Caught up with an old friend Wednesday -- Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, the former USC coach and the former Jets coach (for a New York minute, anyway). In five seasons with the Jets, the first four as the defensive coordinator, Carroll was always enjoyable to cover.
The topic of discussion was former USC RB Joe McKnight, the Jets' fourth-round pick. Carroll recruited McKnight out of New Orleans and coached him for three years.
"We thought Joe could be the guy that could have a chance to be like Reggie (Bush)," Carroll told ESPN New York.com. "Joe has great natural instincts and savvy. He's got great hands. He can run routes like a wide receiver. He has a terrific ability to make you miss, a kind of sleeky runner with excellent speed. He's a tough competitor. Joe loves to play the game. He'll fit right in. That role won't be too big for him."
For obvious reasons, McKnight was compared to Bush, and it turned into an albatross.
"It's totallyunfair for anybody," Carroll said of the comparisons. "Reggie was one of the greatest college players to ever play. Of course, we wanted to see if we could find the next one. We thought Joe had all those abilities. Joe didn't disappoint us to any extent with his range of abilities. It was just ... Reggie. Reggie was so unique."
Carroll candidly admitted that he and the coaching staff may have hurt McKnight's development by rushing him into a significant role as a freshman.
"We made a mistake early on, trying to do too much with him because it came so easy to him," he said. "We kind of messed him up early on. Once he got comfortable, he played very well for us.
"He had a little problem getting banged up," Carroll continued. "He had some unusual injuries. In the Rose Bowl, he was having a great game and he dislocates four toes on one foot. Weirdest injury I've ever seen."
Curiously, Carroll passed on the chance to draft McKnight in the fourth round. He decided to take Oregon DB Walter Thurmond. With the next pick, the Jets chose McKnight after trading up with the Panthers. It always sends up a reg flag when a coach passes on one of his former players, but Carroll gave two reasons: He needed defense and he already was working on the trade for Leon Washington, a McKnight-like back.
"He's got all kinds of special abilities," Carroll said.