After just three seasons of trying to implement what he believed to be at the time a successful system with the New England Patriots, he was dismissed, cast aside in favor of Bill Belichick and ultimately more success for the franchise.
While it was an embarrassing moment in Carroll's coaching career, his firing in New England more than a decade ago was the catalyst for the philosophy and system Carroll brought to USC with so much success and that helped land him another chance in the NFL in Seattle.
"What I learned from the situation is to be a really successful head coach you have to have control. Otherwise it's somebody else's job that you're dealing with. That's why everything that came out of that experience changed me and I haven't been the same ever since," Carroll said Wednesday. "It took me 10, 11 months before I got going on the next job, but from that time, everything that is the philosophy, the approach, the mentality, everything, the language, everything came out of that experience. It's classically one of those deals where you get kicked in the tail and you come out better. I hate to learn the hard way."
Carroll gets to revisit some of his past when the Seahawks host the Patriots on Sunday in a matchup between New England's top-ranked offense and Seattle's No. 1 ranked defense.
This is the first of two games this year where Carroll's past will catch up with him. Before getting his opportunity as the head coach of the Patriots, Carroll spent one season as head coach of the New York Jets, who visit Seattle on Nov. 11.
Carroll's time in New York was so brief it didn't have the same effect his three seasons in New England and his eventual dismissal did in forming the beliefs and philosophies he carried forward.
"Getting spanked and getting knocked out of there was a great chance for me to regroup," Carroll said.
Carroll's tenure with the Patriots started with great success, winning the AFC East in 1997 and reaching the second round of the playoffs before losing to Pittsburgh in the divisional round. New England went 9-7 in 1998 and finished fourth in the divisions but earned a playoff spot before losing to Jacksonville in the wild-card round.
But the 1999 season is when the bottom fell out for Carroll, and owner Robert Kraft decided a change was needed. New England started the year 6-2, only to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs. Carroll was shown the door and realized that whatever job he took next, he wanted full control of how everything was handled.
He got that when he took over the Trojans and led USC on a nearly decade-long run of success. It was only when Seattle essentially guaranteed Carroll the control he had in the college ranks that he made the move back to the NFL.
And now that means catching up with his past, even if the events of more than a dozen years ago have very little effect on what takes place on the field this Sunday.
"At (USC), because of the autonomy I got to do everything, general manager, coach, the whole thing, you did it all. That's why I never thought I'd leave there because I never thought I would get another opportunity like that and I wasn't leaving unless I did," Carroll said. "I wasn't looking to leave. I just never thought I would have a chance in the league to do that until this opportunity presented itself."
Notes: Seattle has already ruled out G John Moffitt for this week's game with a knee injury. ... C Max Unger (hip) did not participate in practice on Wednesday and will be monitored daily. But Carroll was optimistic he would be able to play.