Sometimes the Monday morning quarterbacks are right

“Monday morning quarterback” is one of my favorite phrases. It’s a phrase used to describe the ease at which a difficult decision can be analyzed after the results are in — and it’s a reference to the fanboys and fangirls who love to hypercriticize sports decisions after the game is over. But the outcome is unknown when the coaching decision is made, and even the best coaches are going to be wrong at times, which is why I long ago learned that it’s much better to remain patient and exercise empathy when decisions go badly.

That being said, Pete Carroll’s decision to throw a slant pass with the Seahawks poised to win the Super Bowl, with the NFL’s most unstoppable force in his backfield and a defense that hadn’t been able to put him down all day in front of him, might be the single most inexplicable coaching decision I’ve ever seen when so much was on the line.

The problem wasn’t entirely Carroll’s — Seattle QB Russell Wilson threw to the wrong shoulder of the receiver, although that is an absolute bang-bang play and the timing is exquisitely difficult. And I actually can understand a pass on second (or third) down in that position with the clock running out. But the slant over the middle is always a bit dicey, even when the defense is mismatched (which Carroll thought was the case here, but he was wrong), because the receiver often gets smashed and/or the ball gets tipped and/or all sorts of crazy ensues. In this case, though, it was much simpler: The defensive back read the play, jumped the route, intercepted the ball and won the Super Bowl.

One of the things I really admire about Seattle is that they keep things so simple. It’s often easy for opposing quarterbacks to read their defense, and you often have a reasonable idea of what the offense is going to throw at you. They simply line up their people, and if you can beat them, so be it. The fact that they’ve been to the last two Super Bowls with this philosophy tells you how talented they are, how much they believe in each other and how well they execute on a fundamental level.

Those facts all screamed for one person to get the ball at the end of the game Sunday — and if that play didn’t work, probably the same person getting the ball one or two more times. Instead, Carroll — who already had performed some significant dice-rolling at the end of the first half and won — fell victim to NFL Coach Soopah Genius Disease. It happens to the best of coaches (and I’d certainly put Carroll in that group despite this massive fail) but it couldn’t have flared up at a worse time. It cost Seattle a title, and you didn’t need to be a Monday morning quarterback to see that.

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