Pete Carroll laments Jets win that got away

Welcome to the Super Bowl, coach. Now about that game you lost 20 years ago. ...

That's pretty much how it went Sunday night for Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who arrived in New Jersey and -- eight questions into his first news conference -- was asked about his ill-fated season as the New York Jets' head coach, 1994. The turning point, as every tortured Jets fan knows, was Dan Marino's game-winning fake spike play in the 12th game.

"It could have been entirely different had we just hung on and won that game," Carroll said.

Quick history lesson: The Jets were 6-5, playing the Miami Dolphins for a share of first place in the AFC East. The Jets blew a 24-6 lead and lost in the final seconds, when Marino duped the Jets into thinking it was a "clock" play -- except he threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Mark Ingram. Carroll lost the next four games, finished 6-10 and got fired. In came Rich Kotite, who lost 28 of his 32 games.

The fake spike is regarded as one of the pivotal moments in Jets history.

“It didn’t have to be," Carroll said. "When you look back on it, that’s what you would point to because we lost four games after that as well. There was a time in that game when we were ahead and doing great, and it just kind of went south on us. That play has been a pretty famous play, and I’m glad for Dan. That’s the only guy I’m glad for, that he pulled it off. It was a moment when things turned."

Carroll hasn't talked much over the years about his bitter divorce from the Jets, but on the first official night of Super Bowl hype -- before a packed news conference comprised of many local reporters -- he took the high road. He spoke glowingly of his five seasons with the Jets, the first four as the defensive coordinator.

No, he didn't think about it on the long plane ride, "but I have thought about it quite a bit," he said. "It has come up in the week’s preparation already. I’ve always loved playing in New York. I loved the fact that I had a chance to be here for five years. To have a chance to be a head coach in New York is an extraordinary honor because of the history and the following and all that goes along with that.

"Unfortunately it didn’t last very long, but it still was a great experience and I remember it well. I’m really proud to come back here and coach in a game like this, this status, in places we once lived and worked. It’s a special honor to do that.”

Well played.