I am going to start this off by channeling one of my favorite sports announcers, Bill Walton. “What was Darrell Bevell thinking? Was he thinking at all?!”
Darrell Bevell, as you probably know by now if you didn’t already, is the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive coordinator. He is responsible for what is easily the most reprehensible play call in the history of football. There is no other way to state this that would capture the magnitude of the stupidity of that call. I am not exaggerating.
Back to my opening line, I believe Bevell was thinking one of two things:
- I bet on the Patriots and I need to make sure I cash in.
- If we throw an incomplete pass on 2nd down, we should still have time for two plays if we need them. We can run on 3rd down and use our last timeout if we don’t score. Then we have 4th down to try to win the game.
Let’s face it, he was thinking #2. No, not #2 as in the quality of his play calling in the final minute, but #2 as in the second option I listed above. And here is why that is absolutely, certifiably, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the stupidest thought process that has ever taken place by any coordinator in the history of football.
The most obvious reason is that Marshawn Lynch is the best running back in the NFL. Apparently, Bevell was afraid that if Lynch failed to find the end zone on 2nd down and Seattle needed to use its last timeout, New England would know a pass was coming on 3rd down. This follows because Seattle would be out of timeouts and wouldn’t risk running out of time with another failed rushing attempt.
The alternative to this would be to run and 2nd down and use the timeout if Lynch didn’t score, and then run again on 3rd down anyway. Would you risk running out of time in this scenario? No, because there is absolutely no chance that Lynch would fail to pick up ONE yard on TWO tries!
Or, how about this. Conventional wisdom says Seattle was right to let the play clock run all the way down before running that abomination on 2nd down. After all, you want to score and leave the opponent as little time as possible. But wait, Bill Belichick also let the clock run down, instead of using one of his timeouts to preserve time for the Patriots if Seattle scored. Did he do this by mistake? He’s one of the best coaches ever, so I really doubt it. Instead, he was confident that his defense could get the stop it needed to preserve the win.
So, Belichick believed that his defense could stop Seattle from gaining a yard in one minute, but Seattle’s coaching staff apparently didn’t believe its defense could stop New England from going much further than that in even less time than that.
But, back to the issue at hand. Seattle could have run on 2nd down with, say, 45 seconds left. There would still be time for two more plays, if needed, without using the timeout after 2nd down. The 3rd down play would happen with about 20 seconds to go and they could use the timeout after that if needed.
So, I’ve debunked every possible argument for the terrible strategy Bevell used. No one in their right mind believes it made sense to pass in that situation instead of run.
But it gets even better. Apparently, Bevell decided to blame Ricardo Lockette, who was the intended target on that disaster, for the interception. That’s right; it’s the fault of the team’s FOURTH receiver who had his number called over the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE’S FIRST, AS IN NUMBER ONE, RUNNING BACK. It’s not the fault of the quarterback who failed to see that Malcolm Butler made a great read and jumped the route. In a strictly technical sense, that’s where the blame would go for this play.
But, that’s dodging the real issue. Which, again, is that Darrell Bevell made the most monumentally stupid call in the history of football. The fact that he publicly threw Lockette under the bus only adds to the comedy, or the tragedy; however you choose to look at it.
There is something about this situation that is a shame. Overall, this was one of the greatest Super Bowls in history. It was back and forth, full of unbelievable plays (Jermaine Kearse’s crazy juggling catch to set Seattle up for what should have been the winning touchdown) and unlikely heroes (Chris Matthews for Seattle, Malcolm Butler for New England). It featured the two teams who were clearly the best in the NFL this year and it lived up to its billing. But, that one call by Bevell was so terrible that to some degree, it overshadows the game itself. That’s a shame. But we can’t escape this truth.
Let’s sum it up with this. According to whoever edited Bevell’s Wikipedia page after the game, “in the closing seconds of Super Bowl XLIX, Bevell announced to the world that he was the first clinically brain-dead person to coach a professional football team.” (Scroll down to #4 in the linked article to see this.) That line has since been erased, but it was fair to wonder if that was really the case Sunday night.