Carroll became coach of the New England Patriots after Bob Kraft and Bill Parcells -- football's version of Peter Angelos and Davey Johnson -- went through a messy divorce after the Super Bowl last February.
All Carroll had to do to prove he could fill Parcells' shoes was to go back to the Super Bowl. And, preferably, win it.
That was a tall order, and Carroll has a long way to go to fill it. In New England these days, they're not asking whether the team will go to the Super Bowl. They're asking whether it can even make the playoffs. Carroll has become the Minnow to Parcells' Tuna.
The Patriots have lost three straight games, dropped to 5-4 and go to Buffalo on Sunday to meet the Bills, another 5-4 team in the competitive AFC East. It's one of only four games this weekend )) matching teams with winning records.
With five AFC teams at 6-3 or better, the Patriots and Bills may wind up in a battle with Miami and Seattle for the final conference playoff spot. All four are 5-4.
But Buffalo's 5-4 record is a lot different than New England's 5-4. While the Patriots are falling short of their expectations, the Bills are exceeding theirs. When quarterback Jim Kelly retired, the Bills were supposed to be rebuilding. But coach Marv Levy, a young 72, keeps his team competitive.
It was strafed by the Patriots, 33-6, a month ago, but has won a pair of 9-6 games over Indianapolis and Miami sandwiched around an overtime loss to Denver.
The pressure is now on Carroll and the Patriots to sweep their series with the Bills. Carroll is so frustrated at his team's poor play that he blew up at his players Monday. Unlike Parcells, who is not shy at publicly knocking his players, he did it privately.
"That's internal. I don't think I need to express what goes on behind closed doors," said Carroll, who knows the burden is on him.
"I don't like living this way," he said. "I don't like living with this cloud over us. These guys are looking for leadership and they have to sense it from me. I know that."
Carroll said he can deal with Parcells' shadow.
"I'm not sick and tired of the Bill deal," he said. "I knew coming in that if things didn't go well, that topic would come up. The criticism you take from fans and the media is part of being an NFL coach. It's just the way it is."
The criticism will continue until the Patriots start winning again.
Best of the rest
Jets at Dolphins: Speaking of the Tuna, he tries to avoid being swept by Jimmy Johnson and the Dolphins in a pivotal game that will determine if the Jets can hold onto first place. Parcells is rolling the dice by starting Glenn Foley over veteran Neil O'Donnell even though Foley was thriving in the relief role. If Foley falters as a starter, it won't be easy to go back to O'Donnell.
Meanwhile, Johnson gave Craig Erickson a shot when Dan Marino was hurt last week. Johnson stuck with Erickson even though Marino probably could have returned, but Erickson was ineffective, so Marino gets the ball again Sunday.
Chiefs at Jaguars: This matchup between 7-2 Kansas City and 6-3 Jacksonville looked like the weekend's best game until Chiefs quarterback Elvis Grbac was injured. His replacement, Rich Gannon, is a journeyman who helped get Richie Petitbon fired in Washington in 1993 when he struggled while replacing Cary Conklin.
Panthers at Broncos: Despite their gaudy record, the Broncos are vulnerable to the run. They're 26th against the rush, so Carolina figures to test the Broncos with rookie Fred Lane, who ran for 147 yards and three touchdowns against the Raiders.
Denver is 8-1 for the fifth time in club history and has won 21 of its past 25 regular-season games, including 13 straight at home. But the Panthers have won three straight, need the game to stay in the playoff race and could pull an upset. Fox-TV is giving this game the John Madden-Pat Summerall treatment.
Worth a look
Ravens at Steelers: The Sunday night ESPN game should be a Bam vs. the Bus running duel, but these two teams don't always exploit the run. Steelers offensive coordinator Chan Gailey seemed to be stealing a page from the Ravens' playbook on Monday night. He got a 10-0 lead on Kansas City with Jerome Bettis carrying 10 times for 68 yards, then gave him the ball just seven times the rest of the game and lost, 13-10. The Steelers should be able to pound the Ravens with Bettis, but Gailey might decide to throw on the Ravens' weak secondary.
Lions at Redskins: This is an intriguing game because one streak going to end. Detroit has never won in Washington -- although the Redskins now play in Maryland -- and Washington coach Norv Turner is 0-13 in weeks before and after playing Dallas (the Redskins meet the Cowboys next week). The Lions are the underdogs even though Barry Sanders should be able to shred a Redskins defense that is 29th against the run.
49ers at Eagles: Coach Ray Rhodes' teams always seem to survive in crisis games, and this Monday night matchup is another crisis because the Eagles are 4-5. But Rhodes is playing it conservative at quarterback, going back to Ty Detmer over Rodney Peete instead of gambling with young Bobby Hoying. The 49ers figure to have a letdown after their big victory over Dallas, but the Monday night venue should capture their interest.
Giants at Oilers: To no one's surprise, Giants coach Jim Fassel announced this week that Danny Kanell will be the quarterback even when Dave Brown returns. Kanell's statistics are almost identical to Brown's, but Kanell is a leader who gets more results. This figures to be a tough game for New York because Tennessee, at 4-5, can't afford a loss here.
Cardinals at Cowboys: The first sign that the Cowboys were in trouble came when the Cardinals upset them in overtime in Week 2. Dallas is a team in turmoil and owner Jerry Jones keeps denying various reports that he'll fire Barry Switzer before the end of the season. The odds are that he'll wait until the end of the year to do it. Arizona is planning for the future with Jake Plummer at quarterback, but the Cardinals' defense should contain the shaky Dallas offense.
Filling out the schedule
Rams at Packers: The Packers seem to be rolling again and the only question about this game is whether they can cover the two-touchdown spread.
Bears at Vikings: Is there any team in more disarray than Chicago, with its players fighting among themselves? The Vikings have their own distractions now that coach Dennis Green has become an author, but the team manages to keep the focus on football.
Seahawks at Chargers: After a tough loss in Denver last week, Seattle -- still in the playoff race at 5-4 -- figures to dominate a Chargers team playing without quarterback Stan Humphries.
Bengals at Colts: The Colts, who went 1-15 in 1991, are at it again at 0-9. No team has gone 0-16, but they may give it a shot. The 2-7 Bengals have their own problems but should get their second straight win.
Bucs at Falcons: The Bucs, who stopped their three-game losing streak with a close win at Indianapolis, must guard against looking past the Falcons and toward next week's home game against New England.
Saints at Raiders: How bad are things for Saints coach Mike Ditka? He's going back to Heath Shuler at quarterback. There wasn't much for Ditka to learn during the bye week. He already knows he needs more players.
Vito Stellino's power rankings
1. San Francisco: Win over Dallas puts 49ers in top spot.
L 2. Denver: Elway vs. Collins matches QBs of past and future.
3. Green Bay: Game against St. Louis is like another bye for Pack.
4. Minnesota: Distractions don't bother the Vikings.
5. Pittsburgh: The Bus is warming up for the Ravens' defense.
6. Jacksonville: Jaguars are going to miss Boselli.
7. Kansas City: Chiefs will miss Grbac even more.
8. N.Y. Giants: It's no surprise that Kanell's the man.
L 9. N.Y. Jets: Parcells gambles that Foley is ready to start.
10. New England: Carroll is showing he's no Parcells.
11. Dallas: Switzer keeps dodging pink slip.
12. Tampa Bay: Survived a scare in Indy last week.
13. Buffalo: Bills know how to win ugly.
14. Miami: Can Marino stay healthy?
15. Carolina: Facing critical test in Denver.
16. Philadelphia: It's time to give Hoying a shot.
17. Tennessee: "Home" Oilers game will attract many Giants fans.
18. Detroit: Winless in Washington, Lions try to win in Maryland.
19. Seattle: Moon fell just short in Denver.
20. Ravens: Can Bam speed past the Bus?
21. Washington: Can Turner win the week before the Dallas game?
22. San Diego: Humphries may have to retire.
23. Oakland: Just lose, baby.
24. Cincinnati: Can make it two in a row against Colts.
25. Atlanta: Can Chandler stay healthy?
26. Arizona: Building for future with Plummer.
27. St. Louis: Move from L.A. didn't help the Rams on the field.
28. New Orleans: Shuler gets another chance to fail.
29. Chicago: Halas wouldn't believe what's happened to his Bears.
30. Indianapolis: Infante is no Marchibroda on sideline.
Pub Date: 11/07/97