February 4, 2015
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Wow… that was quite an exciting ending to the Super Bowl, wasn’t it? If you happened to have missed it, the New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24. The Seahawks had the ball on the one yard line with less than a minute to go in the game and a few downs to work with. It looked like they were going to score a touchdown and win the game. However, instead of handing the ball off to their superstar running back, Marshawn Lynch, they decided to pass the ball on second down, and it was intercepted – thus clinching the dramatic victory for the Patriots.
Immediately following the game and over the past few days, there has been a lot of criticism aimed at Seahawks coach Pete Carroll for calling the play, and at his quarterback, Russell Wilson, for throwing the interception. In our local newspaper the headline read, “Worst Call Ever.” This is the epitome of “Monday morning quarterbacking,” a term that is often used to describe the phenomenon of second-guessing not only the decisions of football coaches and execution of players, but second-guessing in general.
With a game of this magnitude (it was watched on TV by the largest audience in the history of television… over 115 million people) and with the nature of how things transpired at the end of the game, it makes sense that people feel passionately about it and have strong opinions about what happened. I, too, found it odd that they would call for a pass play and not a run play in that situation. However, I am finding myself both amused and shocked by the level of intensity of the second-guessing and I think it speaks to something much more important and universal than people’s opinions about an important football game.
Monday morning quarterbacking is dangerous and is something many of us do with others and ourselves. We also worry about either making mistakes or about the opinions or judgments of others so much, it stops us from taking risks, trying new things, and going for it in life… much to our own detriment.
What we often fail to see is that it is easy to second-guess someone else (or ourselves) when failure happens. For example, if Russell Wilson had completed that pass, many people would have thought Pete Carroll and his offensive coordinator were geniuses. I assume people would have said things like, “Wow, that was a risky and unconventional decision, but it caught the Patriots off guard and was brilliant… that’s why they’re the champs.” But, since it didn’t work out and ended up costing them the game, people have been saying things like, “What were they thinking? How could they have done that? This will haunt them for the rest of their lives. They’re idiots.”
These comments (and ones that are probably much worse), while understandable, don’t take into consideration a few important things.
First of all, the Seahawks, their coach, and their quarterback won the Super Bowl last year, had an amazing turn-around this season, came back from the brink of elimination two weeks ago in the NFC championship game, and almost had another miraculous comeback in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Two plays before the interception was one of the greatest plays I have ever seen in a Super Bowl and it put them in a position to potentially and surprisingly win the game, after just giving up another touchdown to the Patriots. I’m not even a Seahawks fan, and it is hard not to appreciate what they have done in the past few years and how good they are.
Second of all, one play, even a big one like this, doesn’t invalidate all of the success and expertise of an individual coach, player, or team. It also never is the deciding factor in a victory or a loss, even though it seems like it. There are lots of things that have to come together in a specific combination for a game to go one way or another – just like in life.
Third of all, football, like life, is played on the field… not on the sidelines, in the stands, in the commentator’s booth, or on the couch at home. None of us know exactly what it’s like to be on the field and play the game… unless we’re actually playing in that game. The good news about being in the game is that you can have an impact on the outcome. The bad news is that sometimes you make a decision or a mistake that causes you and your team to lose. This is the reality of life and sports… and one of the many things that make both life and sports interesting and exciting.
Look at your own life… where do you find yourself being a Monday morning quarterback? Where do you find yourself worrying about the other Monday morning quarterbacks around you? What if instead of second-guessing ourselves and others (or worrying about second-guessing), we focused more of our attention on getting into the game, playing with passion, going for it, and trusting that things will work out as they are meant to work out, even and especially if we fail.
No one is perfect. Even champions make mistakes. Everyone is an “expert” after the fact, but no one has a crystal ball in the moment and can know for sure what the best move to make is. Football, just like life, can be unpredictable. Reflecting on and evaluating our decisions, our performance, our effort, and that of those around us after the fact can be helpful, healthy, and growth-inducing.
However, Monday morning quarterbacking, especially when we do it with arrogance, righteousness, and without an awareness of the fact that it’s always easier to make decisions in hindsight and when we’re not the ones at risk, can be debilitating and damaging. Let’s stop doing this so much and try being the quarterbacks of our own lives… and doing so on Sundays, while the game is happening, not simply when it’s over.
Where do you find yourself being a Monday morning quarterback in your life? What are some things you can do to stop doing that and take your power back? Share your thoughts, actions, ideas, insights, and more here on my blog below.