Nine seasons later, Malcolm Butler’s interception of Russell Wilson in Super Bowl XLIX still stings in Seattle.
It’s a play that changed the course of two franchises, short-circuiting one potential dynasty and reigniting another in New England. Two of the core players on the losing side recently sat down to discuss things.
Pete Carroll joined Richard Sherman to an episode of Sherman’s podcast which was released on Tuesday. They discussed various topics, but none more compelling than Carroll’s decision to throw the ball instead of handing it to Marshawn Lynch on second-and-goal from the 1-yard line with the Super Bowl on the line.
“You guys were so mad at me and very mad,” Carroll said.
They were. It’s Sherman and the rest of Boom’s Legion. Resentment for the work and Carroll’s Perceived preferential treatment towards Wilson finally poisoned the well in Seattle. Sherman and fellow Boomer Legion KJ Wright have discussed the issue on Sherman’s podcast as recently as last season.
“We were hurt,” Sherman responded to Carroll.
Why did Carroll let Russ pitch?
Carroll then explained the thought process behind the decision. He made a philosophical case that incorporating a pitch into a series of red zone plays was an optimal strategy to allow the player to Seahawks as many shots into the end zone as possible.
“That play just happened,” Carroll continued. “That play was cancelled. It just happened. It was not by design. There was no omen, no intention, no agenda. That play just happened.
“When we got there, we had a timeout. As soon as we got there, I said one of these plays, we’re going to have to shoot it to get all four plays; make sure we get a chance to make all four shots.”
Carroll later explained that the decision to pass on second down was made after the Patriots sent their defense on the goal line.
“That’s what led them to release it,” Carroll said. … “I had a rock-solid philosophy. It was the worst play that could happen.”
“He made a great play,” Sherman said of Butler’s interception in the end zone.
“All of that went so dark, so instantly,” Carroll responded. … “There’s nothing you can say that could put it anywhere else. It was as catastrophic as any moment can be.”
The Seahawks returned to the playoffs for two straight seasons after losing that Super Bowl. But the chemistry the franchise harnessed to win the Super Bowl a season earlier was gone. The bitterness played out publicly and the Legion of Boom that changed the way defense was played in the NFL eventually disbanded through defections, age and injury. They did not make it past the divisional round again.
Wilson remained until his own unceremonious departure. ended with a chorus of boos of Seahawks fans on his return to Seattle last season as quarterback for the Denver Broncos. It was his first NFL game not wearing a Seahawks uniform against a team he quarterbacked in his only Super Bowl victory.
Carroll believes a win over the Patriots would have started a dynasty that would win at least three Super Bowls.
“If we would have won that game, we would have won again,” Carroll said.
“We would have won another one,” Sherman said.
Maybe they would have. Maybe they hadn’t. But two would have been enough for the Seahawks’ legacy to launch them into the rarefied air of back-to-back Super Bowl champions.
Instead, the second wind of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era was underway as they won their fourth Super Bowl together 10 years after winning their third. Famously they would win two more together and cement their status as the leaders of the greatest dynasty in NFL history.
Adds to a slew of regret-filled Seattle what-ifs. But nothing can take away from the Super Bowl they won and the impact Seattle’s defense had on the game. And nine years later, Sherman seems somewhat at peace. He even admitted to Carroll that he agreed with the philosophy behind the unfortunate decision.
“It was more hurt than anger,” Sherman told Carroll. “Grief sometimes manifests itself as anger… The philosophy is sound. You’re absolutely right in those circumstances.”
When he had a chance to dwell on the bitter subject, Sherman quickly moved on. Instead, he praised his former coach for what he described as “coaching with optimism,” an approach that contrasted with Belichick’s tough style.
When the 45-minute conversation concluded, the two seemed genuinely at peace.