Pete Carroll, the undersized UFC challenger, exhausted & bloody, hungrily catching his breath, sat on the stool. He was overmatched by a superior, experienced champion opponent. Heading into the final round, Round 5, his corner-man was desperately pleading at him while wiping blood off his cut face, wiping on vasoline.
"You got to knock him out! Pete! Look at me. Listen to me. You are down three rounds to one! You are losing this fight. Stop throwing your body shots. You got to go for it! Go for the knockout. Even if you control the next round you will lose this fight! You have to knock him out. You have to knock him out now!"
The fighter neither nods nor dissents his corner. He puts in his mouthpiece and breathes deeply. His normally handsome face looks bad. His nose even zig zags a bit - like a running back cutting in open field.
The final round begins - with the undersized challenger absorbing yet another series of quick jabs. At this point, his face has taken hundreds of jabs throughout the long fight, a fight he knows the champion has controlled. Yet he moves his feet, finds an opening- and throws yet another body shot. The champ is ready for it - and defends the body shot again - as he expertly has the entire fight. The champ was well prepared by his top trainers.
"Stop throwing the body - you got to knock him out!" Pete's corner screams again.
Shutting out his corner, the fighter throws one more body shot and the champion, instead of moving his feet, lazily lowers his arm to defend himself. But he leaves his chin open. His only weakness is his defense. He follows up the quick shot low with a vicious hook to the champ's exposed chin. Square. Boom. The Champion teeters like an evergreen. Knockout. It's over.
The Fighter did it his way.
Down big in the fourth quarter, Seahawks players and fans were wondering "Why the hell are we still running the ball?!"
Postgame, wide receivers admitted questioning the play calling.
Yet, Carroll would not abandon his plan. He would not try to change, and match, and play Tom Brady's game. He would not allow his rookie QB to throw 58 times, or 50 times, or 40 times, or even 30 times in this game. Late in the game he was still feeding Marshawn Lynch, despite Lynch being bottled up for under 50 yards for the first time in recent memory. The Sidney Rice play-action home-run for all the marbles was the end goal. Pete did it his way.
They had set up the Sidney Rice reverse pass to Tate previously in the game, with Rice faking the reverse. That play went for a mild three or four yard run. Standard issue. They ran the Rice reverse again, with Rice now taking the ball and "looking" for running room. Stop. Pause. Hurl. Pass Interference for 40 yards.
The reverse pass was a setup. The game winning TD pass, play-action corner-post, was the even bigger setup. Pete didn't think Lynch was going to run down the field, breaking eight tackles. Pete knew his only way to win this game was to set up the play action pass home-run.
That is Wilson's best pass at this point in his career. If Wilson had lined up in shotgun, empty backfield and passed 40 times - there is no way the Seahawks win the game. A redzone finish was questionable, at best. At this point, Russell has thrown 5 of his 8 TD passes from outside the redzone, with redzone efficiency being among the league worst. The Patriots would blitz and Wilson would be forced to make play after play after play. Sacks and interceptions were lurking. Wilson is not Tom Brady and likely will never be Tom Brady. Few are. None are.
It would be like me playing multiple hands and multiple rounds of betting against an expert, professional poker player. I have a better chance of finding a decent hand and then going all in. Limit the number of plays.
Pete also knew it would test the Patriots only real weakness - their pass defense. None of Belichick's secondary draft picks have jumped off the screen, like, for instance, a ...Richard Sherman. So Pete relied on what he knew, and what the opponent respected - the run game. Every defense knows, when you play the Seahawks - FIRST STOP LYNCH. Pete would run the ball 60x per game if it were physically possible.
Someday, Wilson may run the no-huddle. Someday, Wilson may run an offense similar to what he ran at N.C. State. But for now - the young quarterback is still most deadly, in my opinion, off of play action. Wisconsin Style.
An argument could be made that, at this juncture, having a running back like Marshawn Lynch is more important for Wilson than having a true #1 Wide Receiver. In fact, the Seahawks passed on several wide receivers and took Robert Turbin in the 4th Round. Buying insurance on a credible run game is that important to this team.
Pete stuck to his philosophy. He stuck to the strength of his team. He stuck with the strength of his offense. He knew he would have to rely on a handful of accurate haymakers to counterattack the impact of dozens upon dozens of accurate jabs.
This was the biggest regular season win in memory, not because the Seahawks beat the Patriots, but because it is beginning to prove to the Front Office, Coaches, Players and Fans that the Seahawks may have found THE guy at QB.
Make no mistake - Matt Flynn was just a bridge QB. He was a younger bridge than Matt Hasselbeck. He was a better bridge than Tarvaris Jackson. But he was and still is - a bridge QB. If he wasn't a bridge QB, why would John Schneider say that the two players he had to leave the draft with were Bruce Irvin and Russell Wilson. I went back and re-listened to the interviews Schneider did on KJR 950 and ESPN 710 after the draft. I encourage you to go listen to them. Schneider may not have expected Wilson to play in 2012, but he did think Wilson was "THE guy".
Tilt the Room. Tilt the Field. He gushed about Wilson before Carroll ever said much. He spent hundreds of hours and miles scouting him personally - in heavy rain and cold. Talked to his coaches. He tried everything he could to "pick apart his game" to see "is this real?" He told Brock Huard - " it's hard to pick apart his game." And he, admittedly, tried. Interestingly, Schneider has not done a public interview in a long time, likely waiting for the Wilson/Flynn imbroglio to play itself out. His first questions would revolve around that and it would put both QBs in a bad position to talk about it. Let Pete deflect the questions for now.
And I imagine the 2001 decision between drafting Drew Brees versus trading for Matt Hasselbeck clouded his thinking. Schneider was with the Seahawks during that time - and I am sure many 12s believe Hasselbeck is the greatest Seahawk QB ever. And I am not saying that Hasselbeck was the wrong choice. After all, Brees had some good years and some rough years in San Diego in those early days. Matt did amazing things. But, when Schneider watches Brees now, I bet the thought comes to him... "We could have had this guy, every team in the league passed on him one time, including me, and he went in the 2nd round."
Why? Because Brees was too short and his arm was not a cannon at the time.
Fast forward to today. Why spend another year with another bridge quarterback? The defense would age another year, and your QBOTF would be holding a clipboard. "Learning." Why? Because, he "wasn't ready." You learn more by doing than watching, in my opinion. Would Miami sit Ryan Tannehill so he could learn behind Matt Flynn? By the time Wilson is "ready," Carroll and Schneider's contracts would be almost over. Carroll and Schneider admitted they had to rethink the "Aaron Rodgers" model. Look at the number of rookie and second year QBs playing today. Carroll and Schneider have five-year deals and they are already halfway through their contracts already.
Yet, it isn't about what Carroll & Schneider are doing for their own jobs. It's about what they may leave the 12th Man. And there is one thing greater than leaving us with a great defense or 9 or 10 wins, or a few more wins and a playoff berth with a veteran quarterback. What is that?
A young quarterback capable of winning multiple Super Bowls. Is Wilson that guy? No one knows for sure, but at least we are trying to find out.
There is no greater gift you can give a fanbase. You can find 10 Richard Sherman's in the 5th round and you would have a really good defense and could still be 8-8. Finding a long term answer at QB trumps every late round or early round positional gem.
You can win now and win later as the Seahawks are proving, all the while developing a short, rookie quarterback. Schneider is tuning out the national pundits when he goes grocery shopping. And Carroll is cooking the meal his way.