Ex-Seahawks star: It was all over after that fateful Super Bowl pass
When Jermaine Kearse pulled off “Helmet Catch 2.0” toward the end of Super Bowl XXIX with the Seahawks down 28-24 to the New England Patriots, fans in Seattle went bonkers, convinced that their team was about to win a second consecutive championship, in the process taking down two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, in consecutive years.
Fans in New England, meanwhile, were convinced that the football gods had it in for them and that some infernal deal with the Devil that got the team three championships in four years was being repaid in Sisyphean fashion, the team cursed to get tantalizingly close to winning another title before falling short.
But then Pete Carroll, who earned the nickname “Coach Fredo” from Boston homer Bill Simmons when Carroll coached the Patriots, had a classic Pete Carroll moment and made a bad decision.
And to this day, three years later, you can still wind up a Seattleite by asking why Carroll didn’t just run Marshawn Lynch up the middle from the 1-yard line.
Instead, Carroll called a pass, Malcolm Butler of the Patriots stepped in front of it and picked it off, and a would-be dynasty in Seattle was over.
The team has since fallen so far that it didn’t even make the playoffs in 2017.
Former Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril confirmed what folks in the land of Amazon have suspected ever since that game.
Speaking on Dave Dameshek’s podcast, Avril said “a lot of guys got turned off” to Carroll’s leadership after that play; they were as simultaneously baffled and furious as were the fans.
Strong words from @cliffavril on the irreparable damage that Super Bowl INT caused the Seahawks' would-be dynasty.@SportsRadioKJR @NFL
— Dave Dameshek (@Dameshek) May 23, 2018
Avril continued, saying, “If we win that Super Bowl I think we would have won another one. I do think the team would have bought in more to what Coach Carroll was saying, instead of going the opposite way.”
Now granted, it’s not as easy as all that to win a Super Bowl, especially since Seattle ran into the same problem Baltimore did after its Super Bowl win over the 49ers in 2013.
Russell Wilson went from making the rookie scale for a third-rounder to signing a contract commensurate with a star quarterback, and that ate up enough cap room that the Seahawks had to get rid of Lynch and strip down their defense.
The NFC is also a monster of a conference to get out of in the playoffs. With the Panthers, Falcons and Eagles all reaching the Super Bowl since Seattle’s loss, and with the Cardinals, Rams and 49ers providing heavy pressure from Seattle’s own NFC West division, the Seahawks’ road to the Super Bowl is not as seemingly cut and dried as teams like Pittsburgh or New England, seemingly preordained participants in the AFC title game from year to year.
Avril, however, did speak to one key point.
“Guys started kind of questioning him more instead of following his lead if we had won the Super Bowl,” said the defensive end, who was released by Seattle earlier this month.
Once a coach loses the locker room, team cohesion tends to drop.
Once team cohesion drops, the play on the field naturally suffers from less-engaged players executing the plays.
And once players no longer feel that connection and desire to go above and beyond, they start grumbling about their salaries or playing time or any of a number of other factors, and either they demand trades, leave as free agents or get shipped out by their teams.
Next thing you know, you’ve got a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since that fateful play call and might just be the fourth-best team in its own division.
But hindsight is 20/20. What if the Seahawks handed the ball to Lynch and he got tackled in the backfield?
History will never know.
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