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Super Bowl’s Super Last Play

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Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made a good decision when he chose to pass the ball against New England’s goal line defense.

On second down. With thirty seconds to go. And one time out left.

The Patriots were thinking run. Pete chose pass. Zig versus zag.

Like the old line from baseball goes “Hit it where they ain’t.”

But NCAA Champion and defending Super Bowl winning Coach Carroll’s decision goes beyond the basic run defense versus pass offense.

Seattle’s #BeastMode running back Marshawn Lynch seemed like the safe bet. Except for the fact that in the five previous one yard line rushes this season for Lynch, the best running back in the NFL, failed four out of five or eighty (80) percent of the time.

Of the 109 passes thrown from the one yard line this season in the NFL, only one was intercepted. Dividing 1 by 109 gives you…hold on….  .91% failure rate which flips into a 99% chance the pass will NOT be intercepted.

Best case scenario was that the play would have worked as designed and called for a touchdown and probable second consecutive Super Bowl victory for the Seattle Seahawks.

Worst case in Carroll’s mind was that Seattle would have third and goal from the one with the clock stopped thus saving their remaining time out. This would give him the option of either running or passing the ball on third and even fourth down.

Given his reputation for “going for it all”, which earned him the “Big Balls Pete” nickname while coaching University of Southern California, this would have given him decision leverage. New England would be exposed to the very real possibility that this guy can and will do anything on the next two plays.

And they have #BeastMode.

Remember how everyone said Pete Carroll’s decision to pass with six seconds to go in the first half was stupid?

No. They didn’t.

At the end of the game, Carroll was wrong with the right decision.

It was not “the worse call ever” or the “stupidest thing in the history of the Super Bowl.”

It was an easily defensible decision and Carroll would have been heralded as a mystical savant if the play had worked. And it almost did. If you watch the film – it was there. The linebacker rushed the end creating a passing lane for Russell Wilson and the wide receiver, at the line of scrimmage as the play unfolded, was going to be open for the split-second pass that is the quick slant.

What happened after that is what everyone seems to be missing from the typical over the top Monday morning quarterbacking of the play. The real lessons to be learned from this game.

Malcolm Butler made a great play.

The rookie cornerback out of Division II West Alabama made the play. He did it. Not only did Butler stop the Seattle wide receiver from catching the ball by knocking it down – which he could have done – he made such a great play jumping the quick slant route that he intercepted the ball preserving New England’s victory.

Malcolm Butler made the play. He did it. Give him the credit due versus debiting Pete Carroll.

Recalling the lyrics to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”

“Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity/to seize everything you ever wanted/one moment/ would you capture it?/or just let it slip/Yo.”

When interviewed after the game, Butler clearly overcome by the moment could barely speak. Shaking his head within his own disbelief, he expressed two very important things which are the true lessons from Super Bowl 49.

1) Butler said he was “blessed” – how great is it that a young man in today’s world who took his shot and captured the moment in the biggest sporting event in the world by seizing the ball can humbly step back just minutes later and express that he was blessed.  Valuable lesson number one.

2) Butler said in the next sentence while holding that humility that he was prepared. This rookie out of West Alabama was prepared enough that when he had his one moment he captured it by not only losing himself but because of his preparation he was actually aware of it!

That’s great coaching, Bill Belichick. Well done.

Ask yourself. Think back. When the play unfolded, did you say, think, or feel “What an idiot?!? What was Carroll thinking! I would NEVER have done that! What a MORON! or did you say “That was awesome! What a play! Who was that guy? Unbelievable!”

It’s in those moments we learn the value of competitive sport in our lives. Are we prepared for our day? Do we even know what quality preparation looks like? Are we ready for the moments, the shots, and opportunities to seize everything we want?

One NFL coach summed up a book on coaching philosophy being “all about clearing the clutter between the interactions between the conscious and subconscious mind…through superior practice and a clear approach. Focus, clarity, and belief in yourself are what allow you to express your ability without discursive thoughts and concerns.”  That same coach wrote a foreword for a future edition of the book in which he stated athletes “must clear their minds of all confusion and earn the ability to let themselves play freely.”

The book? The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Thomas Gallwey.

The coach? “Big Balls Pete” Carroll.

Good decision, bad outcome.

Malcolm Butler great decision, better outcome.


(This first ran in Cold Fusion on February 3, 2015)


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