Monday, February 02, 2015

Super Bowl Post-Mortem: The Makings of a Champion


Super Bowl XLIX provided so much drama and excitement.  Thank you New England and Seattle.  

It was also memorable and valuable for what we can learn from it.  Despite the outcome and the fact that the Super Bowl trophy belongs to the New England Patriots, it can be said that both teams played like champions. 

Let's look at the anatomy of championship mindset and what mental conditioning is necessary to compete for a Super Bowl. This Super Bowl was a lesson in putting yourself in the best possible position to win.  Both teams did so much to make themselves champions.  Understandably, most pundits will look at the reasons for winning and losing.   But, I want to analyze the post-game reactions by the players and coaches for some potentially more useful insight; beyond winning and losing.    

Vision

If you can't see yourself doing it, you probably won't be able to do it. 
 
"I just had a vision that I was going to make a big play and it came true," said Malcolm Butler, rookie New England Patriot defensive back and Super Bowl hero, after making a game-winning interception to end the game and seal the victory.  

Preparation

"Goal line, preparation, the formation they were in with the two-receiver stack, I just knew they were throwing a pick route," Butler said. "It was on the line, we needed it, and I just beat him to the route and made the play."

Individual and Team Resilience

Two plays before, Butler was covering Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse during his improbable, on-his-back, juggling catch down the right sideline that seemed to propel the Seahawks to a sure victory.

Butler was step-for-step with Kearse in coverage on the play, but it was just a once-in-a lifetime effort by the Seattle receiver.  While staring a bitter loss in the face, Butler did not quit, however.  

"I went to the sideline, wasn't feeling too well, my teammates were trying to cheer me up and said I made a great play," Butler said.  "I just went up and deflected it. Nine times out of 10, it usually goes away from him. As I was looking, he was bobbling it and caught it. Just devastating."

Two plays later, though, "it was the best feeling ever." 

Butler knew he had to get past the previous play and that he might be targeted again.

"I'm pretty sure he knows I'm a rookie, and who wouldn't try a rookie?" he said [referring to Seattle quarterback, Russell Wilson]. "I was ready."

Mental Toughness

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the MVP of the game, asked for the key to victory, responded, "Mental toughness."

"It's just a lot of mental toughness,'' Brady said. "I think the whole team had it. Coach always says, 'Ignore the noise and control what you can control.' We had two great weeks of practice. That's what it took. That's what we needed to be focused on and that's how we got the victory.''

"It wasn't the way we drew it up," said Brady, who won his third Super Bowl MVP award. "It was a lot of mental toughness. Our team has had it all year. We never doubted each other, so that's what it took."

Leadership Responsibility 

Pete Carroll, the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, took full responsibility for the loss, rather than push his players under the bus.  

“We were on the precipice of another championship,” Carroll said. “Nobody to blame but me.”

Confidence

Even the losers of the Super Bowl must have confidence.  During the last play, the interception by Butler, the Seahawks felt good.

“I didn’t have any doubt,” Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin said. “At that time, you didn’t think there was anyone on the sideline who didn’t think we’d score.”

“When they made the call, I didn’t question it,” said Wilson. “We thought we had them. I thought it was going to be a touchdown when I threw it. When I let it go, I thought it was going to be game over.”

Passion and the Will to Keep Winning 

With no intention of retiring, MVP Brady seems to be ready to do it all over again.

"I love doing it, so I don't want it to end any time soon," he said. "A lot of decisions I make in my life are how to sustain it. That takes a commitment in and of itself. You have to put it in the bank, as Coach always says, so it's there when you need it."

I, for one, would love to see a rematch next year.  But, the rest of the NFL might have something to say about that.  If they have learned anything, each team is preparing to put themselves in the best position to win next year's Super Bowl right now.


Excerpts from espn.go.com (2/1/2015), nytimes.com (2/1/2015),  and newsday.com (2/2/2015).
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