Patriots not succeeding under Parcells' successor

WEEK 11 PREVIEW

November 07, 1997|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

The Orioles' next manager may wind up feeling empathy for Pete Carroll.

Carroll became coach of the New England Patriots after Bob Kraft and Bill Parcells -- football's version of Peter Angelos and Davey Johnson -- went through a messy divorce after the Super Bowl last February.

All Carroll had to do to prove he could fill Parcells' shoes was to go back to the Super Bowl. And, preferably, win it.

That was a tall order, and Carroll has a long way to go to fill it. In New England these days, they're not asking whether the team will go to the Super Bowl. They're asking whether it can even make the playoffs. Carroll has become the Minnow to Parcells' Tuna.

The Patriots have lost three straight games, dropped to 5-4 and go to Buffalo on Sunday to meet the Bills, another 5-4 team in the competitive AFC East. It's one of only four games this weekend )) matching teams with winning records.

With five AFC teams at 6-3 or better, the Patriots and Bills may wind up in a battle with Miami and Seattle for the final conference playoff spot. All four are 5-4.

But Buffalo's 5-4 record is a lot different than New England's 5-4. While the Patriots are falling short of their expectations, the Bills are exceeding theirs. When quarterback Jim Kelly retired, the Bills were supposed to be rebuilding. But coach Marv Levy, a young 72, keeps his team competitive.

It was strafed by the Patriots, 33-6, a month ago, but has won a pair of 9-6 games over Indianapolis and Miami sandwiched around an overtime loss to Denver.

The pressure is now on Carroll and the Patriots to sweep their series with the Bills. Carroll is so frustrated at his team's poor play that he blew up at his players Monday. Unlike Parcells, who is not shy at publicly knocking his players, he did it privately.

"That's internal. I don't think I need to express what goes on behind closed doors," said Carroll, who knows the burden is on him.

"I don't like living this way," he said. "I don't like living with this cloud over us. These guys are looking for leadership and they have to sense it from me. I know that."

Carroll said he can deal with Parcells' shadow.

"I'm not sick and tired of the Bill deal," he said. "I knew coming in that if things didn't go well, that topic would come up. The criticism you take from fans and the media is part of being an NFL coach. It's just the way it is."

The criticism will continue until the Patriots start winning again.

Best of the rest

Jets at Dolphins: Speaking of the Tuna, he tries to avoid being swept by Jimmy Johnson and the Dolphins in a pivotal game that will determine if the Jets can hold onto first place. Parcells is rolling the dice by starting Glenn Foley over veteran Neil O'Donnell even though Foley was thriving in the relief role. If Foley falters as a starter, it won't be easy to go back to O'Donnell.

Meanwhile, Johnson gave Craig Erickson a shot when Dan Marino was hurt last week. Johnson stuck with Erickson even though Marino probably could have returned, but Erickson was ineffective, so Marino gets the ball again Sunday.

Chiefs at Jaguars: This matchup between 7-2 Kansas City and 6-3 Jacksonville looked like the weekend's best game until Chiefs quarterback Elvis Grbac was injured. His replacement, Rich Gannon, is a journeyman who helped get Richie Petitbon fired in Washington in 1993 when he struggled while replacing Cary Conklin.

The Chiefs' only chance is to run the the way they did against the Steelers and play sound defense against Mark Brunell. They can't get into a shootout with the Jaguars' quarterback.

Panthers at Broncos: Despite their gaudy record, the Broncos are vulnerable to the run. They're 26th against the rush, so Carolina figures to test the Broncos with rookie Fred Lane, who ran for 147 yards and three touchdowns against the Raiders.

Denver is 8-1 for the fifth time in club history and has won 21 of its past 25 regular-season games, including 13 straight at home. But the Panthers have won three straight, need the game to stay in the playoff race and could pull an upset. Fox-TV is giving this game the John Madden-Pat Summerall treatment.

Worth a look

Ravens at Steelers: The Sunday night ESPN game should be a Bam vs. the Bus running duel, but these two teams don't always exploit the run. Steelers offensive coordinator Chan Gailey seemed to be stealing a page from the Ravens' playbook on Monday night. He got a 10-0 lead on Kansas City with Jerome Bettis carrying 10 times for 68 yards, then gave him the ball just seven times the rest of the game and lost, 13-10. The Steelers should be able to pound the Ravens with Bettis, but Gailey might decide to throw on the Ravens' weak secondary.

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