Saturday, May 17, 2008

Lame Duck vs Victory Tour

by: Michael Steffes

When Coach Holmgren announced that he was coming back in late January, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Mike Holmgren has played a big part in putting the Seahawks on the proverbial NFL map. Not only that, but he is a hall of fame coach who gives the Seahawks the best chance to win, right now.

That said, I was equally relieved when the team had announced that Jim Mora would be taking over in 2008. Whether or not you believe in Mora's talent as a coach, and by most accounts you should, the fact that this team doesn't face the uncertainty or speculation surrounding a change will be a good thing. Dan Pompei, and for that matter, a lot of the national media, don't share that rational. All off season, in every interview, Seahawks keep getting asked about the "lame duck" situation. Pompei has written a recent article about it, here. He contends that having two head coaches can divide a locker room, unless both are "working in lockstep."

Here are my thoughts....

I think the best way to approach this, is to take some of Pompei's points one by one and address the concerns with a less fatalistic view point. Hopefully this will give some good talking points that create a good topic for discussion over everyones morning coffee.

The NFL is such a fluid business with so many moving parts that trying anticipate everything that could happen one year from now is a dangerous way to operate.

Yes and No. The only thing that is going to change in Seattle is the personnel, and that happens on every team. We know who the owner is, we know who the GM is, and in reality you can do a fairly good job predicting the key cogs on both sides of the ball. The only thing that I would be worried about being "fluid" would have been Holmgren's decision. If he decided after this year he WANTED to come back, it would be nice to have a spot for him. However, by naming Mora, we take some of the fluidity out of it. The Seahawks will not be tied to a coaching search, and on top of that, they should be able to retain as many assistants as they want to because there will never be a vacancy. If a coaching search was going on, assistants would be leaving right and left, we saw that this year with just a little uncertainty before they announced Mora would be taking over. It gives the team more choices at the least .

By saying he would come back for only one more season, Holmgren risked losing some of his juice, both in the locker room and with regard to organizational issues. But he also gave himself a motivational advantage — everyone wants to win this for Mike.

It would be pretty hard in my mind for a HOF coach to lose some of his juice, especially considering he lost it regarding "organizational issues" several years ago. As for in the locker room, well you can't have both ways. Either players RESPECT him, and thus they want to "win this for Mike." Or the don't, and then they slack off and wait for the new regime to take over. Everything I know about Mike Holmgren, and even Tim Ruskell, says that if you choose the latter option, you won't be in Seattle to see the coaching change take place. My bet is that the players that are here are in it to win it. Isn't that the reason every free agent cites after signing.... they are trying to win a championship and I want to be a part of it.

Two voices aren't necessarily better than one.

How is it any different than when a head coach has a potential head coach on his staff as a coordinator? This implies that there must be some ultimate authority. There is, and his name is Tim Ruskell. Plus, Mora and Holmgren work on two very separate things. Mora may have final word, with his secondary, but really how does that effect Holmgren or the players. Mike keeps his hands off the defense, unless he sends a gnarly snarl their way.

Plus, all accounts coming out of Kirkland are that Jimmy Mora is being very respectful and staying out of the way. If that is the case then two voices are better than one, especially when they have both taken teams to NFC Championship games this decade. That is a problem most teams would love to have.

The head-coach-in-waiting concept is an interesting one, but probably is not the start of a trend.

Doesn't this fly in the face of everything the national media tells us about the NFL. They say, it is a copy cat league. Well.....two of the premier franchises in the league, Seattle and Indy are doing it. Granted the circumstances aren't going to present themselves very often, but if they do, and both Seattle and Indy remain competitive, why wouldn't become a trend?

Anyway, these are my thoughts. I think that this a smart move. I was never in support of the "Big Hire" to replace Holmgren, such as Bill Cower. I think that would have led to more turnover. Essentially, Mora comes from the 2nd generation of Holmgren coaches. He worked in San Fran with coaches who learned from Holmgren. This is like a family business being handed over to a son. Different people, to be sure, but they have the same basic principals.

Also, if you hadn't picked up on yet, I think we are much more likely to witness the Mike Holmgren victory tour than a lame duck year. Whatever that really means anyway. Your thoughts.....