What Pete Carroll Can Teach Us About Accountability

petecarrollWell… that was a great game. For those who care, and watched, I would rank that as one of the three or four best Super Bowl games of all time. And for those of you who do not care and did not watch, trust me… this is not a post about American football.

Today’s post is about accountability. In last night’s game, Pete Carroll, head coach of the Seattle team, made a decision at the end of the game that cost his team a chance to win the championship. With less than a minute to go, they were mere feet away from the winning score, but the play that was called was high risk, and ultimately did not work out. The New England team took control of the game, and won. Moments earlier it appeared as if Seattle had the game well in hand and would win. But everything changed in the last few seconds, and Carroll went from apparent winner to clear loser.

The play that was called was indeed very high risk, and now that we know it did not work out, it will be criticized and second-guessed for a very long time. Carroll and his staff made a choice on the most public of stages and it failed. And many people will now criticize the decision.

But what I want to write about today is the manner in which Carroll handled his post-game explanations. He knew he was going to be heavily criticized, and instead of offering an excuse or shifting blame to someone else, he stood there, answered the questions and took full responsibility. Decisions made on the sideline in the NFL are the result of lots of input. All the key coaches are wearing headsets and communicating throughout the game. I am certain that Carroll had lots of opinions in his ear. But the choice was made, and he is standing by it. Was it his decision? Or did he follow the strong advice from a colleague? We’ll never know, and that is the way it should be. The organization makes a decision, and good or bad, the organization stands together to defend it.

As I write this, I am listening to ESPN in the background. And an endless loop of experts are calling this the “worst decision in the history of the Super Bowl.” Carroll is being eviscerated. In my opinion, it WAS a terrible decision, but that is easy to say in retrospect, from the comfort of my couch. I respect the way Carroll stood up and took responsibility. He didn’t blink, he didn’t throw an assistant coach under the proverbial bus. He said it was his responsibility. Period. Full stop.

Every leader should take note.

Have a great day.

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 (AP Photo/Matt York)

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