PHOENIX (Reuters) - On the surface, the two head coaches who will face off in Sunday’s Super Bowl could not be more different.
Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots appears a dour, grumpy figure, obsessed with his job and seemingly having little interest in the outside world.
The Seattle Seahawks’ Pete Carroll bubbles with enthusiasm, enjoys a joke and looks comfortable in any company.
On the sidelines, the 62-year-old Belichick often hides under a hooded sweatshirt, glowering at the game. Carroll, 63, is constantly on the move, barking instructions.
After a touchdown, Belichick shows no emotion, turning his eyes to his gameplan clipboard. Carroll races around fist-pumping in delight.
Their off-season leisure activities sum their contrasting personalities. Belichick likes to disappear on his fishing boat. Carroll hits the California surf.
But when it comes to coaching and their careers, the two have a surprising amount in common.
Both have Croatian family backgrounds and went through two decades of working as assistants and coordinators before getting head coach offers.
Both were viewed as failures in their first roles in charge, which included, for both of them, short-lived spells at the New York Jets.
And when Carroll was fired by the Patriots in 1999, it was Belichick who replaced him.
“They supported me in a tremendous way until they couldn’t anymore,” says Carroll of his time in New England.
“Then they made one of the great moves in the history of the NFL by hiring Bill Belichick. They’ve done famous things together.”
While Belichick went on to establish his dynasty at Foxborough, winning three Super Bowls and featuring in two others, Carroll headed back to college football, re-establishing his reputation with the University of Southern California after being fired by Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
“The best thing that has ever happened is that he (Kraft) sent me to USC. He didn’t realize that at the time,” said Carroll.
In coaching style they also have some common ground. Both are willing to take risks with unconventional play-calling at vital stages in games.
Their decision-making has been evident in the playoffs, producing two of the most memorable moments of the post-season.
In the divisional round shootout with the Baltimore Ravens, Belichick backed his offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’s trick play which saw quarterback Tom Brady throw the ball back to Julian Edelman who then floated a 51-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola.
Carroll shifted the momentum in the comeback win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game with a fake field goal that resulted in a 19-yard touchdown pass from holder Jon Ryan to Garry Gilliam.
The coaches also share an admiration for each other.
“Bill’s direction and the leadership, I think that that’s something that anybody in our world would like to be able to share and understand. Winning over a long period of time, showing you got it ... That’s something that I would like to be able to demonstrate someday.” said Carroll.
Belichick, ahead of his sixth Super Bowl, paid Carroll the ultimate tribute, noting he has tried to learn from him.
“What he’s done at USC and now in his five years with Seattle is beyond impressive,“ Belichick said. ”I’ve tried to study him closely and learn from many of the things that he and his organization have done.”
Editing by Gene Cherry