Revisiting Pete Carroll's decisions

January, 17, 2011
1/17/11
1:03
PM ET
Coach Pete Carroll made two potentially controversial decisions Sunday during the Seattle Seahawks' 35-24 defeat at Chicago.

First, he opted to punt on the Seahawks' second possession when facing fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 40. Seattle trailed 7-0. Matt Hasselbeck had just completed a 10-yard pass to Cameron Morrah.

Later, Carroll elected to kick a 30-yard field goal on fourth-and-9 from the 12 while trailing 28-0 with 1:57 left in the third quarter. ESPN AllNight's Jason Smith criticized this decision pretty harshly during our as-yet-unposted conversation Sunday night.

These types of decisions are fun to debate. Carroll had made a few questionable decisions previously this season.

Carroll was admittedly too casual in letting time run off the clock as Seattle wasted a scoring chance before halftime of a Week 3 victory over San Diego. He used both replay challenges in the first half at St. Louis. He regretted how he managed Hasselbeck after falling behind against Atlanta.

The decisions in question Sunday were defensible, in my view. Carroll said he opted to punt on fourth-and-1 in part because he didn't want to signal a shift into desperation mode so early in the game.

There were other reasons to punt. Seattle has ranked among the NFL's worst teams in short-yardage conversions. The team had lost tight end John Carlson to injury earlier in the drive, limiting its options in short-yardage situations. Seattle had already lost yardage on a second-and-1 rushing attempt during its first possession.

The punt wound up forcing the Bears to begin their next possession at the 9-yard line, so it's tough to argue with the immediate results.

Carroll appeared more vulnerable to criticism, in my view, when he opted for that field goal while trailing 28-0. Why not play aggressively with the game all but out of reach? An additional four points would have produced a one-score differential late in the game, all else being equal.

And yet I understood the decision. Seattle was doing nothing offensively to that point in the game. Converting fourth-and-9 and then scoring a touchdown on the same drive seemed like a long shot. The Bears were feeding off the shutout opportunity, I thought. Scoring points of any kind left the Bears with less incentive to finish strong. I think that made it easier for the Seahawks to score touchdowns later.

Overall, Carroll seemed comfortable admitting mistakes this season. He was generally candid in discussing what he might have done differently. He isn't hurting for self-confidence. Admitting mistakes publicly can become tougher when expectations rise. Carroll enjoyed a grace period in his first season taking over a struggling franchise. Here's hoping he remains as candid when the dynamics change in the future.

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