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John Boyle | jboyle@heraldnet.com
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014, 9:25 a.m.

Pete Carroll, John Fox put new spins on old questions

  • Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll laughs during a press conference Friday morning in New York.

    Joe Nicholson / For The Herald

    Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll laughs during a press conference Friday morning in New York.

Friday of Super Bowl week means both teams' head coaches get to sit together and answer questions they've been answering all week. The most common question for each coach this week seemed to be, for Carroll, some version of, "how have you changed/evolved since your first stint in the NFL?" and for Fox, it's any sort of question about his mid-season heart surgery.

No big news came out of this press conference, but there were some interesting answers. And I did find it a bit funny that Pete Carroll would almost always have Fox answer first when there was a question for both to answer. It seem Carroll likes to defer on more than just the pregame coin toss.

Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox Opening Statement:

"On behalf of our owner Pat Bowlen and the Broncos' organization, I'd like to thank everybody here in the City of New York, Jersey City and the state of New Jersey for all the hospitality, and the host committee, by Mr. (Woody) Johnson and Mr. (Jonathan) Tisch, as well as the Mara family. All of the NYPD, the New Jersey police department who've made us feel very safe. They have taken great care of us, to and from the practice facility. (They are) great escorts. The New York Jets for opening up their facility. It's been a tremendous experience. We get to go there one more time today to practice before we head to MetLife tomorrow. Last, but not least, I'd like to congratulate Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks for a great season and what should turn into be a great game come Sunday night."

Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll Opening Statement:

"Thanks John. Likewise. Just arriving here we've felt the spirit of the area – New York/New Jersey is on fire about this ball game. The message has come through so clear to all of us. Paul Allen and the '12s' that represent and follow our program are alive and well in the area. They're enjoying the heck out of it. We're really proud to be here and representing our football team and all of the people who make this happen. John Schneider, our general manager, has done such a great job of putting this thing together and putting us in position to be here. We feel very fortunate. It's a very exciting matchup with a tremendous football team and a great staff. With the obvious stars on their side, it's going to make for a fantastic matchup. It's great to be doing this here in the New York/New Jersey area just because of all of the history and the background of all the great sports events and teams and events that have happened here. We're really thrilled about it and looking forward to it. Thanks for having us."

(on how preparation went this week)

Pete Carroll: "It's worked out very well. We were excited to get here and wondering what it was all going to be like. Everything has seemed very smooth for us. The media issues, that's new for this week, and our players handled it well. It was organized well so that was not a factor here. Our practices have gone very well. We had a great setup at the New York Giants facility. The practice setup has been ideal for us, so it really worked out great. The energy is perfect, and the players are really ready to play a football game."

(on how they have evolved as coaches since their last NFL head coaching jobs)

Carroll: "That's a long story. There's been a lot of challenges along the way since the days back here in New York. I don't even know where to begin to answer that question, but the evolution has been ongoing and the process is challenging. I think I had a terrific experience in college football back at USC that really was kind of the groundbreaking for me about figuring out how I wanted to do this. I think all of the experiences were beneficial. That time there gave me the opportunity to be in charge and run a program in the same manner that we're doing it here in Seattle. The tough times, are sometimes you can't forget them fast enough, and then other stories you can't forget. The time here in New York, in particular, was extraordinary even though it was so brief. I remember it well, but it has been a long journey, and I'm very excited that we have a chance to go ahead and show you what we're about with the Seattle Seahawks."

John Fox: "I think you're always growing, you're always learning. Life is kind of trial and error. I've always been of the belief that if you stop learning you stop living. Too many individual things to go through right now, but all of it's an experience. It's been a fun season and a great group of guys to be around. A great locker room much like Carolina's (Panthers). A lot of similarities, but then again there's some differences."

(on the fact that the Super Bowl matches two head coaches with defensive backgrounds)

Fox: Well I take tremendous pride. I came up with a guy, Chuck Noll, who is a defensive guy, who I learned a lot from. I've been blessed to be around a lot of great people from ownerships on down to general managers, front office people, as well as coaches. You always take pride. This is a prideful thing to be in this position and play in a game like this with such great history. Don't forget about those defensive guys moving forward."

Carroll: "You've got a couple old DB coaches here, and it's interesting that's how it turned out. It is an offensive era that we're in, and with all the passing game it's gone crazy. Maybe it's fitting that we've been fighting our whole life trying to slow this thing down, and we get a chance to do it here on the biggest stage. Really we have very similar paths and the fact that we're defensive guys, maybe that gives the defensive guys hope that maybe we can hire one of those guys in the league soon."

(on how Seahawks owner Paul Allen has been different in allowing him to coach in his style)

Carroll: "I don't think he's been different, but he's been perfect. He's given us the freedom and the support at every turn to do the things that we wanted to do to make this program come around. I know John (Schneider) and I are so thrilled, that kind of direction and leadership that has allowed us to really take a lot of chances and be supportive in doing so. Really could not ask for a better guy. He's just been incredibly right for us."

(on if it was a change in philosophy or a change in this generation's athletes that led to success for him)

Carroll: "I personally don't feel like I've changed that much. I've just grown and learned how to better send the message out clearly and because the philosophy in my mind is more clear than it's ever been. It really took me getting fired a couple times and getting kicked in the butt and all that to really get it to the point where it is now. Unfortunately, and I hate learning the hard way and I'm sure John (Fox) does too, but sometimes you have to and it's taken some shots to get here. It's a tremendous time for us. As we're getting older we've been through so much and had so many experiences, so you can't help but get better if you keep competing and keep battling. That's really what's happening. The biggest turn in the philosophy I think to make it clear to the players that we are here to support them and make them the best they can possibly be. I think that's come to the front, wanting to continue to live that way in our program and make it clear to them that we're going to do whatever it takes to allow them to have whatever they deserve. That has come a long way to get to that point. That's where we are now, so we see that guys like being around it, they feel good about it and they're trying to do the best they can to stay with it because it's a good place to be. We'll see how it turns out in the years ahead."

(on if players feel a direct responsibility to some of the veteran players who want their chance at a ring)

Fox: I'm sure you're referring to Peyton Manning. We actually do have another guy, Champ Bailey, who's been in the league a long time and has never been to one of these. I think both of those guys, and Pete has guys in his locker room, I'm sure. You can't do it by yourself as a coach, as a head coach, as an assistant coach. It takes leadership in that locker room. I think those guys for our team raise all boats. People don't want to disappoint not just the coach down, or the city, or the organization down, they don't want to let their teammates down. Pete made reference to the culture you set in your building, and I think you need players like that leading the charge. You really can't do it by yourself. I know I appreciate Peyton and Champ and guys like that in that locker room. They're a big part of why we're sitting here."

Carroll: "In contrast, somewhat, we have a very young team, and we have a bunch of guys that are growing up together as a team. It comes together to try to do something special, rallying around the brotherhood of it all. It's very exciting to see how it can be in such different formats and makeups. You can still get championship play coming out of your locker room. We owe so much to those guys that do all the playing. Like John said, we coach them up, but on game day, it's their day. We live to watch them do what they can do, and it's exciting to see them come together with these opportunities and try to max out this chance for them. It's pretty exciting and it's interesting to see how different we can be in the makeups of our team."

(on the significance of the Vince Lombardi Trophy)

Fox: "I think it's a pinnacle for probably everybody that does what we do. It's something you work really hard (for). As Pete (Carroll) mentioned earlier, you take individuals and try to paint a picture of where you want to get to. I think this is the pinnacle of it. Unlike different levels of football, there's only one happy camper at that end. That's going to be the team hoisting that trophy. (The trophy has a) great history and great memories. I think most of us, even out there, grew up and have a Super Bowl memory or moment, whether it was your team or an incredible play. It's been a big part of all of our lives, I think. 'Sweet' would be a good answer for me."

Carroll: "The trophy really does symbolize the ultimate challenge and competitiveness in our sport and in our world of coaching or playing. To dream about being in this position as a kid and then working all through the years of coaching, battling and watching other guys do it and for the first time for us; it's a tremendous honor. It's a tremendous opportunity and it creates an extraordinary challenge to see if you can be the one. It symbolizes a tremendous amount to all of us. We all live with that, our players and our coaches. It's great to be here, and (I'm) thrilled to be doing it, too. It makes for so much fun. The whole build-up, the whole following, knowing it's a global event on game day just adds to the fun of this thing. The challenge continues to be out there for us to reach for, so it's very exciting."

(on the matchup of Denver's offense vs. Seattle's defense)

Fox: "I think a lot has been made of that and rightfully so. Both sides have been fairly historic in what they've accomplished; I'm talking about Seattle's defense and I'm talking about our offense. We both have great pride. I'll let Pete (Carroll) speak to his, but I know I've got great pride in our offense and what it has put forth this year. At the end of the day, it's a team game. I remind everybody that there's three phases of the game and my experience, in whether it's been one of these games or any big spot, is who executes the best and who performs the best. Obviously, your star players have to be great in championship games. There have not been very many championships in any sport where your big players didn't play big. There always seems to be the unknown guy that makes a critical play, whether it's in the kicking game. Lord knows where it's going to come from. My experience has been that there's (always) been one of those events. I think you express that to your team and they understand that this is a performance-based business and you do your best to prepare them and get their minds' right. I think it's going to be a total team effort, at least in my view."

Carroll: "I really couldn't agree more. It's obvious that there's an attraction to the defense and the offense is a logical matchup to look for, but this game is going to be involving so many different aspects of it. It will be interesting to see if that is the story. Is it our defense versus their offense? I really don't believe that's what it's going to be, like John (Fox) thinks. There's so many aspects to this. There's so many phases that will contribute. It will be wonderful to see what the storyline is afterwards. There is a little bit of an undercurrent. Our offensive guys are thinking about it, too. I'm sure his defensive guys are thinking about it, too. They want to be part of this whole factor. There's going to be a lot of guys battling. It's going to be exciting to see the story. For us, it is pretty obvious that we have this enormous challenge of this great season that (Denver's offense) has had and (Denver quarterback) Peyton (Manning) and all that he was able to accomplish. Nobody has really slowed them down. We take that as a big challenge to us, but the game is going so many different ways. We don't know which way it's going to be bounce, but it's probably going to be about someone taking care of the football better than the other and we'll see how that turns out."

(on the aspect of their opponent's team they would like for their own team)

Fox: "You can't slight your own team. Any time you look at an opponent, there's things that you admire about what that they do. I'll leave it just to admiration, not what I'd want to have. Being a defensive coach, I have a little pertinence to the defense. They have very good speed. They really have a stable of rushers that do an outstanding job; they cause havoc. On the back end, they probably have the most talented secondary in the league. I'm talking about across the board, not just one guy. They have great length, great speed. You can tell (Seattle's general manager) John Schneider and the personnel people as well as Pete (Carroll) and his coaching staff that it's something that they have a vision about what they're building. They do an outstanding job of it. I'm not slighting anybody else. I know (Seattle quarterback) Russell Wilson back from N.C. (North Carolina) State and his college days. (He's a) tremendous competitor. I think probably the length and athleticism of their defense is what I look at and it sticks out on tape."

Carroll: "We'd like to have their points. How many points did you (directed at Fox) score, like 800? If we had those points, our defense could play pretty well. That would help us. They have an incredible football team. The fact that they've been so consistent and so on top of this, we really talk about how close they were to being undefeated this year. That's because of their tremendous strengths and the well-rounded football team that they are. I wish I had the altitude when our kickers were kicking. We'd kick it a little farther, and it would go a little truer. We'd like that. We would be wrong not to recognize what a tremendous football season (Denver) has had and the team they've had. We just like the results of winning, and they're truly a winning football team and a winning program. John (Fox) has always been able to do that. That's something we all admire."

(on how Chuck Noll has affected John Fox, how Bud Grant has affected Pete Carroll and their ability to connect with younger players)

Fox: "I don't know so much that it's been about that. You learn styles. You learn approaches. I think for Pete, myself, you have to be yourself. I think ultimately, most of us aren't smart enough to be anybody else. I think personality-wise, I'm not that similar to Coach Noll. I think style and approach. Chuck was very even-keeled. I don't like getting real high and real low after a loss or from a victory. His approach was very pragmatic. (Chuck was) a great technician and a great teacher. Chuck was the kind of guy that if you were a wine connoisseur and you met him somewhere, the next time you met him, he was going to know more about wine than you did. He just loved life and loved acquiring knowledge in all areas. Just being a student of the game from a technical standpoint and the 'even-keeledness' that he had in his approach, were things that I took from him. Personality-wise, as I tell young coaches and coaches that I've had go on to be head coaches, (I just tell them) to be yourself. You can't pretend to be somebody else."

Carroll: "I think all of the guys that I've worked with over the years or that have coached me up, so many guys have made an impression that help you formulate how you want to do this job. They've had a tremendous impact. Coach Grant was an incredible guy for me to be around. He was just so unique and so classic. Interestingly, his son, Michael, is here to receive an award or something. I just saw him in the back, so that family runs deep and is still coaching well. I think John (Fox) made a really clear point there that is so crucial, that it is finding yourself so that you can be yourself and so that you can be true to who you are. You get challenged and you get pulled and tugged in so many directions in this job that you have to be grounded to answer the questions, answer the issues and solve the problems. If you're scattered around trying to be like somebody else that you were with, you're going to falter. It's a tremendous for us to figure that out. That's all part of the process as we go along to try to figure out who we are so that we can truly be ourselves. Send that message so clearly, so that people that have to listen and follow, can get a clearer signal. I'm so grateful to all the guys that have helped me along the way, have given me direction, kicked me in the butt when I needed it and showed me the kind of examples that we need to learn by. It isn't always a guy you coached with. There's some tremendous coaches that we've all learned under that we never even worked with, but we studied and followed their lead, too. It's really exciting to be able to represent those guys and the background that we had to get to this point."

(on speaking at the first team meeting about handling the high expectations for this season)

Carroll: "Our language, since the first meeting we had when we arrived, was to get to this point. It was to talk about the preparation it would take, to be mindfully ready to be available for this opportunity, and to make the most of it when it comes. When this season began, the expectations had really elevated based on the year before. It just set us to the next level of expectation – of how to deal with the hype, the fan following and the concerns that follow this kind of attention. With a young team, it was really important for our guys to be quiet, listen, watch and learn so that we could feel normal in the moments that would come our way. So that we could be ourselves and perform like we're capable. This is the ultimate challenge to do that once again. I don't think you could ever get a team ready if you just all of a sudden start talking about it the week or two weeks before. They would never have the background. We've been preparing for this moment for years. The fact that we made it here and our guys are handling it well is a statement that they've been listening, but we still have the game to play, and we'll find out what that means. Even without the result of the game, we've come a long way. They do understand that this is a rare opportunity, and we have to handle this very well and find the humility so that we can deal with it properly and perform like we're capable. It's been a fun journey to see this happen with a bunch of young guys, and I'm really anxious to see how they handle game day when it comes around."

(on whether he had any doubts about coming back to coaching after open-heart surgery)

Fox: "(I) really never had any doubts. It's been a long time since I've missed a game. I think way back to my playing days. As a coach you don't get used to missing time. It's just not part of your relevance. I really had to search back to my playing days. It was obvious that I was going to need some medical attention. I had a great medical team. They gave me a great projection of what the rehab was going to be like, how fast I could get back to normalcy – that is coaching for me. Really, it was like a sprained ankle. It was going to be four weeks. There were some things I had to do. Obviously, there was a little healing process. That took about 10 days. I was back to work on a Monday, four weeks post-op from open-heart surgery. I felt 150 percent better. I had a valve that was probably the opening the size of a pinhead. Now, it's a 50-cent piece. Just from a feeling good standpoint, I feel way, way, way better than I did two months ago. I never really gave it a second thought about coming back not being an option, or returning to coaching being an option. It's worked out pretty well."

Carroll: "What a stud. He's comparing an open-heart surgery and being on his back to an ankle sprain. Congratulations on that. That's really amazing. Come on John. That's awesome."

(on how his approach has been with Peyton Manning since he has Super Bowl experience)

Fox: "I get asked about him a lot. He's a great player, but he is a player. Players need to be coached. Players need to be consoled. It's like having kids. He's been tremendous. Leadership moments – there are too many to name; during games, on the sideline and in the meeting room. Anytime you have veteran players that have experiences, you like them to share. We were able to do that with not only people in the building, but even outside the building. He's been a tremendous leader for the two years he's been a Bronco and I'm sure for the 14 years he was in Indy as well. I can't speak to that. He does it every day. The guy has unbelievable time management. He has unbelievable work ethic. I think that's contagious. There would be too many individual leadership moments to name, but he's been tremendous. He's very even-keeled, very loose and very focused on the task at hand; much like we expect all our players to be."

(on the impact John Elway's talk to the team had after their loss to Seattle in the preseason)

Fox: "What's curious about this game to me is that both teams had high expectations, both outside and inside of their buildings. Sure that's easy if it happens all the time, but to be here, to be sitting here, it's a lot of hard work to meet those expectations. We had high ones going in. I think it was a preseason game. We did not play very well. Not taking anything away from them. It actually was a butt-kicking. When you get into camp you might have little lulls or whatnot. John asked to speak to the team. He ended up doing pretty good. Hopefully, he pissed them off a little bit. I think it shook them up. Woke them up. I thought it had a good effect on us. We came back a little grittier and a little more determined. Camp can get kind of camp-ish. It got us going. I think it was good, but we still had two weeks of training camp to go."

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