Q. Charlie, four times you went head to head with Pete Carroll in 1998 and 1999 with you as the offensive coordinator. Do you recall those games? What do you recall about those games?
COACH WEIS: I just always remember feeling that they had a very good scheme and they were very well coached. And really it was going back and forth between the New England/Jet combinations and we were on flip sides. Sometimes, I was in New England, sometimes he was with the Jets; sometimes I was with the Jets and he was in New England. Okay. Pete knows me very well. He knows what I like to do. I like to think I know what he likes to do. It's just going to come down to us having to execute very well against what they do.
For all the pomp and circumstance surrounding this weekend's game between Notre Dame and Southern Cal, surprisingly little has been made of the shared history between the two coaches. Not only did they square off previously in the NFL, but Weis and Carroll are also in the unique position of having played musical chairs with coaching roles for New England and the New York Jets. The accumulated product of that past experience might portend that Carroll will arrive in South Bend later this week with more than his Trojans' undefeated record and #1 ranking to protect.
Here's a season-by-season review of the jockeying done by Carroll and Weis within the AFC East over the past decade:
• 1994: After serving as their defensive coordinator for four years, Carroll is in his first season as a first-time head coach of the New York Jets, while Weis is coaching tight ends under Bill Parcells in New England. Carroll starts his inaugural campaign by beating the reigning AFC champion Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos before losing three straight games. A 24-13 win over the Pats in week seven pushes New York back over .500 briefly, but the season eventually falls apart on Carroll. The Jets lose their final five games -- including a 24-13 loss to New England -- to finish 6-10, and Carroll is dismissed in the aftermath in favor of Rich Kotite (insert gratuitous cheap shot at Jets management here). Meanwhile, Parcells, Weis and the Patriots finish tied for the AFC East at 10-6. Although they lose the wild card game, the season represents a huge step forward from the 5-11 mark posted during the staff's first season in 1993 and a harbinger of positive developments to come.
• 1997: Riding the good vibes of an AFC East title and Super Bowl appearance in New England the previous season, Weis (now a coordinator) and Parcells have moved on to New York to refurbish the Jets, 1-15 in 1996 and entirely Kotite-d out. And after rehabilitating his reputation for two years as San Francisco's defensive coordinator, Carroll has now resurfaced as a head coach in, of all places, New England, replacing Parcells' staff. To reiterate, Carroll is inheriting a team in the Patriots that won 10 more games in the previous season than the crew Weis and Parcells are charged with leading. Carroll again gets out of the gate quickly, winning five of his first six games, including a 27-24 win over the Jets in week three. However, New York settles in and sends Carroll and the Patriots into a 1-4 tailspin with a 24-19 victory in week eight. Ultimately, Carroll leads New England to a successful defense of its AFC East crown, finishing 10-6 and beating Miami in the opening round of the playoffs before losing a 7-6 nailbiter to Pittsburgh. The Jets close the season just shy of the Patriots and a postseason berth at 9-7, but the difference between this team and the edition a year earlier is painfully clear. New York's point differential in 1996 was -175; in 1997 under Parcells, Weis and the rest of the new staff, it's +61.
• 1998: With the squalor of the previous regime now firmly in the rearview, New York goes 12-4 and wins the AFC East going away, sweeping Carroll's Patriots (24-14 and 31-10) in the process. The Jets win their playoff opener but lose in the AFC championship to Denver, who ultimately wins the Super Bowl. Due in large part to Weis' shocking rehabilitation of journeyman Vinny Testaverde (29 touchdown passes against 7 interceptions), his Jets offense finishes the season second in the AFC and fifth in the NFL in points scored. Two years prior, New York ranked 27th in the same category. The Patriots are still solid, 9-7 and a first-round playoff loser, but appear to be losing a bit of momentum from the their Super Bowl run of two seasons before.
• 1999: This proves to be a mediocre, 8-8 year for both the Jets and Patriots, as each team loses a critical offensive performer (Testaverde and running back Robert Edwards, respectively) for most or all of the campaign. Unfortunately for Carroll, the familiar and disappointing arc of his team's performance -- a 4-0 start marred by a 2-6 finish -- costs him his job. Without Testaverde for all but one game, the Jets offense finally settles into a groove with Ray Lucas under center and wins its final four regular season games to finish a respectable .500. For his efforts, Weis is hired away for OC duty on the staff of Bill Belichick, who just happens to have been tabbed to replace Carroll in New England.
• 2000-05: After a rocky opening season of 5-11, the Patriots' new leadership takes hold. The team wins three Super Bowls over the next four years and becomes universally recognized as a historic dynasty. Weis' work in cobbling a productive, yeoman offense out of mostly underwhelming material is integral to New England's success, including the development of former sixth-round draft pick Tom Brady into a two-time Super Bowl MVP and the heartbeat of a championship team. By the end of his tenure, Weis receives a deluge of positive media coverage for his contributions, generally focusing on his reputation as one of the most capable tactical minds in the NFL.
During the entirity of Pete Carroll's run as an NFL head coach, Weis has been there on the opposing sideline matching his offense against Carroll's defense every step of the way and finding more success at each stop. Weis helped rebuild the Patriots into a Super Bowl team, then jumped to the Jets and assisted in improving on what Carroll accomplished there in 1994 while, concurrently, Carroll failed to live up to the standard set by the previous regime in New England. And even while Carroll was reestablishing Southern Cal as a national power in college football starting in 2001, he had to look up the next rung of the ladder and watch Belichick and Weis make history in the same job that Carroll was fired from immediately prior to their arrival.
Considering Carroll's noted ego and understandable misgivings about unfinished business as an NFL coach, it's not much of a leap in logic to think that he harbors a bit of extra impetus to beat Weis' ND squad and beat them badly.
To take it a step further, the idea of Weis crashing the party by showing up on the college scene to coach Southern Cal's primary rival and potentially one-up his old sparring partner once more has to be a source of some consternation for Carroll, if not his worst nightmare. At this point, Carroll might begin considering the possibility that Charlie has it out for him, like some kind of robot genius sent back in time for the specific purpose of thwarting him. While it's probably not fitting to say that Carroll is "scared" of Weis, it is reasonable to think that there might be some bad vibes on his end, vibes that might manifest themselves in Carroll's approach to the ND game as well as his dialogue (witness the incendiary comments reportedly made about Weis and ND at a private luncheon with SC boosters earlier in the year).
Given the history between the two, I can't blame Pete for feeling a little less than secure about what the future might hold.