Hartman: Carroll, Vikings were a missed connection

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 16, 2013 - 10:34 PM
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Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talked with the injured Percy Harvin over the summer. Carroll is in his fourth year in Seattle, a quarter-century after his stint as a Vikings assistant coach. As for Harvin, the star receiver is expected to make his debut for his new team against his former one Sunday when the Seahawks play host to the Vikings.

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As the Vikings get ready to face the Seahawks on Sunday, it’s worth remembering that Pete Carroll — who has a combined 34-24 record through four seasons in Seattle and has the best record in the NFC this year at 9-1 — nearly became the Vikings coach more than two decades ago.

In January 1992, it was looking more and more likely that the Vikings would name Carroll, then the New York Jets defensive coordinator, to replace the retiring Jerry Burns.

Around New Year’s Day, Vikings President Roger Headrick received permission from the Jets to contact Carroll. “I don’t discuss specifics,” Headrick told the Star Tribune at the time, but Carroll was generally considered the most likely candidate to be hired.

Headrick will no doubt deny this, but he was telling certain people in the Vikings office there was a good chance Carroll would be the next coach. Carroll, a close friend of mine to this day, told me he thought he was going to get the job. He had impressed Vikings brass when he was the team’s defensive backs coach from 1985 to ’89.

Eventually the Vikings also looked at San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren, Louisville coach Howard Schnellenberger and Stanford coach Denny Green.

Schnellenbeger stayed at Louisville, Holmgren headed to the Green Bay Packers and the Vikings settled on Carroll and Green as their two finalists. Going into the last week before Headrick made his decision, Carroll was still the front-runner.

One late candidate also emerged when New York Giants coach Bill Parcells called to see if Headrick was still looking for candidates, but he said the team already was down to its final two choices.

Yes, if NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and ex-49ers coach Bill Walsh hadn’t gone to bat for Green, there is little doubt Carroll would have been hired. Tagliabue was interested in more black coaches being hired in the NFL. Green was hired Jan. 10 and proceeded to go 101-70 over a 10-year career guiding the Vikings.

Carroll remained with the Jets as a defensive coordinator for two more seasons, became head coach in 1994 and was fired after one 6-10 season. He spent two years with the 49ers as a defensive coordinator, three years as coach of the Patriots and eventually settled at Southern California, where he established a tremendous coaching record that landed him his current position with the Seahawks.

At the time, Carroll said he and Headrick were supposed to meet one last time, but it never happened.

“Roger Headrick and I were supposed to get together and talk it over one more time, but we had trouble connecting on how to get together,” he told the Star Tribune. “We never got it arranged because they started to go the other way, I guess. He called me around 10:30 a.m. to tell me he made a verbal commitment to Dennis Green. I told him good luck and I’ll see you later.”

Peterson tore up Seahawks last year

Adrian Peterson had a number of tremendous games last season on his way to 2,097 rushing yards, but his performance in Seattle, against a tremendous Seahawks defense, where he rushed for 182 yards on only 17 carries and scored two touchdowns, had to be one of the best.

Peterson was asked what he expects this year from a Seattle defense that has given up 111 rushing yards per game and only four rushing touchdowns on the season.

“Just as a group, they’re playing some good, sound football up front,” Peterson said. “They cause a lot of havoc, a team that really swarms to the ball. It’s another challenge for us. We know what we need to do, and so yeah, I’m looking forward to playing these guys.”

For Peterson to be successful, he said the Vikings will need quarterback Christian Ponder to play as well as he did in the last game against Washington, when he posted a 113.1 quarterback rating and completed 17 of 21 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings’ second victory of the season.

“His play is very key to our offense and being balanced,” said the 2012 NFL MVP. “We’re going to need him to continue to perform well. His preparation, I’m sure that’s what he’s looking into doing — coming in making sure that he’s crossing his T’s and dotting his I’s and making sure that he’s prepared to go out there and play his role.

“We all have a role to play and we hold each other accountable, so hopefully we can get him playing the way he played last week.”

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