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NFL: Coaches Carroll, Fox lay eyes on the prize

NEW YORK — Two days before Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and Denver Broncos head coach John Fox made their final public appearances in a joint press conference Friday morning at the Rose Theater.

Fox, who was defensive coordinator of the Giants before he became a head coach and Carroll, briefly head coach of the Jets, were reflective for their 45-minute question-answer session.

Seated in director’s chairs on opposite sides of the Lombardi Trophy, both coaches ditched practice gear for professional suit and tie on the expansive stage, far from the norm or comfort zone even for two coaches who spent time in New York.

“It’s the pinnacle for probably everybody who does what we do,” Fox said of the shiny silver Super Bowl XLVIII prize to his right. “You take individuals and try to paint a picture of where you want to get to it. This is the pinnacle of it. Like any level of football, there’s only one happy camper at the end.”

“The trophy really does symbolize the ultimate challenge in coaching and our profession,” Carroll said. “It symbolizes a tremendous amount to all of us.”

Fox, a Chuck Noll pupil who began his career as a secondary coach, is coaching in his third Super Bowl. He lost as defensive coordinator of the Giants to the Baltimore Ravens and as head coach and three years later in 2004 as Carolina Panthers head coach, a 34-31 loss in Houston on a Adam Vinatieri field goal.

Neither of those teams, of course, had Peyton Manning or Champ Bailey.

“Both of those guys ... raise all boats,” Fox said. “As a coach, you can’t do it by yourself. You need players like that leading the charge. I know I appreciate Peyton and Champ and guys like that in the locker room.

“Peyton has been a tremendous leader for two years he has been a Denver Bronco. He does it every day. He’s got unbelievable time management, unbelievable work ethic.”

Carroll, 38-24 in four seasons with the Seahawks, learned from Bud Grant, who he continues to talk to regularly, but said the evolution of being a head coach is really an introspective challenge, a mission to clearly establish who you are as a coach and communicate it to those around you. Carroll’s return to New York served as a blatant reminder of his journey and how he progressed professionally in the 20 years since he wore Jets green.

“That’s a long story,” Carroll said. “The evolution has been ongoing, the process has been challenging. I had a terrific experience in college football at USC. ... The tough times, sometimes you can’t forget fast enough. The time here in New York was so extraordinary even though it was so brief.

“I personally don’t feel like I’ve changed that much. ... It really took getting fired and kicked in the butt to get to where I am now. I really hate learning the hard way.”

Fox, 58, said he drew on his playing days when he learned in November he was in need of what he called “medical attention.” He had open-heart surgery and was away from the team for four weeks.

“It was like a sprained ankle, was going to be four weeks,” Fox said. “Never really gave it a second thought — coming back not being an option, not coaching not being an option.”

Fox said Manning is “loose” and ready for Sunday’s Super Bowl, a game that will lead the bios of many of the key figures, win or lose. Manning is 1-1 in the Super Bowl. Fox said throughout the week he learned one overarching lesson in XXXV and XXXVIII.

“It’s no fun to lose,” Fox said.