A Super Bowl pass is picked off and Pete Carroll quickly is picked on

As Pete Carroll takes heat for Super Bowl loss, Bill Dwyre marvels at how fast opinion has changed

Pete Carroll has gone from the apple of everyone's eye to the butt of everyone's joke.

Have you seen the Internet gag with Carroll at the fast-food window? How could you not?

Wearing a worker's apron and a charm-your-socks-off Carroll smile, he looks out at the woman in the car and says, "Should I hand this to you, or step back 8 yards and throw it for no reason?"

He has a chance to be the poster boy for any advertising campaign that wants to use the phrase, "What was he thinking?" If the ad people have any sense of humor, they'll have the voice-over done by Warren Sapp.

History tells us that one of our presidents once attacked the wrong country. He may end up taking less heat than Carroll for calling the wrong play in the Super Bowl.

Wouldn't you love to have been a fly on the wall when Carroll was summoned to owner Paul Allen's office? "Now, Pete. Tell me again how this works. Your assistant coach called for a pass on the one-yard line, you heard the call on your headset, and you didn't say 'no'?"

If Carroll is quick, he can reply, "Well, Mr. Allen, it was the technology. I've never trusted all this high-tech crap, nor the people who created it. Wireless, baloney. Give me an old-fashioned, rotary-dial telephone. I never heard what the play was. Lot of static."

The thing about Carroll is that he has never been a half-in kind of guy. One example was in the key moments in USC's national title game against Texas at the Rose Bowl, he didn't put Reggie Bush half-in. Didn't put him in at all.

It is amazing how quickly the worm has turned on Carroll.

Many of the same broadcasters who had been bestowing sainthood upon him hours before were now deeming him unfit for Pop Warner coaching. Deion Sanders, who has coached at least five Super Bowl victories from the broadcast booth, led the charge.

"That was the worst play call in Super Bowl history," Sanders said.

Maybe. Or maybe the worst call in Super Bowl history was the one on Dec. 31, 1967 that got the Packers to Super Bowl II, before it really was known as the Super Bowl. Would we revere Vince Lombardi on the same level we do now had Bart Starr slipped and fallen shy of the end zone in the Ice Bowl and the clock had run out?

There remain legions of fans who love Carroll unconditionally. Joel Rapp of Los Angeles says Carroll's presence was the only reason he was interested in the Super Bowl.

"The only thing I care about is 'SC," Rapp says, "and I never think of him as a turncoat, even though his actions in the Bush thing were pretty lousy."

Another local fan, Dutch Harmeling of Encinitas, sees another Pete Carroll.

"If you think Pete Carroll is innocent of stretching the rules," he says, "I have some land behind a levee in New Orleans for you."

Now, four days later, the story just won't go away. The analysts are digging deeper, thinking longer and harder.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the interception of that Russell Wilson pass at the one-yard line in the final seconds of the game was the first one this season from that distance. According to Stats LLC, there were 61 one-yard touchdown passes this season and adds "there are seldom more than three or four interceptions at the one-yard line in a season."

The conclusion was Carroll's folly "wasn't the worst play, just the weirdest."

Justin Wolfers, a professor of economics and public policy writing in the New York Times, backs Carroll's much maligned thought process as follows: "The only way to be unpredictable is to be a little bit random."

So the buzz continues. Poor Pete. When the wheels come off the karma wagon, the crash is never pretty.

Two weeks ago, against the Packers in the NFC final, an onside kick bounces perfectly for Pete, right off a Packers player's facemask and into the waiting arms of a Seahawk. Moments later, a Packers defensive back goes blank on Wilson's desperation, two-point fling.

Pete's karma, presumably.

Then, in the big one, XLIX, a Seahawks receiver impersonates a circus juggling act to make a catch and Pete and his karma are soon on the one-yard line, with plenty of time left and a Mack truck to hand the ball to.

Oops. Bye bye, karma.

Presumably, there were some high-fives and smug grins around the water coolers of Green Bay Monday morning. You don't wish bad things on anybody, unless they have overextended their karma.

From every setback comes opportunity. Or so we are told, probably by people who excel at both setbacks and writing books about opportunity.

In most cases, this stuff passes. Time heals. People forget. Hope springs eternal.

In Carroll's case, this one might stick to him like Krazy Glue.

So he needs to parlay it into a positive.

Don't run from it. Embrace it. Become America's most famous contrarian. Wrong Way Riegels will be replaced by Wrong Call Carroll.

Start driving one of those old 10-ton Cadillacs with the huge fins on the back — 2.65 miles per gallon. Park it next to the electric plug-ins.

Encourage Californians to use more water on their lawns.

Get a multimillion-dollar deal marketing a new motto: When you get to a fork in the road, go straight.

The serious side of this is that it isn't serious. A football coach made a stupid call in a football game. Sure, he's paid millions not to do that, which makes him fair game for sarcastic typists, something he fully understands.

After all, when you have fastened your seat belt on a plane in Burbank, heading to Seattle, as the NCAA is landing in another one at LAX, you know there will be lumps, and Carroll has taken them.

He's a big boy, who is currently taking big heat. Soon, it will be time to lay off.

Except in Green Bay, and maybe on parts of the USC campus, where the smug smiles are permanent.

Follow Bill Dwyre on Twitter @DwyreLATimes

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