Led by the new generation of stat geeks, people have been ripping Pete Carroll’s coaching decisions all season — win or lose. They had a few more to nitpick in the 30-16 loss to the Ravens on Sunday — even though his decisions were nowhere near as costly as the turnovers and Lamar Jackson.
The call most fans were lamenting was Carroll’s choice to try a 53-yard kick in the rain (which failed) instead of going for it on fourth-and-3 from the Baltimore 35 in the third quarter. Jason Myers is now 0 for 2 from 50ish this season and also missed a 48-yarder against the Rams — a kick a lot of fans hated as well as it came on fourth-and-1.
The Ravens flipped the 53-yard miss into a 62-yard drive for a touchdown, which they scored when Jackson talked John Harbaugh into going for it on fourth down. Some silly Carroll critics pointed to that as the moment the game was lost, even though the score was just 20-13.
Also questioned by some was Carroll’s call at the end of the half to kick a field goal on third down with six seconds left. Some thought Carroll should have run one more play — throw to the end zone again from the 13. The problem is both of the previous pass plays on that drive took six seconds. It would have had to be a very quick pass to leave a tick for a kick (Seattle had no timeouts left, as usual).
If the Hawks had converted both of those gambles into touchdowns — and that’s a big IF, especially with them needing to go 35 more yards on the first one — they might have led 24-13 at the end of the third quarter. And they still probably would have lost, 27-24.
Baltimore drove to the 4-yard line over nine minutes and settled for a field goal to go up 10. But, if the Ravens had trailed 24-20, they would have eaten up the rest of the clock on the final drive and surely would have gone for the touchdown in the final seconds to win. Could the Hawks have stopped it?
It’s a whole lot of what-iffing, which goes to say: Carroll’s decisions were the least of their problems against Baltimore.
Fans just love to nitpick, though. Some just want to be aggressive all the time — and are misled by a new breed of stats that ignore the cost of failure and do not take into account game conditions.
That’s not to say Carroll has not made his share of real mistakes this season. Against the Saints, he made a couple of gaffes. He went for it from his 28 with about 10 minutes left, down 13 — a really bad decision that basically ended a game the Hawks still had a chance to win. The Saints scored to make it 33-14. After that game, Carroll said, “Should have kicked the ball there and played out the next couple series. … I’ve got to coach better.” He also messed up by not going for two late in that game (though it did not matter at that point).
He also admitted he failed in not taking a safety against Cleveland, which helped the Browns score a quick touchdown off a bad punt from the end zone. Instead of having to go a long way to overcome a 25-22 deficit, they had to go just 26 yards to overtake a 25-20 margin. Fortunately for Carroll, Wilson drove the Hawks to the 32-28 win.
Carroll also has a stubborn predilection for challenging pass interference, something he needs to stop doing now that he knows the refs are not interested in reversing those calls.
As annoying as some of his choices have been, Carroll has not cost his team a game yet, like he did the Dallas playoff game last season. The players and their stupid mistakes have been the ones to blame in both losses this season.
Carroll is a conservative coach, by nature. He likes to run the ball and play basic defense, and he values ball possession more than anything. Everyone knows that. Fans who are asking him to go against his nature are expecting the unlikely.
After he went for it on fourth-and-1 against New Orleans and Chris Carson got stuffed, he said he rued the decision. “I could have kicked the ball and done a couple more conservative things that I like to do often,” Carroll said.
Well, that is what he has gone back to — being conservative on fourth downs. Don’t expect him to change.
And, for the chuckleheads unbelievably calling for the best coach in franchise history to be fired amid a 5-2 start, you’re as dumb as you think Carroll is.