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SportsColumnistsMark Herrmann

Carroll owes Sanchez an apology

USC head coach Pete Carroll is reportedly leaving

USC head coach Pete Carroll is reportedly leaving the university to become the coach of the Seattle Seahawks. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Timing is everything in being a good quarterback. The position demands clear vision of the present and future: Read the field, see the possibilities and pitfalls and figure out what to do next.

One year ago this week, Mark Sanchez and his coach, Pete Carroll, decidedly and publicly differed over how good Sanchez' timing was. The USC quarterback had decided to leave college and go to the NFL. Carroll, the coach, thought that was a terrible idea.

He declined to sit next to his favorite pupil during a news conference announcing the decision and said, during his own separate question-and-answer session, "We have compelling information working against the choice going this way."

Carroll looked smart through most of this season, amid the whirl of 20 interceptions thrown by the rookie. But you can't get on Sanchez's judgment today, not two days after Saturday. His timing could not have been any better had he been programmed by Rolex.

Sanchez had a near flawless afternoon for the Jets against the Bengals, playing what was arguably the best playoff game a rookie quarterback ever has had, on the very day it was reported that Carroll was leaving college for the NFL.

The quarterback told reporters, with the timing of one of those comedians who follow the Trojans in Los Angeles, "I just want everyone to know, I completely disagree with his decision to go to the NFL. Statistics show that it's not a good choice."

Only kidding. Sanchez added, "I talked to Coach a bunch, I told him I was going to hammer him about it, but I wish him the best whatever happens, whether he stays in school or not."

We never will know for sure if Carroll was right as far as Sanchez's career is concerned. Maybe Sanchez would have won the Heisman Trophy, led USC to the national championship and become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Maybe all of that would have prevented Carroll from bolting to the NFL, too, and cost him more than $2 million a year.

The point is, a person is entitled to make his or her own decisions, especially if the person is a college graduate. Sanchez was nearing completion of his degree last January even though he had a year of football eligibility left.

Considering how it looks right now, Sanchez did make the right call. Yes, he threw 20 interceptions and there is no guarantee he will be perfect back in southern California this Sunday against the Chargers.

But it sure seems like he learned more as a Jet in 2009 than he would have as a collegian. As his current coach, Rex Ryan, told Sanchez before the playoffs, this already is his second season.

As petulant as Carroll appeared during the Sanchez episode last January - "Mark is going against the grain in this decision, we know that, he knows that," the coach said at the time - he is not a bad guy.

I haven't been around him all that much, but he always has seemed like a really good fellow. I like the fact he gives out his cell phone number to troubled teenagers in L.A., trying to help them stay out of more trouble.

What's more, he comes very highly recommended by Lorne Henning, the former Islanders player and coach who became close friends with Carroll when both were working in Minnesota and again on Long Island.

Carroll did read the wind well for USC. His season was as bad as he probably knew it was going to be when Sanchez left: The Trojans lost at home to Stanford, had no role in the national title picture, finished 9-4 and settled for a spot in the Emerald Bowl.

Ousted Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis made some cryptic, unflattering comments about Carroll's personal life (for which Weis apologized). Published reports have said that if Carroll does in fact leave, he will be skipping town a step ahead of problems. The NCAA reportedly has big questions about the program.

There is also some thought that Carroll believes he has something to prove in the NFL after having compiled a decent but not great 33-31 record as coach of the Jets and Patriots.

As a soon-to-be former USC coach, he should now admit that Sanchez had every right to do what he did. And as former Jets coach, he should congratulate his old favorite pupil on making that franchise the talk of the town for a change.

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