SPORTS SQUIB | Pete Carroll’s Missed Opportunity in Super Bowl XLIX

GUSBy Gus Jarvis

OK, so it wasn’t the boring 9-3 kickers duel I shamelessly predicted in last week’s column. In fact, Super Bowl XLIX ended in high drama and will go down as one of the most exciting, memorable Super Bowls in history. It will be a Super Bowl that armchair quarterbacks like myself will never tire talking about.

However, as an avid professional football consumer, I must say I feel we were cheated out of what should have been a real ending to a real football game.

With the Super Bowl on the one-yard line and the league’s best running back ready to roll, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and his offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell decided to get cute. They decided to get cute by throwing the ball instead of running the ball.

You’ve all seen the play. I don’t need to tell you how badly that decision backfired on Carroll and the rest of the Seahawks. He basically handed Tom Brady and Patriots coach Bill Belichick yet another championship. And now we must endure the tireless talk on how great those two have been together. It makes me sick to my stomach. Seriously. Thanks a lot Pete.

Naturally, when the Seahawks tried to win the Super Bowl with a stupid pick pass instead of running with Marshawn Lynch into the end zone, the Twitter world blew up. Millions of people around the world, including many former professional players, tweeted outrage on the terrible decision. Anyone and everyone, except Pete Carroll, would have run the ball.

Of course in the hours and days after the Super Bowl when everyone’s had more time to digest Carroll’s decision, there are a bunch of pundits, reporters and annoying talking heads coming out of the woodwork to defend Carroll and his decision to pass instead of run. We are a nation who loves a good debate, so its only natural that a lot of opinionated people are going to defend his decision, despite how morbidly dumb it really was. So far I’ve heard that passing is the only way the Seahawks can score inside the 10-yard line. I’ve heard from Carroll himself that the play was intended to be a wasted play and then they would go back to the run.

I read on The New York Times’ “The Upshot” that the goal line decision-making between Carroll and Belichick was nothing more than a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.

“If Carroll will definitely play scissors,” The Upshot’s Justin Wolfers wrote, “Belichick will respond with rock. The only way to make Belichick’s job hard is for Carroll to make it impossible for him to guess what he will play next. And the only way to do that is for his strategy to appear random.”

So the quick pick route was basically a random call by Carroll to keep Belichick and his team guessing? Well Belichick and the Patriots, particularly Malcolm Butler, saw the play coming a mile away and intercepted the play. Carroll’s randomness, as Wolfers suggests, ultimately played right into Belichick’s hand.

For me, there’s no way to defend Carroll’s decision to pass the ball. I’ll stick with former Cowboys running great Emmitt Smith who tweeted after the game, “That was the worst play call I’ve ever seen in the history of football.”

It really was the worst play call in the history of the N.F.L. and I’ll never waiver on that statement.

What I really dislike about this Super Bowl, exciting as it was, is what we are all talking about now. This Super Bowl will forever be known for a coaching decision rather than one team’s play on the field. It should be about a player’s performance or team’s performance on the field. This Super Bowl was all about Pete Carroll and the decision to pass the ball. We will all forget about Butler’s brilliant read and interception long before we’ll forget that it was Pete Carroll’s decision to pass the ball.

At some point the coaching strategies need to end and the players, who are paid a boatload of money, need to make a play. Whatever happened to football being a game of inches? A game of grit, toughness and meanness? If this Super Bowl says anything about where the game is going, it’s no longer about a game of inches and toughness. It’s about crafty rub routes and pass interference calls.

In my mind Pete Carroll missed an opportunity to prove that football is a game of toughness and that it truly is a game of inches. A game of physicality. A game of strength and meanness.

What Pete Carroll should have done in that final minute of Super Bowl XLIX is return the game of football to its moorings where toughness trumps strategy. Carroll, if he had any balls, should have told his team to line up in the “power I formation” and run the ball with Lynch three straight times. Show Belichick and his defense that – no mistake about it –you are going to win this Super Bowl by running the ball straight up the middle and down their throat. To use the Rock, Paper, Scissors analogy again, you are basically showing that you are going to run with rock and even though the Patriots will then bring paper, you are basically saying to the coach that you’ll take that piece of paper and stuff it down their throat.

Let the offensive line and your running back win the game for once. If the Patriots stuff it? Run it again. If they stuff it again? Run it again. And if they stuff it on fourth down? The Patriots won the game of inches with their own goal line toughness. Good on them.

I would much rather be a coach in the post game interview answering questions as to why we lost on four straight runs rather than a cute quick pass that was intercepted.

The final minute of Super Bowl XLIX was the perfect moment to bring football back to where it belongs – a game of toughness in the trenches. Seeing the A.F.C. Champions and N.F.C. Champions battling over one yard in the trenches would have been a real Super Bowl finish to remember.

For now, all we will remember is Pete Carroll’s candy-ass decision to run a candy-ass pass play that didn’t work.

 

gus@sjindependent.org

@Gus_Jarvis