RENTON, Wash. -- Asked this week about his background with Sean McVay, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll put into perspective the age difference between him and his new counterpart with the Los Angeles Rams.
Or at least he tried to.
"I was good friends with his dad," Carroll said before pausing to laugh, "when we were at San Francisco, so I can't tell you much more. I don't know him, but I think it's incredibly exciting that a young guy like that could jump in and show that he has command and do a great job right off the bat."
Carroll knew John McVay from his two-year stint as San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator in 1995 and '96. McVay was a high-ranking executive in the 49ers' front office, considered an unsung hero in constructing the teams that won three Super Bowls under Bill Walsh and two more under George Seifert.
One thing, though: Carroll was mistaken. As he acknowledged a few days later, John McVay is actually Sean's grandfather.
That's right. Carroll used to work with the grandfather of the guy he'll be coaching against, which puts into perspective one of the more interesting subplots of Sunday's game between the Seahawks (2-2) and the division-leading Rams (3-1).
Carroll is the league's oldest head coach, having turned 66 in September. McVay, 31, became the youngest head coach in the NFL's modern history when the Rams hired him in January to replace the fired Jeff Fisher. He's younger than two players on the Rams' roster: center John Sullivan, 32, and left tackle Andrew Whitworth, 35. McVay is the same age as Seahawks defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, and he's four years younger than Seattle punter Jon Ryan.
McVay was asked on a conference call this week what has been the oddest part about being an NFL head coach at 31.
"I think the oddest is probably most of the time when you go to places that people don't realize what role you have," he said. "They think you're an equipment manager or an intern."
Second-year defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson, who was signed by the Seahawks off the Rams' practice squad this week, said it was his observation during the month he spent with Los Angeles that "everyone respected Coach McVay."
"They really didn't see the age as a problem," Jefferson said. "It is kinda strange having a young coach, but he commands the room."
At the scouting combine in March, a few weeks after McVay was hired, Carroll playfully crashed McVay's media session and asked him if he takes questions from opposing head coaches.
"My grandfather has a whole lot of respect for Coach Carroll and the way he handled himself and the contributions he made to the 49ers organization," McVay said this week. "Since I got into coaching, Coach Carroll's been nothing but great to me and always been willing to help and share some advice and give a perspective."
Maybe the most helpful advice that Carroll could have given McVay was about his own initial experiences as a head coach. The New York Jets hired Carroll in 1994, when he was 43, and fired him after one 6-10 season. He lasted three seasons with the New England Patriots before he was fired by them, too. Before the Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII, Carroll said it took getting fired twice -- and "getting kicked in the butt" -- to get to where he was.
Asked on Friday about the biggest challenge for first-timers, Carroll said it's figuring out what you believe in as a coach, "because you're going to get challenged so many times and asked so many [times] to come up with so many statements and principles in your approach that you really can't predict. So you're challenged at the core of your philosophy. So you've just have to go through it and figure it out.
"I think it's rare when a young guy really can just smoothly go through it, and we don't see it very often. It shows how prepared Sean is and what a great job he's doing right now."