Perhaps the title seems very strange to you, it even makes you curious to know what happened, because it seems logical to think that good decisions will lead us to good things. But this is a great example, where it is shown that the process and the result are two different things, that sometimes they can coincide and sometimes they do not. And worst of all: we are tremendously unfair when we look back and have more information than we had at the time of making any decision.
Pete Carroll (September 15th, 1951) is a professional American football coach. Specifically, he is one of three coaches to have won a Super Bowl and a national football championship. He is the oldest head coach (67 years) currently working in the NFL. Since 2010 he has led the Seattle Seahawks, and with them he won Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014 against the Denver Broncos.
The following season, in 2015, the Seattle Seahawks again reached the NFL final, Super Bowl XLIX, this time against the New England Patriots. The game came to a close end, and with 26 seconds remaining, the Seahawks had possession, trailing by 4 points and were very close to the mark line.
They needed one last play to win. Everybody expected Pete Carroll to call a hand off for Marshawn Lynch, because he was one of the best running backs in the league and they were close to the mark zone.
However, since everyone was waiting for that hand off to run with the ball and seek to score, Carroll decided to call another play: that his quarterback, Russell Wilson, gave a pass in another direction, while everyone was aware of what seemed more predictable.
At first glance it seems an intelligent and cunning decision, doesn’t it? It was a good move anyway and it was also less predictable than the previous one.
We could say that he made a good decision.
But there was a problem: The other team intercepted that pass, which was practically the last play of the game and the New England Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX.
We could say that the result for Pete Carroll and the Seahawks was negative.
This is the game play:
These were newspapers headlines the next day:
“What on Earth was Seattle thinking with the worst play call in NFL history?”
“Worst play call in Super Bowl history will forever alter perception of Seahawks”
“Dumbest call in Super Bowl history could be beginning of the end of Seattle Seahawks”
“Seahawks lost because of the worst call in Super Bowl history”
The New Yorker:
“A Coach’s terrible Super Bowl mistake”
After a few days, several analysts commented that the play was not as bad as it seemed, taking into account the time remaining and the match situation, because in addition, an interception to steal that pass did not have much chance of happening.
Throughout the season there had been 66 passes in that distance and close to the mark zone. None of them were intercepted. In the previous 15 seasons, the percentage of interceptions in that situation was 2%.
Maybe a monument should be made to Malcolm Butler, who was the one who intercepted that ball like his life depended on it, but they were too busy digging a grave.
We are not supporting the coach’s decision, and we are not saying that we would have done the same. We simply say that waiting to see the result to position ourselves seems a bit unfair to us, and a posteriori we are all experts, especially because it also gives the feeling that the other options were 100% effective and it was impossible for them to fail, which it is not true either.
Pete Carroll’s lesson:
We travel to the past and change our opinion when we know the outcome of the present, but we do not understand that no one can travel to the future to know what would happen. We do this constantly and it is grossly unfair.
Winning is not the only thing, but winning is important because we live in a world where winners take everything and losers usually take nothing.
We like people who take risks, but we only admire those who do well.
Most of the time, the decisions we make are up to us, while the results are not so much. Let’s accept that good decisions can lead to any result, also negative, but at the moment of making the decision, we will never know. So the next time you have to decide, choose the option that allows you to sleep with a clear conscience. Then we will see what happens…