So about that play last night. You know, the one that cost the Seattle Seahawks their second NFL championship in as many years? Here’s the headline, in case you missed it: Seattle’s coaching staff gave the go-ahead call to have quarterback Russell Wilson pass the ball on a very short 2nd and Goal opposed to handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch—the team’s bruising running back—for a nearly guaranteed touchdown. The play resulted in a New England interception, in turn, decimating the reigning champions’ hopes of a repeat title.
It’s a decision that nearly blew up Twitter as current and former NFL players along with avid and casual fans reacted to the play. While many 12s (Seahawks fans—me included) will wonder “what if?” and remain sour about the decision, Head Coach Pete Carroll and his staff made a gut decision based on what they thought was best. Haven’t we all made a business decision in the heat of a moment or under extraordinary pressure?
While Coach Carroll has shouldered the blame for this costly play call, 12s and NFL fans alike must appreciate Carroll’s decision and could likely draw similar comparisons to their own lives. In our industry, public relations practitioners are making split-second decisions under enormous pressure as news breaks and a client finds themselves in an unsavory headline. As such, PR is considered one of the most stressful industries to work in. These “crisis” decisions are made with the best of intentions, but we can’t always predict the final outcome. Whether good or bad, it’s ultimately about looking ahead and determining what next step will benefit the client most.
While Seattle fans (or perhaps just me?) will remain sour about the loss until (at least) next season commences, there is something to be said for these variety of high-pressure decisions. For all the fame and praise Carroll and company received after a wild—perhaps miraculous—win against the Green Bay Packers to secure a spot in the Super Bowl, a similar type of split-second decision turned on them just two short weeks later.
It’s the same in PR when you’re making a decision with limited time. Some decisions earn praise and others are questioned by clients. There is no perfect solution in a high-pressure situation. One must assess the problem as quickly as possible and provide a reasonable, educated response. You cannot forecast the future, but you can settle on a reasonable determination based on what seems right and what pieces you have in hand.
Patriots fans celebrate and Seattle fans mourn—the outcome of a split-second decision. There’s always next year, right?