Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Fellow NFL alum
is Jones’ mirror image

THEY'RE fun house mirror images, these two men who will be standing a sideline away a week from Saturday. Bizzaro counterparts. Negative opposites from the same frame of film.

June Jones and Pete Carroll are so alike it's scary and yet so different; offensive guru, defensive genius. Their resumes are eerily identical, football vagabonds who fought their way to head coaching jobs only to see the NFL pendulum swing cruelly again after only a short time at the top.

And now both are simultaneously having their best success as coaches, this time as college men.

This game, the upcoming Sept. 13 tilt, Hawaii at USC in the Coliseum, will be a story line Jones loves. An NFL reunion, two old hands who have been around the play-for-pay block. There will be an old war story or two told before this one arrives.

"We came into the NFL as coaches about the same time," Jones said yesterday. "He was at Pittsburgh, and I was at the Oilers. And then when I went to Detroit he went to Minnesota. And then when I went to Atlanta, he went to the Jets and we opened with them."

Carroll's career might as well have been his.

"So he knows me pretty well and I know him pretty well," Jones said. "And there won't be any surprises, I'm sure, on what he's going to do defensively and what we're going to do offensively."

No, no surprises here. In many cases against a highly ranked opponent (see BYU, 2001 and Alabama, 2002), Hawaii's run-and-shoot might be a great equalizer. Not necessarily so here, where Carroll has already coached against it several times in the pros. Beaten it, gone 5-2 in seven NFL games, Carroll's defense against Jones' run-and-shoot.

He's seen this film before.

He knows Jones, too.

In 1989 Minnesota swept Detroit (Carroll the Vikings defensive backs coach, Jones tutoring Lions quarterbacks and receivers) 24-17, then 20-7, in NFC Central games. In 1992 Jones (assistant head coach) and the Falcons opened the new Georgia Dome with a 20-17 win over Carroll (defensive coordinator) and the Jets. In 1995, with Jones as head coach, the Falcons were shut down early in the season by San Francisco (Carroll, DC, after a one-year run as head coach of the Jets). But in the last game of the season Bobby Hebert came on in relief to throw a late touchdown pass to Terance Mathis and the Falcons beat the 49ers 28-27 to clinch a 9-7 record and a spot in the playoffs.

What a moment. It was Jones' brightest as a pro coach.

The next season the Falcons started 0-8 and Carroll's 49ers whipped Atlanta twice and then Jones was out of football for a year. The New England Patriots were so impressed they hired Carroll as head coach, and he was off to the playoffs twice.

Ah, but the pros are cold. And after only three years it was Carroll, after an 8-8 season, following Jones' lead, going back to school. And back to winning, too.

Once again, these guys are mirror images on opposite sides of the field. Defense. Offense. Each knows the other. Knows him like he knows his own self.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


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