RENTON — In a game that will go a long way in determining the success or failure of their present — and shaping their future — Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith and coach Pete Carroll will each have to kill a bit of their past. .
“Kind of an old acquaintance coming in,” was how Carroll put it this week during Sunday’s visit to Lumen Field by the New York Jets, a contest that’s pretty much a deal breaker for playoff hopefuls. Seattle playoffs.
New York was where Smith’s NFL career began after he was drafted by the Jets with the 39th overall pick in 2013, leading to a two-year stint as a starter that ended in a controversy and led to a stay of seven seasons as a substitute before relaunching. his career this season with the Seahawks.
And it was in New York that Carroll got his first head coaching job at any level in 1994, named to succeed Bruce Coslet, another University of the Pacific graduate for whom he had been coordinator. defensive the previous four years.
After a 6-10 season in which the Jets lost their final five games, Carroll was surprisingly fired, a decision that left Carroll, then 43, stunned and facing his own uncertain future.
“Really, we kind of go as partners in crime, that we were both there,” Carroll said this week, referring to Smith. “It didn’t quite work out in the end, so we’re just sharing the experience a bit.”
The fact that each has now found success elsewhere — Carroll having secured his Super Bowl title with the Seahawks in the same MetLife territory he coached the Jets — perhaps helps to ease any bitterness. And obviously in Carroll’s case, as he said this week, “it was so long ago that it’s not a factor.”
For Smith, the experience is fresher. He immediately started as a rookie in 2013 and held the position until 2014.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was brought in the following year to rival Smith as Todd Bowles took over as Rex Ryan’s coach. But the competition never really came to fruition as Smith broke his jaw when he was punched in the locker room by teammate IK Enemkpali over what would have been a dispute over $600 – announcing the injury, Bowles said Smith had been “punched”. ”
By the time Smith was healthy in late September, Fitzpatrick was rolling and Bowles decided to keep him as a starter as the Jets went 10-6 – their last winning season.
Smith started just five games over the next seven years before landing the starting job with Seattle this year.
But at his weekly press conference Thursday, Smith preferred to focus on the positives of his Jets’ experience and what happened later.
“My time there, I really enjoyed it,” he said. “It helped me grow as a man, it was a good time for me. It was a time for me to learn and grow in the league, and that was good.
“…Obviously it was a freak accident. Things happen, and you don’t wish that on anyone. But it was an amazing time for me to learn and practice resilience and patience. It took a lot of patience and a lot of hard work to even have the opportunity to compete again as a starter after all that happened. I enjoyed all the things I went through and then obviously I was able to turn it around and turn it into a positive outcome.
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Perhaps the biggest lesson, he said, was learning to deal with what happens in a league of unpredictability. Adapting quickly to his new role as a substitute allowed Smith to stick around long enough to eventually come out on the other side.
“That genre became my career for a while, being a great teammate, trying to help guys improve and doing whatever it took to help the team win outside the game,” said Smith. “Just in that time frame and when I was going through that, I really had time to reflect. It was the first time I hadn’t played or started in maybe 10 years. I’ve been playing football for long time i started many seasons then boom something happens where now you have to sit in. What’s different was hard but also taught me a lot and helped me grow.
The same goes for Carroll following a layoff in New York that he says left him off guard.
The decision was reportedly made solely by owner Leon Hess, who was discouraged by the five-game losing streak to end the season and wanted to hire Rich Kotite, a former longtime Jets assistant who had just been fired by the Eagles. The move didn’t work out as the Jets went 4-28 in Kotite’s two years.
For Carroll, two years as defensive coordinator with the 49ers after being fired by the Jets helped relaunch his career and led to a three-year stint as Patriots coach. This too ended in a shooting. But he had at least gotten three years, and a tenure that led to many valuable lessons – namely, doing things his way if he ever got another head coaching job and making sure that he basically had the final say on any personnel changes – that he took him with him to USC in 2001, where his head coaching career finally began to flourish.
“It was a great experience,” Carroll said of his time with the Jets. “Coaching in New York is really something. It’s hard to imagine what it’s like when you come back from the Meadowlands in the daytime to Long Island and walk through all these people. As we were crossing the boardwalk in coming back and all the lights that were on in all these tall buildings knowing that they had just watched the Giants and the Jets play football and they were either happy or pissed off in some way. really unique. I never forgot it and I think of it really highly. It was really fun.”
For everyone, however, the Jets now represent an opportunity to take full advantage of a season that started with such promise but was overtaken by five losses in the last six games to potentially knock Seattle out of the playoffs.
Regardless of what happens, Smith, who may be a free agent at the end of the year, has secured himself another shot as a starter, most likely in Seattle, but definitely somewhere.
And for Carroll, the 6-3 start seemed to show that at 71 there was still a lot of coaching to do. But two more wins and a playoff berth would surely make it one of the best coaching jobs of his career.
“For me and this team, it’s business as usual,” Smith said. “Another week to prepare and a tough challenge for us to go out there and try to get that win. We need it.”