Pete Carroll is the head football coach of the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks.
Perhaps you heard: his team lost the Super Bowl on Sunday. And perhaps you heard that the loss was the direct result of a last-minute coaching decision that will go down as one of the worst calls in the history of the game.
In the locker room after the game, Carroll talked to his team and took the blame for the loss.
Nevertheless, ever since Malcolm Butler of the New England Patriots intercepted the pass (above), fans, players, and even other coaches have excoriated Carroll.
One Seahawks fan leaped through his television and killed it (I think he was due for a flatscreen):
Don’t Bet Against Pete Carroll
How will Pete Carroll recover from a humiliation that played out in front of tens of millions of TV viewers? And what can we learn from him?
This week in an interview with Today’s Matt Lauer, Carroll explained what he’s gone through in the past four days and how he’s been processing the failure. Carroll said he’s going to emerge stronger than ever.
Nobody should bet against him.
A Long History of Bouncing Back
Carroll is uniquely qualified to speak on the subject of devastating failure.
Carroll has experienced the highest of highs: he is one of only three coaches to have won both a college football national championship and a Super Bowl. He’s walked through the depths, too: twice he was fired from NFL head-coaching jobs, and he left his job at USC under the cloud of an NCAA investigation.
“I’ve been there so many times,” Carroll said about the loss. “This career, this thing that we do. There’s so many ups and downs…These [disappointments] don’t go away. These occurrences don’t leave. They stay with me in a manner that they fuel me.”
As the fateful interception occurred on Sunday, cameras captured Carroll’s reaction. He was bent over, staring at the ground, confronting the enormity of what just happened.
Carroll told Lauer, “As soon as I stood up, I was already focused on the future.”
Wait, what?! How can anyone be so resilient?
Read on to find out.
1. Let the people around you give you comfort.
Immediately after the game, Carroll’s wife (Glena) hugged him. They were surrounded by family members, including their 5-year-old grandson, who was taking the loss particularly hard. Glena said to Carroll, “Everything is going to be OK.”
“It’s something that was really important,” Carroll said, because it prepared him for the firestorm of questions that he was seconds away from facing.
2. Give yourself permission to feel the hurt.
At 4 a.m. on Tuesday, Carroll was awake. He couldn’t get to sleep. That’s when he broke down and cried.
That was my opportunity to feel the hurt, he said.
Carroll’s players were devastated by the defeat, and he understood what they were going through.
“How they responded, how they reacted…there’s nothing wrong with that,” Carroll said. “You have to allow yourself to feel exactly the way you feel.”
3. Get to the truth of what happened.
The Seahawks’ process of self-examination began Monday morning at a team meeting. It’s a weekly, postgame meeting that the Seahawks call “Tell the Truth Mondays.”
Carroll said the team had to gather together. They had to talk about what happened.
“Everyone has to get clear in their minds what the truth is,” Carroll said. “Understanding the truth doesn’t happen immediately. Everyone feels it individually, in their own way.”
4. Know that the failure was the result of a process.
Carroll can accept Sunday’s result because he says it was a decision born out of preparation.
Given the situation in the game, they knew they’d have to throw the ball on one of their three remaining down. So the decision to throw the ball wasn’t an aberration. The result was bad, Carroll said, but the decision to pass was not.
“When you’re prepared in such a way,” Carroll said, “it gives you boldness that perhaps other people don’t understand.”
5. Trust that all of your disappointments have prepared you for this one.
Carroll is on a first-name basis with defeat. He’s lost 61 times as an NFL head coach. He lost 19 times as a college head coach, including a crushing, last-minute defeat in a national championship game against Texas.
Carroll was an assistant coach at the college and pro levels for 24 seasons. He probably lost 100 times during those stints.
If you add up the coaching losses, it’s in the neighborhood of 180 defeats — and this is for one of the great coaches of his generation.
“My whole life has prepared me for these situations,” he said.
It gives him confidence that he will bounce back and things will get better.
“I always will go back to — I know it’s going to turn. I know it’s going to turn.”
And who can doubt it? It’s already turned 180+ times for Pete Carroll.
6. Believe that the strength needed for extraordinary accomplishments comes from devastating defeats.
It’s THE question we ask after a failure: “What now?”
“What we do with our next step is what’s so powerful,” Carroll said. What matters is “how we move forward and outlast the difficult times, so that you can come out the other end of it and go wherever you’re capable of going.”
Carroll has no doubt about what the future holds for him and his football team.
“Something good is about to happen,” he said. “Think [about] how strong we’re going to be coming out of this. Of course it’s going to make us stronger. Think how powerful our togetherness will be, how our mindset will be as we know we shouldered this. Nothing could make us stronger than this.”
7. Don’t let the failure define you.
“We did so many beautiful things to get to that point [in the game,]” Carroll said. Indeed they did:
The interception “isn’t going to define who we are. We’re a championship organization,” he said. “It’s not defining me.”
As Carroll’s interview with Lauer came to an end, Carroll said the story of his redemption is “well under way.”
You can watch the full interview below.