Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was one yard away from proving that he was every bit the equal of the best NFL coach of this generation, New England’s Bill Belichick. In the waning moments of a scintillating Super Bowl XLIX, with the Patriots holding on to a tenuous 28-24 lead, Seattle had the ball inches from the end zone and its impending coronation as the blueprint of excellence for a modern-day franchise.
Carroll was moments away from dancing and smiling his way past the velvet rope and into the esteemed company of Belichick, Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, Mike Shanahan and Jimmy Johnson as the only men to have ever coached their teams to back-to-back Super Bowl championships.
Sammy Davis Jr., the brilliant impressionist, singer, dancer, musician and actor once said, “You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear.”
Well, Carroll chose fear, and as the well-worn postulate of the street goes, “Scared money don’t make no money.”
It all seemed like such a mere formality after watching running back Marshawn Lynch puncture New England’s defense for four brutal yards, placing his team on the precipice of sports immortality. Everyone watching the game instinctively knew that Lynch would be carrying the ball into the end zone as Belichick refused to use one of his final timeouts while the clock ticked away.
Just plug the ball into the end zone and there would be no time for any endgame heroics from New England’s incredible quarterback, Tom Brady.
You didn’t have to be a football rocket scientist to know what was coming next. Sarah Palin knew it. Warren, Cameron Diaz’s brother in the film There’s Something About Mary, knew it. And the record company executive who encouraged MC Hammer to change his steez to gangsta rap, four years removed from U Can’t Touch This, knew it as well.
If it somehow escapes you, my point is that even the dimmest light bulbs in the Dollar Store value pack knew the best thing to do in that situation: hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch and then go celebrate.
But inexplicably, Carroll and his offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell seemed to be the only two people on the face of the earth who didn’t. It was a decision that, despite Carroll’s best efforts, was, is and always will be inexcusable. It’s a black eye on his resume, despite his success and proven acumen, that forever calls into question his judgment.
It was the worst case of brain flatulence and the most glorious act of self-sabotage since –
Al Davis drafted JaMarcus Russell with the #1 overall pick in 2007.
The Rodney King verdict.
The Cleveland Indians had their “Ten Cent Beer Night” promotion in 1974.
Someone thought it was great idea to green light The Godfather, Part III.
The Olympic judges robbed Roy Jones Jr. at the 1988 Olympics.
Someone thought it was a great idea to cast Sofia Coppola as Mary Corleone in The Godfather, Part III.
ESPN hired Rush Limbaugh.
Michael Jordan played baseball.
The Venture Capitalist who said, “Why should I invest in this Netflix idea when everybody can just run to Blockbuster.”
The Vikings traded for Herschel Walker.
When Coca-Cola rolled out New Coke in 1985.
The historic hijacking of the 2000 Presidential election in favor of George W. Bush.
The Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees.
The Jets, ironically enough, fired Carroll after one season as head coach and in 1995, replaced him with Richie Kotite.
I could go on and on, but you get my drift. The decision to not hand the ball to the most powerful and possibly the best running back in the NFL over the past few years will forever remain unpardonable, unjustifiable and intolerable.
The funny thing in the Carroll/Belichick debate leading up to the Super Bowl was that New England’s coach was portrayed as a sinister and diabolical cheater, while Carroll was cast as the happy-go-lucky surfer dude who coached a horrendously violent sport as if he was instructing a G-String clad Serena Williams in the nuances of beach volleyball.
It’s interesting how quickly people forget the ruins and charred remains of the University of Southern California football program that Carroll left in the wake of the his abrupt departure, shortly before the hefty NCAA sanctions that effectively crippled one of college football’s most storied programs and forced Reggie Bush to surrender his Heisman Trophy. Many people believe that Carroll was not only aware of what was going on at USC, but that he might have also been acting as a facilitator with some of the marketing agents that had inappropriate dealings with some of his players.
But that’s another discussion for another day.
I woke up this morning unable to shake Carroll and the buffoonish decision that hand-wrapped the Lombardi Trophy for New England. Don’t get me wrong, they earned the victory and made the plays that needed to be made. Say what you want about Belichick and Brady, they’re among the best to ever coach and play the quarterback decision.
The game itself was a classic battle and I’m not mad at the outcome. Rookie Malcolm Butler's game-winning interception in the end zone sealed New England's victory.
The brain flatulence on behalf of Seattle, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, is analogous to life though. We see it every day is some shape, form or fashion.
The Patriots won, fair and square. And Carroll will have to live with the absurdity of the play choice for the rest of his life.
Because from here on out, I will no longer think of LeBron James when I hear the phrase, “The Decision.” That will be reserved for Seattle’s offensive coaching staff and Russell Wilson. That’s right, I’m throwing the star young quarterback under the bus on this one as well. Because even Adam Sandler’s Bobby Boucher would’ve taken that play call, laughed, said, “Child Please!” , audibled and handed the ball to Marshawn Lynch.
Lastly, I’m left with some more words by Sammy Davis Jr.
In Baretta’s Theme, Davis crooned, “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time. DON’T DO IT! Don’t roll the dice, if you can’t pay the price. DON’T DO IT! Don’t run your feet down no dead end street. No, no, no. DON’T DO IT! Just keep your eye on the sparrow, when the going gets narrow! DON’T DO IT!!!”
In the game’s most decisive moments, you never heard Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson say anything other than, “Give Michael the damn ball!” You ride your horse and utilize your most dangerous weapon in a do- or-die situation. To do otherwise would be foolhardy.
Well, Carroll took his eye off the sparrow. He did the crime. But now everybody else affiliated with the organization will have to do the time.