At the FCFL, we are giving fans control over every aspect of football management. Perhaps most importantly, this will include voting on all offensive play calls, which will then be relayed to the quarterback in real time. While the app will serve up a handful of predetermined play options based on down, distance, and situation with the input and design of the coaching staff, the fans will ultimately be tasked with making the right call.
And who among us has not stood up and screamed at the offensive coordinator of our favorite team from time to time?
Even the Don Coryell’s and Bill Walsh’s of the world, brilliant offensive minds who changed the way the game is played, have gotten over their ski tips on occasion and made the wrong call. It happens to the best of them. That’s why the input of thousands of fans could prove so valuable: it helps suppress the dumber urges and more indefensible tendencies of the individuals.
Over the coming weeks, we will be spotlighting some of the more questionable play calls in football history, and examining what the fans might have done instead.
To kick off this series, let’s take a look at (what else?): the infamous pass of Super Bowl XLIX.
Well, it’s the Super Bowl. The biggest game of the year. The league’s two best teams, each seeded #1 in their respective conferences, squaring off on the big stage. The defending champion Seattle Seahawks, fresh off the biggest beat-down in Super Bowl history when they absolutely dismantled the Denver Broncos the previous year, vs. the New England Patriots and their all-time great coach/QB duo of Belichick and Brady. Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll looking to exact revenge against the team that fired him back in the 90’s (making way for the Belichick rise).
This game had immense hype. The action on the field surpassed it all.
The Seahawks vaunted Legion of Boom defense (featuring perhaps the greatest defensive backfield of all time in their prime, with names like Thomas, Sherman, and Chancellor, as well as other superstar defenders like Michael Bennett and Bobby Wagner) had the Patriots on the ropes for three quarters… but you can only hold down Brady, Edelman, and Gronkowski for so long.
Seattle took a 24-14 lead into the fourth quarter – no team at that time had EVER overcome a double-digit lead in a Super Bowl – before Brady got to cookin’. Two drives and two touchdowns later, the Patriots erased the deficit and snatched a 28-24 lead.
But there was still time on the clock, and Seattle had budding star Russell Wilson at QB and the legendary BEAST MODE in the backfield.
Seattle took over with two minutes on the clock from their own 20-yard line, and immediately set the tone with a 30-yard wheel route to Marshawn Lynch (who was not exactly known as a receiving threat). Then came a miracle: Russell Wilson floated a deep ball down the sideline, which was tipped by then little-known undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler… and somehow landed right on top of WR Jermaine Kearse, who was lying down on the ground.
Fortunately for New England, Butler realized what had happened and prevented Kearse from going any farther. But damage was done. Seattle was in prime position with goal to go and the best short-distance power runner in the game. Just a minute to play.
The next play was a handoff to Marshawn, who powered his way down to the one-yard line, before being tackled by Dont’a Hightower. Since New England did not call a timeout, Seattle was able to run the clock down to 26 seconds before taking the snap for the next play.
That’s when some of the most famous words in Patriots history were shouted: Malcolm, GO!
What followed will live in infamy as one of the most questioned play-call decisions in football history.
The Seahawks called a pass play in which Kearse would run a pick on the right side of the field to draw defensive backs away from Tyler Lockette as Lockette ran a slant to the middle. But the Patriots knew what was coming, and former Seahawk Legion of Boomer Brandon Browner blocked Kearse at the line of scrimmage, creating space for Malcolm Butler to break on thee ball. Lockette appeared to be uncovered at the one-yard line when Wilson threw him the ball, but before the ball arrived, Butler correctly read the play and rushed into position to make the interception.
Following the play, commentator Chris Collinsworth stated, “I’m sorry, but I can’t believe the call. I cannot believe the call. You’ve got Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. You’ve got a guy that has been borderline unstoppable in this part of the field. I can’t believe the call.” He further added, “If I lose the Super Bowl because Marshawn Lynch can’t get it in from the 1-yard line, so be it. So be it! But there is no way… I don’t believe the call.” He was not alone in his critique. From Peter King, to Deion Sanders, to Emmitt Smith, to most of Twitter, Pete Carroll was roundly ridiculed for not giving the ball to Beast Mode. Though some defended, citing the time remaining as an issue in case Lynch was stoppd short, and of course the fact that Russell Wilson is no slouch of a weapon, this play call immediately became the most questioned decision in pro football history.
What would the fans have called?
Easy. Line up in a heavy set, multiple tight ends on the line, and pound that rock right up the middle, where Marshawn would have picked up and thrown any defender in his path right out of the stadium on his way toward the end zone. Seattle wins and makes history as back-to-back champs.
…Or, of course, he gets stopped short, Seattle is forced to rush its next play with time a-tickin’, and the Patriots defense, renowned for its stifling play in the red zone, holds strong.
…Or, who knows? Marshawn scores, Brady gets the ball with 20 seconds remaining, and somehow managed to pull out a victory. Because, Patriots.
Either way, it is safe to say the fans would’ve voted BEAST MODE 100 times out of 100.
What would you have called?