Grant said Carroll should have been named the coach of the Vikings in 1992 instead of Dennis Green.
If Hall of Fame Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant had his way, all of the success Pete Carroll has experienced the past two decades — the run with USC that was one of the greatest in Pac-12 history, leading the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl title — would never have happened.
That’s because the way Grant sees it, Carroll should have been named the coach of the Minnesota Vikings in 1992, possibly still serving as their coach Sunday as they host the Seahawks in a wild-card playoff game.
“He’s certainly proven he’s one of the best coaches in the business,’’ Grant, 88, said in a phone interview this week from the office he still keeps at the Vikings’ practice facility.
To set the situation, the Vikings were in search of a new coach when Jerry Burns retired following the 1991 season. Burns had taken over when Grant retired for good following the 1985 season with a record of 168-108-5 and four Super Bowl appearances.
The staff Burns inherited from Grant included Carroll, who had been hired as a defensive-backs coach in 1985.
“I was really fortunate, because I’d just gotten fired after my first year in the league coaching the secondary in Buffalo,” Carroll said. “So I was lucky to get back into the league and fortunate to get on (Grant’s) staff.’’
Carroll stayed on four more years as the Vikings’ defensive-backs coach before becoming the defensive coordinator with the Jets in 1990.
When Burns retired, speculation centered on two names as his replacement — Carroll and Dennis Green, then the coach at Stanford.
Minnesota’s ownership asked Grant — who led the team to four Super Bowls from 1970-77 — for his opinion.
“I said ‘I don’t know Denny Green,’ though I did talk to him on the phone, but that I did know Pete and I said, ‘I would recommend Pete, that he would be perfect for this position and would be a great addition,’ ’’ Grant recalled.
The Vikings instead went with Green. Media reports at the time stated that one reason was Green had been a head coach (having also been coach at Northwestern) while Carroll had yet to be a head coach at any level.
Green coached the Vikings for 10 years, leading them to eight playoff berths and to within a game of the Super Bowl in 1998, a year Minnesota went 15-1.
Grant, though, believes Carroll would have been the better choice.
“Not that Denny wasn’t a great coach,’’ Grant said. “He did a good job here, and he’s done a good job wherever he’s been. But I think Pete Carroll might have done an even better job had they hired him off my recommendation.’’
It was the second time Carroll was reported to have lost out on a job to Green, as he also was a finalist at Stanford in 1989.
Carroll became coach of the Jets in 1994 and, after being fired there, spent three years as coach of the Patriots before again being fired. After a year off he landed at USC. He came to Seattle in 2010.
Asked Friday about losing the Minnesota job in 1991, Carroll smiled and said, “I don’t even know if I was considered in that one. You know something I don’t? That was behind closed doors.’’
His Minnesota years have resonated, though.
Carroll had six different coaching jobs in the eight years before landing in Minnesota.
With the Vikings he built the secondary of a defense that ranked first in the NFL his final two seasons, a success that proved the true launching point of his career.
“It was five years,’’ Carroll said. “That’s a long time to spend at a place, and we really dug in with a family and all of that, the people and the style of life and all that. We’ve always felt very familiar with it, so I’ve always stayed connected to it.’’
Carroll chatted with Grant before Seattle’s game there Dec. 6, and Grant said he hopes to see Carroll again Sunday.
Grant remembers when he interviewed Carroll for a coaching job in 1985 that he was “an enthusiastic coach with ideas. … You never know for sure when you hire someone how they are going to work out. In his case, it worked out tremendously.’’
Even if it didn’t all happen in Minnesota.