It never ceases to amaze me how hysterical people become after a loss like this. I honestly feel calm. I mean, I understand that there's a lot of emotion tied into sports fanhood and if you think I don't care about how well this team does I don't think you understand the amount of hours I put into writing for this site. I care. A lot. Also, I'm not trying to convince you one way or another on what to feel after a day like yesterday, and I don't blame anyone for being frustrated. But part of this gig means I give you my opinion. So here it is.
The reason I feel so calm right now is that it's hard for me to not believe that in these last two weeks, the Seahawks essentially beat themselves with drops, penalties, special teams missed assignments, and so-called rookie mistakes. They didn't get beat because the teams they were playing necessarily had better coaching or better players or better schemes. On a micro level, there are plays that you give and take due to wily coaching or superior or inferior scheming, but on a whole I don't think there's an overarching problem with how this team is run or the player personnel decisions that have been made.
To me, this is not a team that is coming apart at the seams or imploding; the sky isn't falling and the wheels aren't falling off. They're a young, not-yet-very-good team that lost a couple games that they should've won. That's really all this is to me. The potential is still there. This team has some talent, and that talent is improving. I'm not surprised they lost this game, because they're still not there. Did anyone think they were? There's no easy fix.
The one thing I'm seeing is that Pete Carroll and the Seahawks' coaching staff is taking some flak for the decisions made. It's understandable but I'll say now that I don't have a huge problem with how this game was coached and I actually kind of like how some things went down.
There are a few controversial decisions that I'm sure will be put under a microscope this week by the Seattle media, and they'll start with the call to run it on 4th and 2 from the Bengals 3-yard line with 14 seconds remaining in the half. Carroll will get skewered for this, and I already saw Mitch Levy talking on Twitter about how Pete Carroll's days are numbered.
Now, I've watched the play a few times, read Doug Farrar's take on the play and took into consideration Pete's quotes about it and I still have the same impression now that I did during the game - I liked that decision.
The Hawks went out after a timeout and Tarvaris had the option to run the play, based on what the defense showed. Everyone in the damn stadium, watching on TV, and listening on the radio, and calling the game assumed the Seahawks would just be trying to draw the Bengals off-sides by doing some motioning and a boisterous cadence. Steve Raible was talking about this on the radio as I listened to the game on my drive home from Leavenworth, and his thoughts just confirmed to me more what I believed the Seahawks would do.
We've seen this work a few times and this situation would be perfect for that type of strategy. If the Hawks are able to coax the Bengals to jump offsides, we have a first down and 14 seconds to take at least two shots into the endzone. If the Bengals stay disciplined and hold steady, the field goal attempt, after the 5-yard delay of game penalty, goes from a 20-yard attempt to a 25 yard attempt. Who cares.
Instead, the Hawks tried to catch the Bengals off-guard. They'd go from trying not to jump offsides to trying to stop the improbable Lynch run up the middle with no timeouts, which - make no mistake- was about a foot from working brilliantly. If you go back and watch the play, Robert Gallery pulls to the right to lead block for Lynch and simply misses the linebacker charging in to make the play on Lynch. If Gallery looks right and even sniffs that guy, Lynch walks into the endzone.
I've seen Drew Brees and the Saints do this exact same move on 4th down. Everyone goes to the line expecting Brees to just bark a bit and then take the penalty. Instead, he snaps the ball and takes the first down. Sean Payton won a Super Bowl in part due to his willingness to do the unconventional. Obviously, there are two sides to the coin and those types of plays are high-risk, high-reward and aren't going to work every time.
Oregon lines up (or lined up, I haven't really watched much of that this season) for two every time they score a touchdown and go for it often. Why? ...Well, why not?
I'm not advocating the Seahawks do this, but I love the unconventional nature of it.
I had the opportunity to play a season for legendary PLU Football coach Frosty Westering and one of his tenets was to almost never kick field goals. They just didn't bother. Once past the 50-yard line or so, it essentially became 4-down territory. Eh, he'd rather just get the seven. Frosty sits ninth on the list of wins by a college football coach, all-time, with a 305-96-7 record and four national titles. Frosty's motivational philosophies and teaching methods were a huge part of why he had so much success over the years and one of his main inspirations was the methods of the legendary John Wooden. Guess who else bases a lot of his coaching philosophy and methodology on John Wooden.
Anyway, in this case, it's not like Pete was asking for the impossible. Can you really fault your head coach for believing his team can grab three yards in a crucial situation?
"Yeah, it was really simple - I wanted to jam it down in there, and I screwed up with the time out [on the play before]. I knew what happened - I knew where we were and all - but I thought we'd surprise them and make it in. We had a nice call to throw or run it, depending on what they did, we had the look we wanted to run the football, and we just missed it by a foot.
Attitude-wise and competing-wise, I don't mind that - I just wish we had done it right. It was a factor, because it would have been nice to have nine points after the next field goal, but that was totally on me. If I had to do it again, knowing that we had the ball coming out at halftime, I might have changed [the call]. I knew we'd have to hurry it up if we didn't make it ... but I still wanted to knock it in.
"It's tough to balance it, because I have an attitude and a personality about how I want to do it, but as a team, we're not quite able to take advantage of that yet."
There are going to be two sides to this argument until the next questionable coaching decision gets brought up, but just for me, I love this call. I really do. I LOVE the spirit of it.
Just in general, I love the idea of going for the win over the tie. Tom Osbourne may never live down his decision to go for two in the 1984 Orange Bowl against Miami that lost Nebraska a National Title but man, how can you not love the balls on making that call? Don't you just LOVE the ethos of that decision? That would be the most famous decision in college football of all time had it worked.
For whatever reason, I immediately thought of this old Nike commercial when writing about this play.
You're not going to 'make the shot' every time, but the times you do, it's going to be glorious. And isn't that why we watch sports? To take part in and live vicariously through the players' glory that comes through their victories? I realize I'm being
fairly extremely overdramatic, but this is what comes to my mind after something like that, and that is my feeling as a whole about sports, just in general.
If we want to lighten the tone of this post, how about instead you just picture Happy Gilmore surveying a broken down observation tower on the final green, Virginia Bennett trying to talk him into two-putting around it on his way to the next hole where they'd settle the tie. Happy then confidently, like a smart-ass, replies, 'Naw, ... naw I think I'll just win it now." That's the kind of crap I think of when I'm faced with this situation.
Whatever. It didn't work this time. I still like it. Some people will probably call me a homer for that. It's not that, really. I like some of the things Pete Carroll does. I don't like some others. But in this article's case, honestly, I like Pete Carroll BECAUSE of stuff like this, not in spite of it. I'm not defending Pete, I'm defending the style.
People will undoubtedly feel differently about this than me, and can you always play the percentages or take the safe route as a coach especially in the NFL if you want, we all know that if they don't work out, that coach's seat gets hot real quick.
If he kicks that field goal, a lot of us are moaning about playing too conservatively - a blown opportunity. If Gallery makes that block and Lynch gets into the endzone, Pete Carroll is a genius. Hindsight is always 20-20, but I'm personally stoked the Seahawks have a coach that has the chutzpuh to make a decision like that. Honestly, I just wish he'd stop apologizing for calls like this.
It didn't work, and he's going to hear about it this week. But that play is just a microcosm of what you can expect with Pete Carroll as head coach of any team. He's been unlucky here thus far and some of these plays haven't worked out. It's natural that he'll get some criticism, but you better believe people are going to be singing his praises when these types of things start working more consistently as this team improves in skill and talent.
Anyway, that's what I got right now, that's what struck me to write. We'll get more in-depth about this game in the next couple of days, because there's a lot to talk about.