clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A time to run: Hard coaching lessons learned in Super Bowl 49

New, comments

NFL coaching is an extremely complex task that can sometimes be broken down into beautiful simplicity. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and his team violated some of those fundamental tenets and thus suffered a heart-breaking defeat.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Pete Carroll has probably forgotten more about football than I will ever know.  But I would not forget to give the ball to Marshawn Lynch on the 1 yard line with under 30 seconds left in the Super Bowl.

Or would I? The Seahawks suffered a meltdown at the end of the game, but it was not just the last offensive play call.  Seattle wasted two time outs on that final drive.  If even one of those timeouts was saved, Seattle, by Carroll's own admission, would have run the ball.  When Seattle went back on offense after the two minute warning, time was not really an issue.  Both timeouts were wasted pre-snap, which in that situation, is inexcusable.

When one considers the wasted time outs, it makes the call on 2nd and goal even more inexcusable.  At some point, Carroll has to realize that his team, and maybe his offensive coordinator, were cracking under the pressure of the moment. This is why I am quick to point out that I, or most anyone, could not possibly understand, or appreciate, the amount of pressure felt by Seattle in those moments.  Pressure can get to us all, and it clearly got to Seattle, and it also got to New England.

How else could you explain New England and Bill Belichick not calling a time out after Lynch ran for four yards on first down? If Seattle scores on 2nd and goal, Belichick is being excoriated today for letting approximately 30 seconds waste off of the clock.  New England would have been only down by three, and Seattle probably would have gotten a celebration penalty on the scoring play.  Thus, New England should have had good field position.

Back to Seattle. Carroll has to calm his team, and coaches, down.  He should have done it after the first time out.  He especially should have done it after the second time out.  At that point, Carroll should have reminded himself and his coaches about something I guarantee they talked about before every game: If we need a yard to gain a crucial 1st down or to score a TD, what are we going to run?

Every coach, from high school to the professional ranks, has this conversation pregame.  The reason you have a few hours before, or the day before, kick off is to avoid the pressure of the moment.  I guarantee that during those conversations, the coaches agreed that with the game on the line, and you need one yard to win, you give the ball to Lynch.

Carroll obviously did not remind his offensive staff of that conversation.  Now, I find it somewhat funny that some people, ones who know a lot about statistics, are arguing that Carroll made the right call.  They're crazy.  At that moment, when you need one yard to win the Super Bowl, you give the ball to Lynch.  I don't want to hear about 3rd and 4th down.  We are going to win the game right here.  That is what (if I was a Seattle fan) I would want to hear.

Carroll talking about what to do on 3rd and 4th down is analogous to a boxer talking about what to do after he gets knocked down.  No one talks like that.  You talk about knocking about that other guy, not about how you would respond to getting knocked down.

Even if you want to look at the situation more analytically, Carroll still messed up.  He said after the game that New England kept their goal line people in the game, which led to the decision to throw.  That doesn't excuse the play call. If you are going to run a pick play on the goal line, throw to the receiver breaking out, not in.  When you throw to the receiver breaking out, their is no chance of the ball being tipped, and little chance of an interception.  It is either going to be a touchdown or an incompletion.

Play action would be key too. Counter New England's heavy package with your own, and call (what I like to refer to as) the tight end wide open play.  If, by some miracle, New England covers it, Russell Wilson can throw the ball away.  And remember, even if you want to defend the pass on second down, the only reason they are throwing is because they wasted, not one, but two timeouts already on that drive.

Carroll right that there is not enough time to run the ball three times.  But, as a coach, you have to put the ball in Lynch's hands on 2nd down.  At that moment, in that game, with everything on the line, you give the ball to the heart and soul of your team.  You don't throw the ball to a receiver whose name I don't even know, over the middle, in that tight of a window, with that high of a probability of the ball being tipped.

That is what makes the game so fun to watch.  Everyone knows, no matter their football acumen, that Carroll screwed up. People that love the essence of the game saw New England reeling and ready to be knocked out.  Instead of throwing the knockout punch, Carroll (and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell ) relied upon what an "expert" might do in that situation.  In that, we have a great lesson about the accumulated knowledge of many versus the knowledge of a few experts.  Carroll, and a few people that know too much math, are going to rely upon their expertise in defending what is clearly indefensible.  The accumulated knowledge of the billion or so people watching the game, some of them watching the only football game they have seen this season, was outraged over Carroll's decision.

The latter group is correct.