robert Smith stormed through September and Detroit’s Barry Sanders thundered through October. Emmitt Smith and Ricky Watters have the reputations, and Dorsey Levens gets plenty of attention as the featured back of the Super Bowl champion Packers.
But laboring quietly in the silence of the 1-7 Bears is Raymont Harris, who is having a Pro Bowl-type season if anyone cares to notice. He has carried the ball an NFC-high 173 times and scored an NFC-high seven touchdowns, including one in each of his last three games. He also has four 100-yard rushing games.