White Cover Magazine
I will never watch the Super Bowl at a Super Bowl party again.
I actually want to watch the Super Bowl – I actually want to listen to what’s being said. I don’t want to be around Packers fans, those entitled cheeseheads who are so incapable of mentally handling their own inadequacy that they have to bum rush everyone else’s parade and complain and whine bitterly about what happened two weeks ago. Guys, it’s over. You lost. If you were good enough, you would have a horse in this race. But nobody invited you.
In fact, I don’t want to watch it with fans of any of the NFL’s 30 others teams – those people don’t watch the Super Bowl to see someone win, they come to watch someone lose.
And yesterday, boy did everyone have their chance to fling the hate.
Because Pete Carroll – or Russell Wilson, or Seattle’s offensive coordinator Darrel Bevell – made what will be almost universally acknowledged as a terrible call – or, at least, an infuriating one. The ball’s on the one-yard line. You’re already wrapping your fingers around your second straight Super Bowl, and then you choose to throw it. Sorry, throw it away. You’ve already wasted precious seconds off a clock that’s working against you, burned two timeouts because you couldn’t call a play in time, and now you’re taking the ball out of the hands of the league’s best rushing attack.
With three downs left to win it, you don’t call for Marshawn Lynch to ram the ball down New England’s throat. You don’t even go with a very reliable second option, which would be to let your mobile-as-hell quarterback Russell Wilson roll out right and walk it in, like Vince Young did to Carroll’s USC Trojans way back in that 2006 Rose Bowl.
No, you go with a throw inside. It’s really not an idiotic call – it’s just an extremely risky one, made into a potentially catastrophic one given the game and the situation, and it went against Seattle. Carroll knew the risks. Wilson knew the risks. Everyone in the building – the billion watching on TV – knew the risks. And it blew up in Seattle’s face.
(And the shame of this is, Malcolm Butler made a truly all-time great play to not only intercept that ball, but to read Wilson’s mind. Butler’s accomplishment will be drowned out for a few days while the Seahawks climb out of their rubble, but hopefully time will correct that and he’ll get the credit he’s due.)
So what’s Carroll supposed to do?
Knowing the risk in the call before he made the call, he has to know the hate is already swirling. He has to know he’ll be second-guessed all the way until he wins a Super Bowl again. He has to know he has a 26-year-old quarterback who’s going to need protection from sports’s paparazzi. He has to know his offensive coordinator – Bevell – will be fielding darts, too.
What did he do? He stepped up and took the blame. Like a real man – like a real coach – should.
“We were going to run the ball to win the game – just not on that play,” Carroll said, post-loss. “They had sent in their goal-line people. They had guys on the line of scrimmage. So we thought we’d spread them out with three wides… We had three downs and we had a timeout.
“This one didn’t work out for us. In retrospect, we could have run it.”
He knows he’s not going to convince anyone who wants his throat he made the right call. So he answered the questions he had to – he explained what he did, he explained the thought behind the call, and he walked us through it. And damn, leave it to the animals out there to say what they’ll say.
(And of course, I had to keep my ears to the TV just to barely hear what Carroll said, while every cynical, mocking fan on the couch in front of me stuffed their face with yet another Dorito. The Packers fans in the room were proud for a basically inexplicable reason – they seemed to forget Seattle won a Super Bowl last year, that Sunday’s Super Bowl proved the Seahawks are 1a and 1b with New England atop the NFL’s heap. But give Green Bay credit – they won’t let reality interfere with their confidence, I suppose.)
But it’s not just on Carroll. It might be a little bit on Darrel Bevell. It’s certainly a little bit on Russell Wilson, who played a fault-free game until that point. And even with Wilson deciding to throw the ball into traffic, the one thing you can lay on his shoulder is, he made a bad throw. It wasn’t awful or anything – but he should have thrown it low. You should always throw it low. Everyone knows the risks of floating it in there like he did, that it could always be tipped and then intercepted. That’s why pitchers never threw high to Barry Bonds – yeah, they might strike him out. But he also might hit that ball 575 feet over your head.
All that didn’t matter, though. Not to Carroll. He’s known as a players’ coach, and he proved it last night.
He turned the spotlight on him and let the quicksand take him. In a moment where so many of his colleagues have used their own players as scapegoats – ahem, Mike McCarthy – and backed away from the table when the bill comes, after what may go down as the most head-scratchingly brutal strategic blunders in NFL history, Carroll stepped up and finally made the right call – to put it all on him.
It came to late too win a Super Bowl. But it was just in time to save his Seahawks.