Arm Chair thoughts on Decision Making from the Big Game

I was hesitant to chime in on the Leadership question relating to the call that essentially ended the game and the Seahawks quest of repeating.  I’ll risk it for the sake of conversation!  Let’s see what we can learn together..

Right decision or wrong decision?

Here are some of my thoughts on the process and what we might take away from it as Leaders.

When it comes to decisions and results, I was taught early on there are 4 combinations:

The options for any decisions are:

  • Good decision that goes well
  • Good decision that goes bad
  • Bad decision that goes well
  • Bad decision that goes bad


So to hear Coach Carroll say..

  • They fully intended to run the ball on the next play – but
  • They felt they could only run him twice (clock management/keep Brady off the field)
  • They wanted the Patriots to have to defend against pass and run
  • This was a set up play that was supposed to be safe(65 similar plays from the 1 this season – 0 interceptions)


Just an interesting exercise to think about:

  • Where are we trying to outsmart ourselves?
  • When we don’t play to our strengths, Is it out of boredom?  Trickery?
  • What is our competitive advantage?  Our secret sauce?
  • Is there an aspect of our overall ‘Game’ that we are trying to work around?

 Situational thoughts:  Ailing defensive secondary + Competitor like Brady with skills to exploit = get fancy with play calling to drain the clock (fear based)


Commentary from a friend, Dennis (a great leader who runs a business team near Boston):

  • Pete Carroll calling a 1 yard slant = Bad decision that went bad
  • Malcolm Butler jumping the route = Good decision that when well
  • Seahawks based their play calling on fear and went away from their strengths, never a recipe for success
  • You go for the WIN, you do not waste a play, you get in the end-zone and then let your defense stop Brady with only 30 seconds on the clock

All around bad leadership by the Seahawks……

For a more objective discussion of the analytics (sorry Dennis), this is a great read from Benjamin Morris @skepticalsports :

The truth is this:

Good or Bad decisions are not judged by the market – Outcomes are!



In Application of this, here are some thought on how to leverage this scenario with our teams:

 A look at process:

     > Situational Analysis 

              * (where am I lens-ing this?  Our Defensive Secondary is in trouble and Brady is Awesome)

     > Decision

              * (Stay with greatness or try something else) ((Remember: many people may be affected!))

     > Execution

              * (into the hands of the players)

              *  ((some poor leadership decisions are extremely difficult to overcome!))

     > Outcome

              * (live and learn)

Preparation and repetition leads to insight and intuition

              * Based on the alignment of the receivers – Butler had insight/intuition and knew how to respond

Keep doing the ground and pound… not sexy – but a winning formula

Beliefs drive behavior

              * Butler said he had a vision that he was going to make a great play

              * Coach Carroll believed this was a safe option and he had a play to waste

You have to want it – you have to want it bad enough to floor the competition and take your destiny!


Do what is in front of you to win and do it as soon as the opportunity presents itself… Don’t play NOT to LOSE – PLAY TO WIN!

Your thoughts?