Because the NFL no longer goes away in the offseason, the Super Bowl feels like forever ago. But, nearly seven months on, the last meaningful play still sticks firmly in the craw of the Seahawks, who by all rights ought to be two-time reigning champs. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who called the play that some have called the worst in history, says that if he had the opportunity to draw it up all over again, he wouldn’t change a thing.
Second and goal from about 18 inches out, with the best bruising back in football at their disposal, and the Seahawks called for a pass. Knowing the outcome, it’s inexplicable to the point of generating conspiracy theories. Even without the benefit of hindsight, it added unnecessary risk—of a sack, a penalty, or, as ended up happening, a turnover—to a situation that would have profited the Seahawks to rely on pure physicality.
The MMQB’s Peter King caught up with Bevell in an attempt to pick his brain on that final play, and Bevell was less than forthcoming on the technical details. But he did open up somewhat when asked if and how he’s moved on.
Are you over it yet?
“It’s never going to leave you. I can think back to when I was playing quarterback and there are plays that still eat me in my gut from when I was playing. The ones that usually eat you are the bad plays, not the Big Ten Championships. It’s those other plays that you think back to that eat you in the gut.
“That play we called will always be there to drive me. I wouldn’t change it, I think it was the right thing. Coach Carroll has done a great job with it as well. I think to answer your question, in terms of totally moving on, that night is rough, the next morning is rough, getting on the plane is rough, but as soon as I got here and I was able to watch it for myself on the tape and see our copy and look at it that way and do the analyzing of it, once that was over I was able to put it behind me. I’m okay. I really am.”
It’s an interesting answer. Bevell expresses regret for how it went down, but won’t, or can’t, admit that the call itself was a mistake (and it objectively was). Part of that is his honest belief that it was a smart play, given the variables. Part of it is undoubtedly the result of the self-confident mindset required to succeed at the highest levels of football.
Bevell seems to confirm early that the call for a pass to Ricardo Lockette was a function of being surprised by the package the Patriots trotted out—or at least was a direct reaction to it. (“Matchups had something to do with it, yes.”) Remember, Malcolm Butler wasn’t supposed to be out there—the Patriots’ fifth corner, Butler only saw the field because the Seahawks’ extra-receiver sets had been giving New England fits all night. It was a stacked-receiver set that Seattle showed on that final, fatal play, and tipping Butler off that a pass was coming, likely resembling the exact play he had been beaten on in practice a week before. Matchups did play into it, but to Bevell’s chagrin they paid off for his opponents.
Bevell, who said immediately after the game that Lockette “could have done a better job staying strong on the ball,” here instead praises Butler for “a great play.” And it was—Butler identified the play and instantly broke for where the ball would end up. Credit where credit is due.
There were a ton of variables once the play was set in motion—Russell Wilson could have put the ball on Lockette’s back shoulder, Jermaine Kearse could have avoided being jammed by Brandon Browner at the line and set his intended pick on Butler—and every one of them broke against the Seahawks. This is what Bevell means when he says he’d call it again, and if he did, more often than not it would work out. Every play call of every game is a gamble, though few come in for this level of scrutiny: each call weighs the risks and rewards, and none are guaranteed to pay off, though some have better odds than others. Bevell and the Seahawks failed to maximize their own odds, and got some bad breaks along the way. Bevell says he can live with that. He doesn’t really have a choice.