Pete Carroll will never forget his first team meeting as a head coach.
He was still talking about it this past week, 22 years after it happened — and days before Carroll leads his Seahawks (2-1) back to the New Jersey Meadowlands to play his former New York Jets (1-2) on Sunday.
In 1994 the Jets promoted Carroll, their young, buzzing defensive coordinator with the dark, curly hair and non-stop smile, to be a first-time head coach.
But the Jets’ owner, then-79-year-old Leon Hess, was not young or buzzing. He was old school, before old school was cool. Hess had turned his family’s bankrupt fuel-oil company during the Depression into a huge petroleum force. Then he bought the woeful Jets.
Traditional lines of authority, regimentation and structure were Hess’ norm. His Amerada Hess company made him worth an estimated $720 million by the mid-1990s. At the time, he was among the few hundred richest people in America.
And he didn’t get there by winging it.
“The first meeting that we had as a team, the owner, Mr. Hess, sat in that front corner chair right there,” Carroll said Wednesday, pointing about 15 feet to his front and right in the main auditorium of Seahawks headquarters.
Carroll made the whole room at Jets headquarters perk up in ’94 when he declared to the players on Day One: “OK, we don’t have any rules. No rules here.”
Hess about sprung a geyser in the front row.
“Sludge oil magnate and all that. Built his whole history of being a billionaire and working hard, pressing people,” Carroll said. “And I said, ‘There’s no rules. But if you don’t do the right thing, there’s consequences.’
“He was looking at me like, ‘What is this guy talking about?!!’
“That was the first meeting we had. I hadn’t even met the guy hardly. So it didn’t go over very well there. Needless to say, I didn’t get off on the right foot with the owner.
“That was a long time ago. I don’t know what I was thinking. Sounded like a good idea at the time. … That was good experience. That was my first time as a head coach and I didn’t know anything. I was winging it.
“Part of the learning process.”
Asked if he got much pushback from Hess or Jets executives after that on his no-rules approach, Carroll laughed.
“They fired me. Ten months later, I was gone,” Carroll said.
“That’s the ultimate pushback.”
The Jets went 6-10 in Carroll’s only year. The most infamous loss came in the same Meadowlands Sports Complex in which his Seahawks play on Sunday. The Jets’ MetLife Stadium sits on parking lots for what was Giants Stadium from 1976-2010.
“Oh, good. Good. Let’s bring up the Marino play,” Carroll joked when reminded of it this past week.
On Nov. 27, 1994, at Giants Stadium, Carroll’s Jets led Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins, 24-6. Marino rallied Miami to within one score of the lead late in the game. The Dolphins were driving inside the red zone when Marino ran up to the line yelling “Clock! Clock!” The Hall of Fame quarterback also pantomimed a throw into the artificial turf to signal his intent to take the snap and immediately spike the ball, to stop the expiring clock.
Except Marino didn’t. He faked the spike. Dolphins wide receiver Mark Ingram ran past Jets rookie cornerback Aaron Glenn, who seemed to ease up at the snap expecting the spike. Marino’s throw to Ingram in the end zone beat the Jets, 28-24.
Instead of being 7-5 and in first place in the AFC East, Carroll’s Jets fell to 6-6. He never won another game for New York.
Carroll, now 65, will never forget that, either.
“My guy tried to cover him. He wasn’t fooled on the play. It was one-on-one on the outside,” Carroll said. “But everyone made it look like we got fooled on the play. But Aaron Glenn was the guy out there trying to cover, and the guy beat him.
“It was a great play. I’m glad Dan got that one. I never feel like I got him back enough. It was a great moment — for him.”
This, of course, isn’t the first time Carroll is returning to the Meadowlands as Seattle’s coach.
MetLife Stadium was the site of what remains his own great moment. His greatest one in 42 years of coaching, in fact: crushing Denver there in February 2014 to win Super Bowl 48. It is the Seahawks’ first and only NFL championship.
But he had that day what he won’t have Sunday: a fully healthy, elusive Russell Wilson.
The Seahawks’ indispensable quarterback is also proving somewhat indestructible — at least in that he won’t sit out a practice, let alone this or any other game. Despite what is believed to be a high-ankle sprain he got Sept. 11 in the opening win over Miami and the sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee he got last weekend getting sacked from behind in Seattle’s rout of San Francisco, Wilson will start for the 78th consecutive time to begin his NFL career.
“I don’t want to miss a day. Ever,” he said.
But Wilson will not have his usual mobility against the Jets’ nasty defensive line. You don’t need to be in Las Vegas to bet New York’s rugged Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams are going to be charging at Wilson — and Seattle’s shaky offensive line.
Seattle will be starting rookie first-round draft choice Germain Ifedi at right guard for his regular-season debut. Ifedi has been out since days before the opener with his own high-ankle sprain.
Wilson will need to get the ball out more quickly than he did while similarly limited Sept. 18 at Los Angeles, one week after he sprained his ankle. The Seahawks’ three points in that loss was their lowest total in five years.
To be better than that against New York, Christine Michael will need to run early, often and well to keep the Jets from zeroing in on Wilson. Michael is filling in while lead back Thomas Rawls heals a cracked fibula. He is coming off his career highs of 20 carries, 106 yards and two touchdowns — the first two of his four years in the league.
If only he was facing the 49ers again. New York is third in the NFL in rushing defense. And with as physical as the Jets are, Michael may not be able to do all the required running himself. The Seahawks signed former Buffalo Pro Bowl back C.J. Spiller on Wednesday. Carroll said “we’ll see” if Spiller is ready enough to play Sunday.
Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw six interceptions in their 24-3 loss at Kansas City last weekend. New York turned the ball over eight times. The Chiefs returned two of those mistakes for scores.
New York coach Todd Bowles, the former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator, reportedly got after his team this past week. Expect the Jets to come out flying at home. And Fitzpatrick has a history of big bounce-backs from awful games.
Wide receiver Brandon Marshall is huge and physical at 6 feet 4 and 240 pounds. But he has yet to catch a touchdown pass through three games. With Eric Decker (21.6 yards per catch this season) out with a shoulder injury, this may be the first game this season Seattle sticks three-time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman on one top receiver — Marshall — all over the field.
The Seahawks’ front can’t just go after Fitzpatrick, who has been sacked just twice in 115 drop backs. New York has former Chicago lead back Matt Forte running inside and out — and impressing Seattle defensive coordinator Kris Richard.
“You’re talking about a team that’s averaging 130 rushing yards in a game, and it’s not as though he’s doing it quietly,” Richard said. “He’s still putting points up on the board. He’s still crafty. He’s got really good moves. He knows how to make people miss. He’s still a threat out the backfield as a pass receiver.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (2-1) AT NEW YORK JETS (1-2)
Sunday 10 a.m., MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
TV: Ch. 13 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: The Seahawks lead the series against their former AFC foe, 10-8. They have won the past two meetings, each in Seattle in 2008 and 2012. New York’s most recent win in the series was the last time it hosted the Seahawks in the Meadowlands, December 19, 2004. Jerry Rice caught the final touchdown pass of his career, from Matt Hasselbeck, but the Seahawks lost, 37-14. The first meeting was in November 1977, at Shea Stadium in Queens. The Seahawks won that one, 17-0.
Line: Seahawks by 2 1/2.
Run, run. Then run some more: Quarterback Russell Wilson is out of legs to injure. The Jets’ nasty defensive front is targeting him. The running game with Christine Michael coming off a career game is the Seahawks’ best way to keep Wilson from getting pulverized and keep the game in their control. Even if it results in three-and-out drives, a consistent commitment to running the ball will slow down New York’s D-line and allow Wilson extra time he absolutely needs when he does throw. The amount of carries may be more important than the yards rushing for Seattle in this one.
Turn Sherman into Marshall’s shadow: Richard Sherman’s been lonely at times during the first three games. Foes have been targeting opposite cornerback DeShawn Shead instead, and in the few times they have thrown at Sherman it’s been on quick, short routes in front of him. With Eric Decker (shoulder) out, the Jets’ biggest downfield receiving threat is Brandon Marshall. Time for Sherman to go into shadow mode for the first time this season, man-up all over the field with Marshall to take away Ryan Fitzpatrick’s downfield threat.
Protect, preserve: Of course the Seahawks don’t want to go to 2-2 heading into their bye, not with the end of their schedule way tougher than the start. That’s one reason Wilson’s playing on. But making sure their already-endangered quarterback doesn’t get any more injured for 12 games on 12 consecutive weekends following the bye should be Job One for Seattle in the Meadowlands. How that plays out in the heat of competition, of course, is another matter.
The pick: A fully healthy Wilson wins this game by himself. The half-healthy one is going to get besieged by this mean Jets defensive front that has the potential to overwhelm Seattle’s O-line. Jets 16, Seahawks 14.
25 — Richard Sherman, CB (6-3, 195, sixth season): Almost lonely from foes avoiding him so far. Should go into shadow mode vs. Marshall.
32 — Christine Michael, RB (5-10, 221, fourth season): Same as last week: Wilson’s ankle, knee sprained. Rawls out. His running can be the cure.
90 — Jarran Reed, DT (6-3, 311, rookie): Second-round pick has been impressive, but now is questionable. Big hole if he can’t play vs. Mangold.
15 — Brandon Marshall, WR (6-4, 230, 10th season): He’s not going to stay stuck on zero TDs all season. Antsy for the big play deep.
22 — Matt Forte, RB (6-1, 218, ninth season): Engine to the Jets’ 130-yards-per-game rushing attack looks like he still has it at age 30.
74 — Nick Mangold, C (6-3, 307, 11th season): Jets’ best offensive lineman against Seahawks’ Reed or fill-in Tony McDaniel will be a key matchup up front.
Gregg Bell: firstname.lastname@example.org