It will be a play call that is judged and ridiculed of a lifetime. Pete Carroll’s decision to throw the ball on the one yard line, rather than give it to the best running back in all of football, the man they call ‘Beastmode’, took no longer than 10 seconds to be seen as the worst play call in NFL history.
With over 100 million people watching the game on television, and another 60,000-plus screaming fans in the stadium, the call left everyone wondering, why? In fact, even players on Seattle publicly stated after the game that they have no idea why Marshawn Lynch was not handed the football.
Questioning the decision is an easy thing to do from the couch, or even from the sideline from a players perspective. However, let’s try to put ourselves in Pete Carroll’s shoes.
There is less than one minute left in Super Bowl 49, and the both the game clock and play clock is running. You have a package of goal line plays in your hand, and only 20 seconds or so in which to consider everything, and call the most important play of your career.
Remember the theme evolving all postseason: aggressive coaching wins football games. Just ask Detroit Jim Caldwell, who’s lack of aggression on a fourth and short in Dallas territory, gave the Cowboys the football back and they went on to lead the game winning drive. You can ask Mike McCarthy, and his decision choosing not to go for the touchdown inside the one yard line against Seattle. Getting lost in all this too, is the fact that it was an aggressive play call by Carroll at the end of the first half that had helped give the Seahawks this chance to win the game.
Perhaps Carroll thought aggression would work on this play call. Would New England be ready for a pass? Was Carroll probably over thinking the situation? Yes. Should he have called a running play for Lynch? Yes, but it’s not hard to see where he might have been coming from, and he was not the one who threw the interception, which was the only big mistake made all game by Russell Wilson, albeit a big one.
Though with all this said, it is easy to see where all the frustration comes from, especially the Seattle players. All the work they put in from OTA’s, to mini camp, to training camp, etc. To be that close and get nothing hurts.
However, let’s not have one play call allow us to forget what a truly amazing Super Bowl this was. Just two plays prior, Seattle wide receiver Jermaine Kearse made an unfathomable catch, one of the best we’ve ever seen in a Super Bowl. That play, that set the Seahawks up for a first and goal, had everyone thinking back to the last miraculous catch made in a Super Bowl, back in February of 2008. David Tyree’s unbelievable grab helped set up the Giants game winning touchdown that spoiled a perfect season and a fourth Super Bowl title for the Patriots in the 21st century.
Was history going to repeat itself?
In the end, the answer is no because of the position Tom Brady put the Patriots in at the end of the game. Down 10 points in the fourth quarter and struggling to gain any offensive momentum, Brady dug deep and delivered one of his best, and maybe his most memorable performance ever.
Super Bowls had come easy to Brady at the beginning of his NFL career, to the point that it became evident how badly he wanted this fourth one, and stopped at nothing to capture it and win his third Super Bowl MVP in the process.
It is true, this Super Bowl will often be remembered and talked about for that final play call, with people dissecting Carroll’s decision making in every way imaginable. But, Super Bowl 49 delivered so much more.
In many ways, this Super Bowl was exactly what the NFL needed. From Ray Rice, to Adrian Peterson and Josh Gordon, 2014 was a black eye to the NFL’s image in many ways. However, the game’s popularity is bigger than ever, and the fans, who never left, will be ready and eager to see who becomes the next Super Bowl champion.
For now though, we wait. 12 days until the combine, 33 until free agency, 84 until the draft, roughly 169 until the start of training camps, and 210 until 2015 regular season opener. It is going to be a fun off-season.