The Conspiracy Theory On How The Seattle Seahawks Lost The Super Bowl

It's often derided as the worst play call in NFL history. On February 1, 2015, the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots clashed in Super Bowl 49. Tom Brady and the Patriots earned two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take a 28-24 lead (via ESPN). In the final minutes of the game, the Seahawks, led by Russell Wilson, marched down the field and into scoring position. With 27 seconds remaining, they were less than two yards from the endzone. Probably the entire planet expected a handoff to powerhouse running back Marshawn Lynch (above), who had rushed for over 100 yards and scored one touchdown already. Instead, the Seahawks decided to throw.

Wilson was in the shotgun, with Lynch next to him for the diversion. The quarterback targeted receiver Ricardo Lockette at the goal line. The throw was intercepted by Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, to the shock of the announcers and the joyful roar of the New England crowd (watch the entire calamity on YouTube).

Anyone But Lynch?

"I cannot believe the call," one announcer said live (via YouTube). "You've got Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. You've got a guy who's been borderline unstoppable in this part of the field. I can't believe the call". Indeed, putting the ball in the air in that tight of a space instead of safe in the hands of Marshawn Lynch was extremely risky. Worse, it was only second down. The Seahawks could have given Lynch multiple chances to bulldoze into the endzone. Instead, the Patriots picked off the ball, Tom Brady kneeled out the final 20 seconds, and the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl.

The call was so outrageous that it instantly sparked a conspiracy theory. According to respected sports writer Dave Zirin at The Nation, some fans and even Seahawk players suspected that head coach Pete Carroll and the team higher-ups did not want Lynch to make the game-winning play. They wanted it to be quarterback Russell Wilson. An anonymous source from the Seattle locker room reportedly told Zirin: "Can't believe it. We all saw it. They wanted it to be Russ. They didn't want Marshawn to be the hero." But why?

A Theory and Its Critics

The conspiracy theory posits that Seattle went with a risky pass because Marshawn Lynch was a troublemaker, and they didn't want him celebrated as the game-winner or awarded the prize of most valuable player (via The Nation). By 2015, Lynch had been investigated for a hit-and-run, arrested over a DUI, and later charged with reckless driving (via Yahoo! Sports). He'd also stopped speaking to the media, racking up professional fines, according to The New Yorker. Add in various shenanigans and whacky comments, and, the theory goes, Seahawk management was out to get Marshawn Lynch.

Lynch himself wondered if someone didn't want him to be "the face of the nation" and thus kept the ball out of his hands (via NBC Sports). More anonymous teammates backed him up, even to an writer. As of now, suspicions from players and fans compete with the shaking heads of coaches and football commentators, who do not believe the plan could come into play with the Super Bowl on the line.

That reporter for gave head coach Pete Carroll's version of the story. Running on second with so little time left carried a risk, too, Carroll explained. If Lynch was stopped, the Seahawks would have to use their last timeout to stop the clock. Then they likely would have had to pass on third down anyway to stop the clock again if the pass was incomplete and time for a fourth attempt. In other words, running meant the Seahawks might have had fewer chances to score, maybe not getting a fourth down. Carroll also gambled that with the enemy expecting a run, his guys could beat rookie Patriots corner Malcolm Butler, who didn't have any interceptions under his belt. Further, Zirin pointed out that Lynch was actually only one for five that season from that close to the endzone.