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Pete Carroll And A Questionable Play Call, Part II

Josh Cohen |
February 3, 2015 | 2:55 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Pete Carroll is a legendary coach. His success at both the collegiate and professional level speaks volumes to the type of coach, mentor, and man that he is. But even the best in the business slip up from time to time. 

Carroll’s decision to throw on second-and-goal in the final minute of Super Bowl XLIX seemed nothing short of atrocious. There are undoubtedly thousands of articles floating around the web explaining why Carroll’s call was questionable—no, awful. You have arguably the best running back in football. One yard to go. For all the marbles. And you throw?

Yes, yes. We know. It ended poorly.

Carroll’s questionable play call will be discussed and dissected from every angle, but this is not the first time he has dialed up a questionable call in a monumental game.

Let’s take a trip back to January 4, 2006. The USC Trojans, coached by Pete Carroll at the time, clashed with the Texas Longhorns in the Rose Bowl, which served as the National Championship that year. USC and Texas had cruised through their schedules, each posting a flawless 12-0 record. USC and Texas were pitted against each other in a game billed as one of the best matchups college football had ever seen. Two undefeated teams doing battle in “The Granddaddy of Them All.”

The game did not disappoint. The Longhorns, led by quarterback Vince Young, conquered the Trojans in a thrilling encounter, 41-38. Arguably the greatest college football game of all time, the 2006 Rose Bowl was filled with dazzling plays from the likes of Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Vince Young and Jamaal Charles.

As is the case in any championship game, the pivotal plays from the 2006 Rose Bowl were scrutinized, examined, and then analyzed some more.

The crucial play in the game came on a fourth-and-two for the Trojans from the Texas 45-yard line with just over two minutes to play. Reluctant to punt the ball away and put it back in the hands of dynamic playmaker Vince Young, Carroll rolled the dice, electing to go for it.

It is difficult to fault Carroll for going for it in enemy territory, but his personnel selection and play call were highly suspect. Reggie Bush, who had just won the Heisman Trophy, was noticeably not present in the Trojans’ backfield on the play. Instead, Bush watched from the sidelines. Inexplicably, the Heisman winner was not on the field for what could have been one of the biggest plays of his life. For a play that could have sealed another title for Carroll and USC.

Instead, backup running back LenDale White lined up behind Leinart. White was fed the ball and was stymied by the Texas defensive line. An inadequate push from the Trojans’ offensive line left White stopped in his tracks—and gave the ball back to Texas with plenty of time to drive a short field length with a sizzling quarterback who was virtually unstoppable that night.

SEE MORE: Deflate This: Patriots Oust Seahawks In Super Bowl XLIX, Get Fourth Title

The rest is history.

Just moments later, Young strolled into the end zone, and soon after, head coach Mack Brown stood on the field basking in the glory of a national title along with his star quarterback. 

Carroll, however, was left wondering “What if?”. What if he had put Bush on the field on that crucial fourth down play? What if he had called a passing play, with Matt Leinart dropping back and firing a quick pass to one of USC’s countless offensive weapons?

We will never know.

Just like we will never know if Marshawn Lynch would have punched the ball into the end zone for Carroll’s Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. It seems as though when Carroll should have dialed up a passing play (2006 Rose Bowl), he ran the ball straight into the line. Meanwhile, when he seemingly should have run the ball (Super Bowl XLIX), he puzzlingly drew up a quick slant to Ricardo Lockette, sending a slender receiver across the middle in a tight space with a ball placed at eye-level on the pass, a dangerous ball to throw with virtually no space with which to work.

To add to this bizarrely coincidental comparison, it should be noted that Carroll was on the cusp of consecutive national titles at USC (technically it would have been his third in a row, as USC finished as the AP #1 in the 2003 season), but the team fell short. USC had blown out Oklahoma in the previous year’s National Championship, but the Trojans lost a heartbreaker to the Longhorns the following year. LenDale White needed two yards and managed to get just one. The Trojans fell just shy—literally by a yard—of winning the title.

Likewise, Carroll was on the verge of consecutive Super Bowl victories with the Seahawks, but the team failed to seal the deal. Seattle had obliterated the Broncos in the previous year’s Super Bowl, but the Seahawks fell just shy—literally by a yard—of winning the title.

The scenarios are eerily similar.

History has a funny way of repeating itself. Even legends such as Pete Carroll fall victim to the unforgiving game of football. Just when you think you have it all figured out—just when the door seems agape and you are looking opportunity straight in the eye—the prospect of victory evaporates right before you.

Pete Carroll’s losses to Texas and to the Patriots should not significantly diminish the coach’s legacy. Offensive coordinators are obviously calling plays as well, so it is difficult to know just how influential Carroll was in calling these two disastrous plays.

Regardless, because the head coach is the one who gives the motivational speeches and gets the lion’s share of the credit when things go well, he is also the one who must also shoulder the blame. 

Russell Wilson's interception for Seattle in the final minute of Super Bowl XLIX was catastrophic to say the least, and Carroll was forced to shoulder the blame. USC's 34-game winning streak was snapped in the 2006 Rose Bowl in an agonizing fashion, and Carroll shouldered the blame after a fourth-and-two play went horribly awry and ultimately cost the Trojans the national title.

Pete Carroll has endured numerous ups and downs as a coach, and although he is 63 years of age, it seems as though this roller coaster ride is just getting started.

Reach Staff Reporter Joshua Cohen here



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