I sat glued to my television this weekend as the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots treated millions of fellow sports fans to one heckuva game, Super Bowl XLIX. If you watched, then no doubt you gasped, yelled, even cursed out loud in the last seconds of the fourth quarter. That’s when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw an interception that all but officially ended the game, and the Seahawks’ hopes for a repeat win. Retired NFL players and media alike questioned the thinking (even sanity) of coach Pete Carroll at that moment. (To wit: a USA Today article posted just before 11pm that night, with the headline, “What on earth was Seattle thinking with worst play call in NFL history?”) Even today, two days after the Big Game, sports pundits are analyzing, re-analyzing, and over-analyzing the call.
As a sports nut, I, too, shook my head at Carroll’s thinking. Frankly, I’m still having a hard time understanding why he’d opt for a pass rather than Beast Mode. But, I’ve actually been thinking more about how Carroll has repeatedly taken full credit for the decision. No excuses. As he stated after the game, “You never think you’ll throw an interception.” Reality is strongly on his side. As an ESPN reporter tweeted a few hours later, of 66 touchdown passes thrown in the NFL at the one-yard line all season, Russell’s throw was the only one intercepted.
Carroll will surely be lambasted for days and weeks (heck, maybe even years) to come. But standing by his decision is something worth paying equal, if not more, attention to, for it is the path we don’t often see taken by leaders. Now, I’m not equating Carroll with the likes of a head of state. But he is a leader, and leaders can and do screw up. When’s the last time you heard anyone in a position of power — particularly a politician or CEO — admit that he or she made a mistake? A good deal of backpedaling goes on, as does throwing colleagues or underlings under the bus. But saying, “I didn’t think that would be the result” or “I thought we had a good shot” doesn’t seen to be in their vocabulary.
We can still disagree with Carroll’s initial thinking. But we should at least give him some credit, for doing something right that few others have the guts to do.