-KICKOFF COVERAGE’S: HISTORY OF THE 32 IN 32-
-NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS-
PETE CARROLL TAKES OVER AS HEAD COACH & PATS GO 10-6, LOSE TO THE STEELERS IN THE DIVISIONAL ROUND:
After the Super Bowl, Parcells resigned from the Patriots, prompting Kraft to believe the Jets had been tampering with Parcells in an attempt for him to resign and take the Jets’ vacant head coaching position and have say in the Jets’ first overall selection in the 1997 NFL Draft. The Jets decided that since Parcells couldn’t be their head coach in 1997 because of an earlier contract renegotiation which eliminated the 1997 season from his contract, they would hire Parcells as a consultant and have Bill Belichick, the assistant head coach who followed Parcells from the Patriots, hold the title of head coach. Kraft, who was requesting a 1st-round draft pick in return for allowing Parcells to coach elsewhere, called the Jets’ agreement “a transparent farce” that “demonstrated it was the Jets’ intention all along for Bill Parcells to become head coach of the Jets for the ‘97 season.”Despite Parcells claiming the Jets had been given league permission for the consulting agreement, the NFL denied any permission was given, instead having commissioner Paul Tagliabue arrange an agreement between the two sides. The Patriots received 3rd- and 4th-round picks in the 1997 NFL Draft, a 2nd-round pick in the1998 Draft, and a 1st-round pick in the 1999 Draft in compensation for allowing Parcells to become the Jets’ head coach.
After being rebuffed by former San Francisco 49ers head coach George Seifert, Kraft hired Pete Carroll as the new head coach of the Patriots. The new regime, led by personnel man Bobby Grier, was immediately derided for botching draft picks, and the Patriots slipped back further in the standings during each of Carroll’s years. In 1997, the Patriots still won the AFC East with a 10-6 record, but some key losses (including a loss to Parcells’ Jets and a 4th-quarter collapse against thePittsburgh Steelers) meant the team had to play in the wild card round in the playoffs. After having an easy time with theMiami Dolphins 17-3 in Foxboro, the injury-plagued Patriots met the Steelers in Pittsburgh for a rematch of the previous year’s divisional playoff. A late fumble (recovered by future Patriot linebacker Mike Vrabel) won the game for Pittsburgh, 7-6.