By Mike Salk
You can make mistakes in football, but it helps if you make them going 100 miles per hour. Pete Carroll, like all coaches, has made plenty of mistakes. Many of them go unnoticed by the public, partly because the game is so complicated but often because he makes them with strong conviction.
Sometimes, a definitive mistake can work out for you because your effort makes up for it.
The problem Carroll had on Sunday against the Bengals is that he was indecisive … not once, but twice.
And it cost his team a game.
Pete Carroll decided to start Charlie Whitehurst with the hopes of giving Tarvaris Jackson another week to rest his injured pectoral muscle. (AP)
Mistake 1: Starting Charlie Whitehurst
Why did Carroll start Charlie Whitehurst?
He was horrible last week in Cleveland. Even the Chanters with the loudest voices had backed off their calls for Whitehurst to start another game. Meanwhile, Tarvaris Jackson’s reputation had grown simply by watching how bad the team was without him leading the offense.
And Jackson was CLEARLY healthy enough to play! How do I know that? Easy.
I watched him play nearly the entire game!
While he may not have felt 100 percent healthy and may have had some limitations, he looked like a professional starting quarterback gutting his way through an injury. But at least he looked like a professional starting quarterback. That is more than I can say for Whitehurst, who looked scared, frantic, and without the necessary accuracy to play the position well.
So, if Jackson was healthy enough to play, and Whitehurst wasn’t good enough to play, why did Whitehurst play?
Pete Carroll made the decision, saying after the game that â€œhe was hoping to rest Tarvaris another week.â€ But he also said that he knew that Jackson could â€œthrow the ball well enough to play.â€
If your starting quarterback is healthy enough to play and can make the throws, you play him! The team was 2-4 and trying to claw its way back into contention. They had just seen how sluggish the offense looked against Cleveland a week ago. Why wouldn’t he start his best option and see what happened?
Carroll said he made the call to switch quarterbacks because he â€œjust didn’t feel like they were moving anywhere.â€ That comes as a shock to no one. As Carroll also stated (correctly), Jackson gave his team the best chance to win.
Yeah, no kidding.
But did he really need to waste those two series with Whitehurst to figure that out? He watched the film of last week, right?
Jackson said that he took a Toradol shot to manage the pain in his pectoral muscle. Was he really going to sit after taking that shot?
The problem was that Carroll didn’t have any conviction with his choice. He clearly wasn’t comfortable starting Jackson because he was worried about either further injury or ineffectiveness. But he also had no interest in watching Whitehurst stink up the joint for a second straight week.
So what did he do? He tried to play it both ways. He tried to start one but quickly turn to the other. He never let Whitehurst develop a rhythm and he let Jackson take himself out of game mode. He was like a quarterback that saw two receivers down the field and rather than zeroing in one one and slinging to him, decided to throw it softly between the receivers.
It didn’t work.
Mistake 2: The debacle at the end of the first half
The Seahawks trailed 17-3 but were driving as time dwindled in the first half. Jackson had driven them to Cincinnati’s 4 yard line but faced a fourth down. With one time out, Carroll had a decision to make.
A) Kick the field goal and go into the locker room down by 11 points, knowing his offense would get the ball to start the second half.
B) Go for it on fourth down. A touchdown would make it a one-score game. He could even get a first down at the 1 yard line and stop the clock with a timeout.
Unfortunately, it looked like Carroll couldn’t decide which option he liked best. By the time he opted to keep his offense on the field, the play clock had winded down and he had to burn the final timeout of the half.
Once the team had no timeouts left, the safe decision was to kick the field goal. Carroll, however, wanted to be aggressive. He sent his offense back out on the field, this time armed with a running play.
Let me say first, I LOVED the playcall. I love that Carroll trusted his offensive line as he tries to cultivate the image of a physical running team.
But with no timeouts?
He called it â€œhormonal.â€ I’d just call it unnecessarily risky.
As it happened, Carroll watched the worst-case scenario play out before his eyes. Lynch reached the first down marker but could not cross the goal line. And while the officials should have penalized the Bengals for a delay of game after the play, the offense was unable to snap the ball again before the half ended.
But, like the quarterback problem, it was easily avoidable with a clear, decisive call from the head coach on fourth down. His gut instinct, to go for it on fourth down, was the right one. Waiting until the play clock ran down before making that decision cost him the timeout, and ultimately the points. Maybe even the game.
Carroll likes to Win Forever and Compete Everyday.
Maybe now he will learn to Decide Definitively.
The new slogan would be helpful as he gets closer to the biggest decision he will make as the head coach of the Seahawks — who will be his quarterback of the future.
With losses like this one, Carroll is potentially putting himself in position to pick very high in this coming draft, one that is considered to be rich in quarterback talent. Choose wisely and he can expect this team to contend for multiple titles in the next few years. Choose poorly and he can expect to be coaching elsewhere within a few seasons.
The choice will be his. He needs to make it definitively.
And be right!