Despite very different personas, Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick have a lot in common. The two oldest coaches in the league are both Super Bowl-winning leaders with long, storied careers in the game. They’ve both earned paychecks signed by Patriots owner Robert Kraft. And, in the past week or so, they’ve both drawn criticism from former players.
On May 25, defensive end Cliff Avril told NFL Network Carroll began to lose his locker room after Super Bowl 49 after calling the play that led to Malcolm Butler’s game-sealing interception rather than just running the ball from New England’s 1-yard line with Skittle-powered wrecking ball Marshawn Lynch. “So I think guys started questioning him more, more so than actually following his lead if we would have won that Super Bowl,” said Avril.
That put some offseason pressure on Carroll, but the ant-frying lens of the offseason news cycle quickly moved on to another former Seahawk. Cassius Marsh spent just nine games with the Patriots last fall because being released, but even that was too much time for the pass-rushing defensive end. The now-49er took aim at his former franchise in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle:
“They asked me to do a bunch of stuff that I had never done: covering running backs and receivers and basically almost never rushing the passer, which is what I did in playing defensive line,” Marsh told reporter Eric Branch. “They don’t have fun there. There’s nothing fun about it. There’s nothing happy about it. I didn’t enjoy any of my time there, you know what I’m saying? It made me for the first time in my life think about not playing football because I hated it that much.”
That brought an interesting question back into the NFL’s orbit.
Would you rather play for Pete Carroll or Bill Belichick, regardless of their rosters?
This week’s NFL Would You Rather? asks which coach you’d rather play for if you were an NFL player — and not just a frustrated, since-released defensive lineman? Would you opt for Belichick’s no-nonsense, Do Your Job winning ways? Or the less-successful, but fun-embracing Carroll, who has piloted the Seahawks to two NFC titles and six playoff appearances in his eight years in Seattle?
For simplicity’s sake, let’s say you’re not getting the Patriots or the Seahawks for this rhetorical question — you’re just getting a randomly assembled roster of NFL talent led by either coach. So who would you prefer as your boss?
The case for: Pete Carroll’s more-fun weirdness
Bill Belichick has a coaching resume without compare. And because he’s a brilliant football mind who wins at an obnoxious rate, he gets a pass for a lot of things: for his grouchy, curt responses to questions from the press; for his power-trip mind games with his quarterback; for his bordering-on-soulless style of coaching; for being friends with Donald Trump.
After a certain age, you should realize that the strong, silent type isn’t a virtue if it means being emotionally unavailable. They don’t hold any secret wisdom. Sometimes assholes are just assholes because they can be.
Some people thrive in that environment. They need that feeling of sheer terror that any mistake you make will cost you your dignity and potentially your job. Some of us don’t. We don’t respond to threats of belittling if we screw up.
Work is work, but on some level — especially when it involves football — you should be able to enjoy it. No one wants to live in misery every day. That doesn’t make you weak. Putting up with that kind of hell doesn’t indicate you’re better and tougher than those who don’t believe that to demean means to build character.
I don’t doubt that Carroll makes his players work: Six straight winning seasons and a Super Bowl victory can attest to that. And I don’t think he’s in a constant of state of kumbaya where he showers them with a never-ending stream of praise, either. But I think because of Carroll’s personality, the Seahawks probably have their share of fun and get weird sometimes too.
Even when he tries to coin hippie-sounding slogans like “new empathy” that don’t really say much at all except that he knows how to use thesaurus.com, Carroll’s heart seems to be in the right place. At its core, the message is something we can all get behind: As our great philosophers once said, “be excellent to each other.”
Treating people with respect and allowing them to be themselves is a healthy approach to work and life in general. I think Carroll wants everyone to learn and grow on and off the field, and be aware of what’s happening in the world. Sometimes that open-mindedness has its downside. Maybe you have to listen to a conspiracy theory here and there, or he invites a truly problematic person to speak to your team. But you’d also have the freedom to speak up and disagree — or hell, just skip that meeting. Tell him you went to a meditation retreat. He’ll let it slide.
So if you’re like me and don’t think your own mental well-being and winning are mutually exclusive concepts — and you have an appreciation for a little weirdness — then you’d pick Carroll.
— Sarah Hardy
The case for: Bill Belichick’s gruff, Super Bowl-winning ways
Pete Carroll was ... fine in his three seasons as New England’s head coach. He took the Patriots to two postseasons; at the time, that tied the franchise record for most career playoff appearances as a head coach. The problem for him is that he was succeeded by Belichick, who got at least a little bit lucky with the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft, fought through a 5-11 debut season, made some roster tweaks, and then made Carroll look like a dummy.
In 18 years, that first season remains the only time he’s had a losing record in New England. In his second year, he implemented an offense that elevated second-year quarterback Tom Brady to Super Bowl MVP. Since 2001, he’s averaged 12.3 wins per regular season and racked up 27 total playoff wins, including five NFL championships. No one in league history has ever won like Belichick has won.
That’s one hell of a resume, and it’s also partially why he can get away with the rigid demands he makes of his players. His coaching tree gets pretty barren when you’re looking for NFL success because you need that kind of past credibility in order to push the extreme team-first, no-nonsense attitude with which the Patriots have thrived. Without those Super Bowl wins, Belichick is just another hard-ass in danger of losing his locker room.
With those rings, he’s the kind of leader who commands your respect, whether you’re an undrafted free agent looking to make his mark in the league or a grizzled veteran working on one last run at the Lombardi Trophy. The “Patriot Way” is non-transferable without BB behind it.
The other reason? Because Belichick lives his gimmick. If you’re putting in an 80-hour week, he’s in for 95. He asks you to be a football robot because he, in fact, is a football robot. There’s something relatable to that lack of humanity. The fact Belichick is willing to do everything you have to, minus the physical expenditure, lends some comfort to the fact you just ran your 30th conditioning drill of the afternoon. It’s going to lead somewhere — and I’m not sure I’d be confident suggesting the same for Carroll.
— Christian D’Andrea
Which Super Bowl-winning coach would you rather play for?
This poll is closed