We all know what a bad decision Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell made on 2nd-and-goal from the New England 1-yard line with 26 seconds left in the Super Bowl on Sunday and the Seahawks needing a touchdown to win.
Give the ball to Marshawn Lynch. It’s easy. He had just gained four yards on first down, he runs like a Mack truck and it’s hard to believe the New England defense would have been able to stop him, even though Lynch scored a touchdown from a yard out just once in four tries previously this season.
Still, Carroll and Bevell are the only two people on the planet who would have decided to pass in that situation. And, as we all saw with varying degress of amazement, Russell Wilson’s quick pass intended for Ricardo Lockette was intercepted by rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler, probably the most anonymous Super Bowl hero in history.
By the way, I just wasted five minutes of my life reading Nate Silver’s statistical and mathematical analysis of this situation, in which he concluded the play call by the Seahawks wasn’t that bad. To which I say, statistical and mathematical analysis of sports is dangerously close to jumping the shark.
OK, now where was I?
Oh, Malcolm Butler.
This has become one of the greatest stories in sports history for a lot of reasons. First, there was Jermaine Kearse’s ridiculous 33-yard catch with 1:14 to play that gave the Seahawks a first-and-goal at the Patriots’ 5-yard line. No way, no how Kearse, who ironically was being covered by Butler, makes this catch.
Then Lynch bulls his way to the 1-yard-line as every Seattle coach, player and fan prepares for a huge party to celebrate the Seahawks’ second Super Bowl championship in a row.
That’s when the brains of Carroll and Bevell lock up. It’s when instead of taking what I’ll always believed was a gimme for the win, the Seahawks chose to pass. Sure, if it’s incomplete then Lynch probably does get the ball on third down and scores.
But it wasn’t incomplete. It was picked off by Butler, a rookie from NCAA Division II West Alabama, located in Livingston.
West Alabama belongs to the Gulf South Conference and the Wolves’ 2014 football schedule included: Stillman, Shaw, Jacksonville State, Concordia, West Georgia, Florida Tech, Shorter, Delta State, Valdosta State, Mississippi College and North Alabama.
Butler was a two-time all-conference player for the Tigers and a second-team Division II All-American cornerback in 2013. West Alabama won the NAIA national championship in football in 1971, the school’s only national title. I read through a list of notable alums and with all due respect, had heard of only a couple.
Everyone has now heard of Butler, who went from anonymous to famous in a matter of seconds. He made one of the biggest plays in the 49-year history of the Super Bowl and certainly the biggest defensive play.
Interestingly, Butler started his college career at Hines Community College in Raymond, Miss., (he is from Vicksburg, Miss.) but was kicked off the team five games into his freshman season. He was invited back for his sophomore season in 2011 and had 43 tackles and three interceptions.
He was humble and in disbelief when interviewed after the game by NBC’s Michele Tafoya. He said he had studied the particular play run by the Seahawks and knew where he needed to be. And he was there, stepping in front of Lockette and making a clean catch.
Butler wasn’t drafted last year; he was picked up by the Patriots on May 19 and appeared in 11 games this season with one start.
It will be interesting to follow Butler’s career from here. His became an instant icon Sunday night.
There’s Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Rob Gronkowski and . . . Malcolm Butler.