A Defense Of Pete Carroll

The aftermath of the Super Bowl has been marked by universal criticism of Seattle Seahawks’ coach Pete Carroll. You know what happened–the Seahawks, down 28-24, had the ball on the 1-yard line in the final minute with three shots to score and one timeout. They had the best power back in football in Marshawn Lynch. Yet they threw the ball. And it ended with an interception. I’ve listened to Carroll get crushed repeatedly. But I want to offer a reasonable defense of the Seattle head coach.

With one timeout, the Seahawks were not going to be able to run the ball all three times. To get all three plays in, you had to throw one pass. In spite of how things ended, Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson is careful with the football. There was no reason for Seattle not to at least throw it once. Carroll said afterward the plan was to run it on third down, use their timeout and then run again on fourth down. I don’t see the problem here at all.

Super Bowl 2014
What I do see a problem with is the specific pass play called. Let’s begin with the fact that it was an empty backfield out of the shotgun. At least put Lynch on the field and don’t telegraph up front that the pass play is coming.

Then let’s go to the route, a tight slant. There is no margin of error at all. I thought Wilson threw a decent pass, but it wasn’t perfect, just a little bit out in front. Postgame analysis has said Wilson should have thrown to the back shoulder. Maybe, but if it bounces off a shoulder pad and it goes up in the air, it’s also getting intercepted.

My initial reaction was, and still is, that receiver Ricardo Lockette was way too passive. If you watch the replay, his arms don’t extend. But on the flip side, the catch would still have been tough, though better extension probably averts the interception. In any case, the only thing that’s going to produce a touchdown is a 100 percent perfect pass and the odds of disaster are high.

Thus, we have a pass play called which had no deception involved, and whose risk/reward ratio drastically favored the defense. But I don’t blame Pete Carroll for this. The onus has to fall on offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

Carroll is a defensive guy and does not call the plays. While I’m not privy to the inner workings of the Seattle staff, I think it highly probable that Carroll only authorized the decision to throw itself, but left the specific play call to his coordinator. I think all of this is entirely reasonable on the part of the head coach.

Bevell had better options. He could have run a fade rout to the corner of the end zone. His big receivers had already used their size throughout the game and Wilson is smart enough to throw the ball to the back of the end zone where it’s either a touchdown or incomplete. If the coordinator really wanted to use the middle, bring in Lynch and do a play-action fake with the pass to the back half of the end zone. Or simply roll Wilson out and tell him to throw it away if nothing’s there.

It brings me no pleasure to put the onus on Bevell. I’m a college fan of the Wisconsin Badgers, a reason I like Wilson, and Bevell quarterbacked the 1993 Rose Bowl team, that ushered in the program’s modern era of success. I don’t like Carroll, the only reason I don’t otherwise cheer for this Badger-populated team (including linebacker O’Brien Schofield). But Bevell, not Carroll, is the one that screwed up.