More than 24 hours have passed since the Super Bowl. That’s plenty of time to breakdown one of the greatest football games ever played. Plenty of time to celebrate the legacy Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots went about cementing with another Vince Lombardi trophy. However, it’s also just the beginning of the debate over what will go down as one of the most controversial play calls in the history of professional sports.
Trailing by four points with 26 seconds remaining, the Seattle Seahawks found themselves 1 yard away from a second consecutive championship. The next play everyone expected was for Seattle’s star quarterback Russell Wilson to hand the football to Marshawn Lynch. Instead, Wilson threw a pass intended for his wide receiver Ricardo Lockette that wound up in the hands of Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler. Ballgame over. The Patriots are Super Bowl champions for the first time in 10 years. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are the topic of conversation at every water cooler and on every social network, for a pass play that should never have been called.
Wilson made the pass, however it was Seattle’s head coach Pete Carroll that signed off on the decision. Carroll’s choice to go away from Lynch, their best option in the run game, at the goal line with the championship in the balance deserves every ounce of criticism imaginable. My initial reaction after Wilson’s pass was intercepted by Butler was of surprise like most. I wondered aloud how a team that’s relied on the legs of Lynch to get them 5-10 yards in crucial moments, at times literally carrying multiple players with him down the field, would choose to go in another direction at the greatest moment of all. When you’re one yard away from victory on the game’s greatest platform, you put the ball into the hands of your best to close the deal. Carroll opted to go another route, and while I’d be first in line to remind him why it was the wrong call, I understood why he did it.
Everyone in the building, the state of Arizona, and the millions watching around the world knew that football was going to Marshawn Lynch. Carroll knew they all knew, he banked on the likelihood of New England knowing this too. He took a chance, rolled the dice, and went instead with his quarterback making the play no one would see coming. If Wilson’s pass finds its way into the hands of Lockette instead of Butler, the headlines likely praise Seattle for their guts and creativity. Carroll adds another stamp of approval to his coaching credentials, Wilson gets a similar stamp of approval in his ascension to becoming an elite quarterback, and Lockette becomes a household name for reasons no one ever expected three hours earlier. Seattle wound up going one for three on those bullet points, while New England came away with the victory.
While Carroll deserves the criticism, it comes with the business he chose, he doesn’t deserve to lose his job. Let’s dismiss that notion as soon as possible. Did he over think it? Every indication would point towards that to be true. However, he went with logic that what he believed to be — the best call on that down, at the point on the game clock — would be the right call. Just like in life, every decision doesn’t always produce the results they were intended for.