FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- In a sense, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez already has delivered a big "I told you so" to Pete Carroll, his coach at USC. Sanchez did that in his first two seasons after entering the 2009 NFL draft against the wishes of Carroll and his own father and then guiding the Jets to back-to-back appearances in the AFC title game.
But Sunday's game in Seattle will mark the first time that Sanchez has faced Carroll, who is in his third season as the Seahawks' coach. Now in his fourth season, Sanchez probably has more to prove to his own 3-5 team and coaching staff, but the emotional subtext will be impossible to ignore.
As Carroll said Wednesday during a conference call with media covering the Jets, "It's going to be cool. The people I love the most, I like to beat the most. The bad thing is former USC guys always play well against us. I don't know if they're getting back at me or what."
When Sanchez announced his decision to enter the draft with a year of eligibility remaining, he had only 16 college starts under his belt, but he was a hot commodity after leading the Trojans to a 12-1 record in 2008. Carroll famously said he didn't believe Sanchez was ready for the NFL, but the desperate Jets traded up to the fifth pick to draft him.
"He had a strong opinion, and he felt like I should stay," Sanchez said of Carroll. "I had another opinion about it, and I had to make a decision for myself and live it out to be the right decision for me. I have no regrets coming here and being a part of this franchise, and I also loved my time at USC."
Sanchez, who describes his former coach as "one of the most influential people in my life," said he never took Carroll's comment personally.
Recalling the moment from his perspective, Carroll said, "I told Mark exactly what I thought was the right thing to do for him. I talked to him just like he was my own son.
"I was very close with his dad the whole time, and he knew what I thought was the truth. The thing that was thrilling about it was to see Mark go against what I thought and against what his dad thought. It was a tremendous illustration of doing what he believes. Whatever I thought he had to overcome, he left that in the dust and kicked butt and had a great first two years and he's having a great career."
During the Jets' bye week, Sanchez focused on his current problems. He said he must cut down on turnovers and help develop a young corps of wide receivers.
"We're 3-5, but I know we can be better than that," Sanchez said. "This is the best time to show it, in the second half of this season. Stay positive and know how close we are to making a run and putting ourselves in position to play in the postseason."
That starts in Seattle, where the Seahawks are 4-0, and Sanchez knows he'll have to give Carroll his best shot.
Notes & quotes: Jets LB Bart Scott (toe), DE Kenrick Ellis (knee) and RB Joe McKnight (ankle) did not practice . . . Former Jets WR Braylon Edwards (knee) and RB Marshawn Lynch (back, wrist) were among the Seahawks starters who did not practice . . . On his day off Tuesday, Sanchez went to Toms River, N.J., where he joined a group of first responders for a helicopter flight over the Jersey Shore area to inspect damage from superstorm Sandy. He called the experience "inspiring."