Pete Carroll and Pickett’s Charge

Is Loyalty Dead?
March 12, 2015

Pete Carroll and Pickett’s Charge

On Super Bowl Sunday, I, like most of the TV audience, watched with amazement as Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made what many are calling the worst call in the history of sports: he called a pass play on the one yard line instead of handing the ball off to his superhuman running back, Marshawn Lynch. Of course we know how that ended; to his credit, Pete accepted full responsibility for the call.

Almost 152 years ago, Confederate General Robert E. Lee made a similar questionable call when he ordered "Pickett's Charge" - a frontal assault against the center of Union forces. Today, when people tour the battlefield, even those with no military knowledge question why Lee would send his soldiers on what appeared to be a suicide mission. And like Carroll today, Robert E. Lee accepted full responsibility for the decision.

Both Lee and Carroll made calls that, to the rest of us, seem like the worst decision one could make in their comparative situations. However, there is some logic to their thought processes. For Lee, he attacked the Union right side on the first day; the Union army moved soldiers from the Union Center to reinforce the right. Then he attacked the Union Left on the second day; again, Union forces took troops from the center and reinforced the Union Left. Therefore, the center was the weakest part of the line. Lee was a student of Napoleonic tactics. Napoleon used the same strategy successfully during his day, but that was the problem. Lee's failure was while he studied Napoleon's tactics and reasoned that he could do the same thing, he failed to account for the improved accuracy and firepower his men would have to face. For Pete Carroll, his reasoning was that the Patriots had their goal line package in; with one time out, he felt running right into a Patriots' goal line package would be a mistake; the pass, however, would be the open pay, since the Patriots were playing for the run. The logic is sound, but Carroll's flaw was that he did not account for the fact that Lynch was not your average running back. He was a superior athelete with an umatched peer at his position. If he had any other running back in the league, his logic would have made sense.

So both men made logical decisions that made sense on one level, but in processing their decisions failed to account for specific factors that cost them victory in a key moment. Lee failed to account for modern weaponry while Carroll focused on trying to create a mismatch against the Patriot's formation while not accounting for the superior talent of a running back like Lynch.

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