Seattle’s 2015 Super Bowl disaster offers a compelling lesson in leadership decision-making in the present moment.

Just to recap, Seattle was at the one yard line with 28 seconds to go on second down. A touchdown virtually guaranteed a victory and they have three tries in which to move the ball 1 yard. Seems impossible to lose. However, Pete Carroll and his coaches were “living in the future.” Here’s how disaster struck from this fatal mental mistake.

The coaches planned to fail on this second down, knowing they would have two more cracks at it. They were thinking ahead on how to stop the Patriots from coming back in the final 25 seconds if Seattle scored right away. The coaches decided to throw a pass, thinking that if they made it, great, and if they failed, valuable time would run off the clock.

Instead, the unthinkable happened – an interception. The coach was not seeing clearly “what’s important now.” Pouff. Disaster for the Seahawks. The play has been named the worst call in NFL history. Here is a news item excerpt where coach Peter Carroll explains his thinking:

“In explaining what happened with the play he [Carroll] said: “All of the things that happened before [the play] are meaningless to you now. It’s really what happened on this one sequence. We were gonna win the game. We have everything in mind. How we were gonna do it. We were gonna leave them no time and we had our players to do it.”
Carroll added: “On second down we throw the ball really to kinda waste that play, if we score we do, if we don’t then we’ll run it in on third and fourth down. Really no second thoughts, no hesitation in that at all. Unfortunately, with the play that we tried to execute, that guy makes a great play and jumps in front and makes an incredible play that no one would think he could do. And unfortunately that changes the whole outcome.””*

What’s the bottom line? Every leader is biased by their past, their experiences and the allure of logic and reason. Sometimes, reason and logic have no role to play. Gut instinct must come into play. This is intuitive, even spiritual.

What is the right call? Your ability to discern the answer, right in the moment, determines your leadership capacity. It is every leader’s responsibility to grow this within themselves. No one can tell you the answer. It was Coach Pete Carroll’s decision to make and what happened next revealed his limitation as a leader.

You cannot pull this rabbit out of a hat the moment you need it. Life doesn’t work that way. You need to be ready for the moment. That will happen when you make living in the present your daily goal. Then you will know and trust that you will make the right call, even if the end result doesn’t prove to be the one you would have wished for. Confidence and peace are your rewards. Regret and anxiety melt away.