Teacher vs. Pupil: Who Holds Edge as Pete Carroll, Seahawks Welcome Broncos’ Russell Wilson? – Sports Illustrated

RENTON, Wash. – During 10 wildly successful seasons together with the Seahawks, quarterback Russell Wilson and coach Pete Carroll amassed 104 regular season victories, eight playoff berths, four NFC West titles, and a Lombardi Trophy.
But after a decade of dominance with Carroll chomping his gum on the sidelines and Wilson lighting up opposing defenses with his rocket arm and dual-threat capabilities, the teacher and pupil will square off as foes for the first time when Seattle hosts Denver in a much-anticipated Monday Night Football reunion. Sporting orange and navy at his old stomping grounds, the quarterback will make an unprecedented return playing in his first game for his new team at Lumen Field.
From a historical perspective, standout quarterbacks who have changed teams and faced off against their former head coach have held a significant advantage in the win/loss department. Most recently, Tom Brady went back to Foxboro and led the Buccaneers to a tight 19-17 road win against coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots, who he helped guide to six Super Bowl championships.
In other noteworthy instances where quarterbacks who have changed uniforms played against their former head coach, Donovan McNabb went back to Philadelphia as Washington's new starter and beat Andy Reid in a low-scoring 17-12 NFC East affair in 2010. One year earlier, much to the disdain of cheeseheads everywhere, Brett Favre returned to Lambeau Field wearing Vikings purple and led his team to a 38-26 victory in Titletown with four touchdown passes.
Going way back to 1994, Joe Montana and the Chiefs proved to be an unwelcoming host when Steve Young, coach George Seifert, and the 49ers came to Arrowhead Stadium. Playing it cool as expected against the franchise he led to four Super Bowl titles, Montana threw a pair of touchdowns to help dispatch his former team in a 24-17 victory.
If there's an exception to the rule, Carson Palmer's chance at redemption against coach Marvin Lewis and the Bengals didn't go according to plan in 2012. A little over a year after the former Heisman Trophy winner forced his way out of Cincinnati to go to Oakland, the Raiders fell behind 24-0 at halftime and wound up getting smoked 34-10 on their own field in an embarrassing outing for the quarterback and his new team.
What do these prior games mean for next Monday when Carroll and Wilson take the field as opponents rather than allies? In the grand scheme of things, those previous results don't have any bearing on who will win the season opener, but history has shown that defensive-minded coaches can rattle their former quarterbacks even in defeat.
Take last year's contest pitting Brady against Belichick at Gillette Stadium. While Tampa Bay got the last laugh, the future Hall of Famer actually got outdueled by his rookie counterpart Mac Jones, who threw a pair of touchdown passes and led a potential game-winning drive that ended with a missed field goal. On the flip side, the G.O.A.T. finished a pedestrian 22 for 43 with 269 passing yards and no touchdowns in one of his weaker outings in recent memory.
Playing a key role in his team falling behind by three scores at the half, Palmer completed only 9 out of 18 passes for 70 yards and an interception in the first two quarters. With Lewis a step ahead all afternoon, he finished the game barely completing 50 percent of his passes for 164 yards and a late stat-padding touchdown while being sacked four times and losing a fumble in the process.
Even in the case of McNabb, who made his sixth Pro Bowl in his final season with the Eagles, the veteran quarterback struggled mightily going against seasoned defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. While his new teammates picked up the slack, he failed to complete 10 passes against his former team, going eight for 19 for 125 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, posting a season-low 60.2 passer rating in the process.
Fast forwarding to the present, Wilson obviously knows his former coach's tendencies and the strengths of many of the key playmakers remaining on Seattle's defense. Having practiced against the likes of safeties Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams as well as cornerback Sidney Jones, he has built in intel that should prove beneficial in his homecoming even with defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt aiming to bring a fresh schematic perspective.
Notorious for making life tough on rookie cornerbacks in the past, Wilson also could be salivating at the thought of picking on Seahawks fifth-round pick Tariq Woolen, who could make his first NFL start in the season opener and will be tested right away defending the likes of star receivers Cortland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy.
But on the other hand, nobody understands Wilson's strengths and perceived weaknesses better than Carroll, who helped oversee the quarterback's development from a game manager early in his career to the centerpiece of the Seahawks' offense. He will be tasked with trying to limit Wilson's effectiveness creating off broken plays while also scheming to take away the deep ball with a bevy of two-deep coverages, something opponents achieved with greater success over the past two seasons.
If Carroll paid close attention to Wilson's uncharacteristic struggles during that span, which he most certainly did to the frustration of the quarterback, he should be able to produce an effective game plan as Belichick did a year ago in an effort to neutralize one of the NFL's most electric playmakers under center.
Regardless of outcome, Monday should be a night for the history books on many fronts. Carroll and Wilson will surely receive one another with a handshake, a smile, and a hug after everything they accomplished together and many fans will cheer the quarterback on initially, but once the first whistle blows, that reverence and adoration will quickly be replaced by competitive fire as one hell of a chess match between two of the best in the business transpires between the lines.
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