- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

At the end of “Hoosiers,” when Norman Dale is drawing up the final play for small-town Hickory to defeat the mighty South Bend team — a play that uses his star player, Jimmy Chitwood, as a decoy — Jimmy looks at Coach Dale and tells him, “I’ll make it.”

Marshawn Lynch needed to tell Pete Carroll Sunday at Super Bowl 49, “I’ll make it.”

This was a moment — a moment that Hollywood recognizes, a moment that coaches and others sometimes fail to recognize. They think their plays, their plans, are bigger than the moment.

They think they are smarter than the moment.

Make no mistake about it, this was a moment on Sunday. You had Lynch, America’s new anti-hero, victimized by the media horde during Super Bowl week, attacked by the National Football League for standing up for his right to be silent (except, of course, when he was selling something), now with the chance to win the game.

If you had told Carroll before Super Bowl XLIX that, if his team would be down 28-24 with about a minute left and he would have the ball at the goal line for three shots by Lynch, he would have taken that every time. If he were writing a script, the dramatic Carroll would have written that ending.

Instead, on the sidelines, the coach decided he was bigger than the moment.
Instead, his offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, called for Russell Wilson to throw the most dangerous pass he possibly could — a slant in the traffic of a goal-line defense, which of course ended with Malcolm Butler’s interception and another New England Patriots Super Bowl title.

This was the ending Carroll scripted:

“We have everything in mind, how we’re going to do it,” Carroll told reporters after the game. “We’re going to leave them no time, and we had our plays to do it. We sent in our personnel, they sent in goal-line [package] — it’s not the right matchup for us to run the football — so on second down we throw the ball really to kind of waste a play.

“If we score, we do. If we don’t, then we’ll run it in on third and fourth down. Really, [we called it] with no second thoughts or no hesitation at all. And unfortunately, with the play that we tried to execute, the guy [Butler] makes a great play and jumps in front of the route and makes an incredible play that nobody would ever think he could do. And unfortunately that changes the whole outcome.”

Yes, it did.

Imagine if a director decided that it would have been better for Rocky Balboa to be knocked out in the third round of his fight against Apollo Creed, instead of going the distance. Imagine if a director had decided that Rudy would get pancaked by some massive offensive tackle in his one appearance for Notre Dame instead of getting a sack.

Imagine if a football team had the ball on the 1-yard line with a chance to win the Super Bowl, and had their quarterback try a risky pass instead of letting the star of the story take his shot to win the game.

Those who also have no sense of the moment will point to the statistic that in five tries at the goal line this season, Lynch was stopped four of them.
Was he stopped three consecutive times? And were any of them on a stage like the Super Bowl?

Sometimes those in charge shrink in the moment. They fall back on their plan, they complicate a simple story. They take the ball out of the hand of a pitcher who, coming off a no-hitter in his last start, is pitching a 1-0 shutout in the ninth inning of a playoff game but walked one batter, instead of walking out to the mound, recognizing the moment, and telling the pitcher to finish this.
Carroll has always professed to have a sense of the moment. He once told his Southern California Trojans, “Prepare to be great today. It’s simple, really.”

It was simple on Sunday — give the ball to Lynch. But Carroll made it complicated — and he wasn’t great.

• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.

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