I’m told that, statistically, a tie in the NFL is viewed as half a loss and half a win.
That seems to perfectly capture the perspective of the coaches in Sunday night’s 6-6 overtime tie between the Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals.
Afterward, Seattle coach Pete Carroll sounded as if the Seahawks had battled valiantly to earn half of a win.
While Arizona’s Bruce Arians sounded as if he felt the Cardinals had blown their many chances, been slighted by the officials, and suffered half of a loss.
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Arians’ perspective was colored by the Cardinals’ gaining almost 200 more yards than the Seahawks while the Seahawks had nine straight offensive possessions that ended in punts.
Really, Carroll might have been happy to have been anywhere even close in a game given those circumstances.
But the difference in perspective was also a matter of deeper philosophies, and that became obvious after the game when each coach was asked what they said to their respective placekickers, each of whom missed a short field goal that would have won the game.
Arians said he told kicker Chandler Catanzaro: “Make it. He’s a professional. This ain’t high school. You get paid to make it.”
Carroll, meanwhile, said of Stephen Hauschka: “He has been making kicks for us for years. I love him and he’s our guy.”
Motivation can spring from many fonts. Does a man kick better because it’s his job or because he knows he’s truly appreciated? Hard to say. So, no second-guessing Arians.
This guy paid a ton of dues to finally get a head-coaching job and he’s made the Cardinals a tough, well-coached team with not an ounce of quit in them.
That’s what made that marvelous monstrosity Sunday night so intriguing.
Because of the brilliant play and extraordinary effort of both defenses, it ended in a dead heat after nearly four hours of abominable offensive play.
And if you saw the players wobble off the field exhausted and dehydrated, you know that the term dead heat was almost literal in some cases.
“It’s disheartening to play that well and not come out of here with a victory,” Arians said. It had to be crushing, of course.
Carroll talked how the Seahawks came off the field. “These guys couldn’t walk off the field because they’re so drained,” he said. “That’s what we’ve come to understand, and (we) love them for it.”
Those were just a few of the times after the game that Carroll talked about his deep affection and appreciation for his players.
That tie on Sunday night, he said, “was an incredible display of who they are and what they’re all about … it just identified the heart and the connectedness that this team stands for and is all about … you’ve got a bunch of guys that will give it up for you, forever.”
The best lessons, he knows, come from the biggest challenges.
Maybe that’s why Carroll seemed so delighted by what he saw in a game that pushed his team to such lengths, that made “our guys give everything they possibly had until they couldn’t go any further.”
Was this exercise in exhaustion, then, a chance for them to explore inner resources they might not have otherwise been aware of?
“We have been on the topic of digging deep and seeing how deep we can get this, and how real we can make it,” Carroll said at his Monday afternoon press conference. “This is another very topical illustration. That’s why I’m positive we can grow from this; we’ve been through something that few people get a chance to go through.”
Late in the game Sunday night, any number of Seahawks made outrageously tenacious defensive plays to keep the Cardinals from scoring. They seemed to be taking literally Carroll’s counsel that they need to defend every blade of grass on that field.
Keep in mind that most of these Seahawk defenders already have big contracts and trophies cluttering their mantels.
So in that moment when the game was being decided, those dramatic efforts had nothing to do with what they get paid, or the fact that they’re professionals and ain’t in high school.
It was another case of showing their teammates and coaches what they have inside them, way down deep, down in those places where Carroll is still teaching them to explore.