NEW YORK CITY — Coaches John Fox and Pete Carroll met for perhaps the last time until their midfield handshake late Sunday evening. Their joint press conference at Manhattan’s Rose Theater featured the prize both seek but neither dared touch: the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Though the laid back Carroll and the straight-from-central-casting-coach Fox may appear as cut from different cloths, the joint press event stressed their similarities. Both come from defensive backgrounds. Both credit legendary coaches–Bud Grant in Carroll’s case, Chuck Knoll in Fox’s–for mentoring them. And both arrive at the Super Bowl after earlier professional derailments.
Carroll points to his tenure at the University of Southern California with allowing him to develop a model that he could rely upon in Seattle. “It really took me getting fired a couple of times,” the former Patriots coach says of his development. He reports that the biggest change in his philosophy was making “it clear to [players] that we’re going to do whatever it takes to give them what they deserve.”Fox similarly relayed that his coaching style developed. “You’re always growing,” the former Panthers coach maintained.” You’re always learning. I’ve always been of the belief that you stop learning you stop living.” Through the ups and downs, Fox relied on an “even-keeled” approach he learned from longtime Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Knoll, who, of course, held the Lombardi Trophy aloft four times.
When asked to reveal what they liked most about the opposing teams, Fox admired “length, speed, and athleticism” of Seattle’s defense. “Yeah, we’d like to have their points,” Carroll dryly admitted. “Yeah, if we had their points our defense could play very well.” He added, “I wish I had their altitude when our kickers are kicking.”
The heaviest and lightest moments of the press conference occurred in one exchange, with the more loose Carroll appropriately providing the humor and the all-business Fox providing the weight, when Denver’s coach discussed his midseason heart issues that required him to pass the reins to Jack Del Rio. “It was obvious that I was going to need medical attention,” Fox said about his life-changing, life-threatening midseason issues. He said the open-heart surgery allowed circulation to flow from an opening “the size of a pinhead” to one the size of “a fifty cent piece.” He likened his return to coaching from open-heart surgery to a minor sports injury: “Really, it was like a sprained ankle–like four weeks.”
“What a stud!” Carroll enthusiastically responded. “He’s comparing open-heart surgery to an ankle sprain.”
All that’s left is to play the game. And with the NFL’s number one offense playing its number one defense, the matchup features the teams that many fans both wanted and expected. “What’s curious to me is that both teams had high expectations,” John Fox observed, “outside and inside of their buildings.” Carroll, inundated with offense-versus-defense questions throughout the week maintained that some unknown player would become known through his surprising play on Sunday. He remarked, “It will be wonderful to see what the storyline is afterward.”