Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Week in Review with Bill T

by: William Tomisser

Hey gang. Michael asked me if I wanted to do a weekly article and maybe just recap the week’s subjects of discussion and put my spin on them. I’ve never done this before except about a million times as a regular poster in various newsgroups and blogs that have to do with the Seahawks, so, feeling like I’ve been preparing for this all my life, here’s the first and I hope not the last.

First, to introduce myself to those of you who don’t already know who I am, I’m a 61 year old total Seahawk fanatic. I attended the very first pro football game ever played in Seattle, which was a preseason game played in 1975 if I recall correctly between the Steelers and the Jets and featured Terry Bradshaw going against Wooly Joe Namath, a couple of football legends. This was a game to generate interest in the upcoming franchise that had been awarded to Seattle to begin play in 1976. I had never seen anything so precise in my life, having only watched college football live up until then. At one point, Namath drove the length of the field with three passes, scoring on the third one. I was blown away. When the Seahawks burst upon the scene in 1976, I stood in line for hours to get my season tickets, which I still own. I’ve been crazy about the Seahawks ever since and have conservatively estimated that over the last 33 years, I’ve invested over a hundred thousand dollars in season tickets, airline tickets, and Seahawks gear.

In 1980, I moved to Anchorage, Alaska but never lost my passion or my season tickets for the team. Currently, I’m retired/disabled from my job as a Systems Analyst with the Municipality Of Anchorage and am a 100% disabled Veteran of Vietnam after having been exposed to Agent Orange while there. I have a second lifelong passion for music and have been a professional musician for over 45 years now. I play in a 12 piece funk/soul band in Anchorage called Power Of Ten who is currently doing a Tower Of Power tribute weekly at a downtown Anchorage Club. I’m also the club historian for the “Midnight Sun Seahawkers” who are the longest standing official fan club of the Seattle Seahawks in existence. But enough about me.

I jotted down a few thoughts after returning home from the game Sunday and then saw most of you guys echo those thoughts throughout the week. For my first go at this weekly column, I thought we would review the week. To continue . . .

Mike Holmgren

I was watching Holmgren when they showed him on the broadcast and like some of you pointed out, he doesn’t seem to have any fire left. He doesn’t look like it bothers him that he’s putting in the most dismal performance of his entire career. To me, he looks tired, like he really needs a break. All of a sudden, I see him as a 60 year old man just trying to get through the season instead of this animated involved coach I’ve always seen on our sidelines who looks younger than his years. I have been one of Holmgren’s biggest supporters throughout his tenure but even I’m ready for a change. Looking at Holmgren Sunday made me realize he does need to go put a few thousand miles on his Harley next year and forget about football for awhile. Meanwhile, the team seems to be taking their cues from him and while I don’t think it’s a conscience thing, it’s a very real thing.

Seahawks Team

When Holmgren took over the Seahawks, they had a loser’s mentality that had been developed over almost two decades. It had become an inertia that it seemed no coach could overcome. I remember watching so many games where they would take a lead into the 4th quarter and then give it all up like they knew they couldn’t win and you would always watch their opponent make that last drive down the field to score and beat them and you just knew it was coming. You could count on it because the team knew they couldn’t prevent it. They were losers. That was a big reason it took Holmgren 5 years just to get this team on track. A lot of fans are saying that the Seahawks have that look again. I hope Holmgren doesn’t take that winner's attitude he finally instilled in the team away with him when he leaves, but hopefully Mora can put it back. So far, my perception is that the players are still playing hard and that they aren’t giving up before the final whistle. If they’re taking their cues from their Head Coach though, he doesn’t seem to be too upset that they’re tanking the season and, as I mentioned above, he looks tired and emotionless. His team looks it too.

Tampa Game Keys

The Tampa game had some questionable calls from the refs which a lot of you guys pointed out, and a lot of you said that they really didn’t affect the game. I disagree. We could have gained a lot of momentum at the start of this game with some plays going our way and decent calls from the refs. If we had scored a couple of TDs and gone up on the Bucs, I submit it could have been a much different game. Let’s look at all the turning points, both those caused by the ref's whistle and by our own failure to make plays. Chuck Knox used to say in any NFL game there would be three to five big plays that would be the keys to deciding who ultimately won the contest. Let’s look at those keys for the Seahawks. We started the game with a good looking drive and picked up a first down. Then on a third down play there was a long pass thrown to Carlson who had the ball in his hands, got his feet down in bounds and then lost the ball. That catch could have put us in scoring position and right off the bat we could have put up some points on the board. Instead, we punted.

On Tampa’s first drive and second down, Garcia’s second pass was tipped and two Seattle defenders went up for the ball and knocked it out of each other's hands. There’s our second possible big play and the game's only 3 ½ minutes old at that point. The Bucs continued the drive and scored on a play where the refs threw a flag that most observers thought was going to be on the Tampa receiver for pass interference, but after Tampa made it into the endzone and the refs had a conference, they picked it up. We’re down 7 and we could have been up by between 6 to 14 points at that time and still defending Tampa’s first drive. After trading punts with them and then Seattle punting one more time, Tampa drove down to the 11 where Garcia threw a short pass to Hilliard who got creamed and fumbled. Wilson picked up the fumble and had a clear path to TB’s endzone for the score, but the refs blow the play dead. Right there they killed us. Dead! Now instead of being up by as much as 21 if we’d made the plays previously, and being tied at 7 at the worst, we’ve got the ball at the Tampa 2 yard line. Then it gets even worse. On third down, Duckett blasted up the middle for 21 yards and a huge first down. Unfortunately, he runs over the ref, who first assists Tampa in slowing him down and then really dishes out an assist by calling another ticky-tack holding penalty on Wahle, putting back on the 6 yard line with 8 yards to go. The team fails on 3rd and long and punts back to Tampa, who then drives down the field and scores. Now we’re down 14 to zip instead of being up by 21 to nothing or, at the very worst without interference from the refs, tied even if we had lost the pass intereference call and the holding call. Stick a fork in us, we’re done for the day. That’s two big plays we didn’t make and three big calls from the refs for total of all 5 of those big game changers Knox talked about and there’s still 7 minutes to go before the half.

From thereon out, Tampa scores a FG, and then Spencer mis-snapped the ball for a fumble that Tampa recovered before halftime. 17–0, Tampa Bay. In the 3rd quarter, Mare made a FG and missed another. Seattle’s defense held TB to no points even though they were getting exhausted with Seattle’s offense only being on the field for 18 minutes over the entire game. In the 4th, Tampa added a FG and Seattle finally scored a TD, which is way to little and way too late. 20–10 is the final score, but the game was not even remotely that close. When you add in Mare’s missed FG, there were 6 plays where we either failed to make the big play or had the refs take the big play away from us that could have turned the game around completely. It just seems that the breaks aren’t falling our way for some reason. If we could have made half of those failed plays and maybe gotten a break on one or two of them, Seattle could have been in the game right to the end, if not in control of it. It seems to me that we’re fighting the refs a lot this year and of course we’re our own worst enemy the rest of the time.

Next, some bad mojo:


As a lot of you guys pointed out, we really need to get ourselves a NFL quality center who can make pre-snap adjustment calls, set the blocking assignments, and of course play too. Spencer should be tried at guard, and if he can’t be used there, released. I argued last summer when they were fixing the running game that we also needed to address the right guard and center positions. Lots of fans thought that the addition of Wahle and Solari fixed the line problems. Both Sims and Spencer aren’t getting the job done in my opinion. We fixed the Sims problem with an injury, but we need to do something about center. Tobeck and not Hutch has been our biggest loss, as far as I’m concerned. He may not have been the most gifted player talent-wise of the two, but he was by far the most cerebral player and he earned his place by being able to size up a defensive set and call out the correct blocking assignments and offensive line set correctly most of the time. That was a huge advantage for our 2005 line and Spencer hasn’t come close to being able to replace that aspect of Tobeck’s play. That’s why we were going to be screwed after Tobeck left whether we had retained Hutch or not.


He is not going to be a first string QB. Why can't he run the team at the up tempo rate that Hass does? He has had plenty of time in the system to be able to do so, but the team always seems to be dragging when he’s under center. Although still much better than Frye, he has seemed to have reached his peak performance and it’s just not good enough to carry the team for longer than a game or two. Seneca is just not a QB who will be anything more than a backup and he should be a third stringer at that. Your second stringer should be someone who can come in and win some games when your first sting QB is down and maybe also be the QB of the future waiting to take over the reins. Seneca is neither.


The offense has been a shambles from the start. All through mini camps and then training camp, our offensive line was mostly recovering from surgeries and never got any time together to work with new coach Mike Solari, who implemented a new blocking scheme among other improvements. I don’t care how good you are in a classroom situation, you’re not going to translate that chalk talk to the field without significant time out in practice with the guys you’re going to be playing with next to learning the system together. Add to that the fact that we already had the first of our receivers injured and Hasslebeck also missing most of the action, and th end result is our whole offense not getting the reps together they needed. I’m not sure what anyone expected to happen when the bell sounded, especially when in short order we lost all of our receivers, and not metaphorically either--I mean we literally lost all of our receivers. Then we lost our first and second string QBs. Just how well did anyone expect the offense to play after all that? Well, they did what they could, but as we all can see, it wasn’t much.


Our defense can’t be effective when the offense is only on the field for 18 minutes and is plagued by the offensive woes we just discussed. Our defense looked out of gas by the middle of the 3rd quarter. Even then, they played plenty good enough to win this game if not for the miscues and ref calls on Sunday. This is still a highly talented defense who just needs a scheme put in place that takes advantage of our player's specific talents. This is a finesse and speed defense that is being asked to play head-to-head power football. As Marshall is fond of saying, you just line up and find the guy with the ball and knock him down. That’s how you play with a big physical defense. We need to use some deception, we need to confuse the offense a bit, and we need to dictate to them how they can play. Hugh Millen noticed that we’re playing with a single safety back this year where we had been playing with two back in previous years. His take is that we’re intent on stopping the run first, which is probably a kneejerk reaction to the loss at Green Bay in last year’s postseason play. He feels that it is mostly this change that’s allowing teams to have such great success throwing down field on us. We don’t have any help over the top and our guys are unable to hold up on man to man coverage. Hardcore football aside, it comes down to scheme as so many of you have pointed out, and that’s Marshall’s responsibility.


Why is everyone so down on Mora? What's with wanting to fire him already without him even making any of the decisions? Is this based on an unsubstantiated story that he’s applied to the University of Washington for the HC position there? It’s not his defense, its Marshall’s. It’s not his choice of coaches, that’s Holmgren gig. It’s not his choice of players either, that’s Ruskell’s bailiwick. We have an excellent run defense that's carried over from last year. Everything that is killing us has been through the air this season. Although he coaches the DBs, it’s the scheme that’s killing us, not the player's skills, and the scheme is not his area of responsibility. He doesn’t set the scheme, Marshall does. A lot of you have indicated that if Mora can’t coach the DBs, how can he coach the whole team as Head coach? Hugh Millen answered that one on KJR this week when he pointed out that the skill set required for a position coach and a head coach are completely different. There’s your answer for that one, folks.


I think he’s way out of his league. He’s not inventive and only knows how to play straight ahead knock-your-guy-down defensive football. You can’t stay vanilla in this league, you have to keep inventing new things as Robbie Tobeck pointed out on KJR this week. Teams figure out stuff, and once the first team figures a way to crack your scheme then everyone know how to do it and copies what works and then everyone can beat it. That can apply to offense or defense. Marshall isn’t an innovator and doesn’t make adjustments on the fly well. In fact, he doesn’t seem to make many adjustments at all. The one big adjustment that he’s seemed to have made was the one mentioned earlier concerning the lone deep safety instead of the two we’ve used in the past. That seems to have opened us up to having teams figure out how to just pound the living crap out of us with the intermediate and down field passing game. Has anyone noticed that every team’s doing it to us just like Millen said they would? They all know how to beat Seattle now and Marshall’s doesn’t seem to be up to the task of fixing it. We need a young defensive coach to come in here and devise a scheme to utilize our talent according to our ability. Oh wait, that’s exactly what we do have coming. His name is Jim Mora!

General Observations

On to this talk of next year's draft. Skill positions are not good choices for high draft picks. I see some of you guys are wishing for a WR or QB to be drafted if we get a high first round pick. LTs, DEs, DTs, CBs, and sometimes LBs or safeties are all positions where it’s much harder to find blue chip talent. QBs are especially risky. ESPN did a study which showed that between 1989 and 2003, 16 out of 30 QBs drafted in the first round were officially busts. I posted a thing about that last week that can be looked up on SA if you want the names. WRs and QBs are better when acquired after they have proven themselves to have the talent and be able to play in the NFL. They will cost you big bucks as a high round draft pick, so it's better to pay those big bucks after we know they can pass muster.

There’s a lot of dispute about whether our team is suffering from poor talent or bad coaching. Right now our problems are probably more due to distracted coaches who are either not sure where they fit into the Seahawks in the future and a Head Coach who does know where he’s headed and it’s not into the next season. Players do pick up on vibes their coaches put out, and right now it’s probably pretty unsettled over there. Hugh Millen talked about this issue a bit on KJR. I don’t think anyone is consciously not playing as hard as they can, but when you’ve got a lot of doubt running rampant, sometimes it slows you down subconsciously. I really think are a lot of factors hampering us, from the injuries, to Marshall running vanilla schemes that are outdated, to other teams knowing what we’re going to be doing because we’ve been dumbing down our offense because of all the new players and 2nd and 3rd string QBs. As was discussed earlier, when you’ve been doing the same thing for a long time, other teams figure out how to defend against you. Without using some trick plays or deception or changing your stuff around a bit, the other team doesn’t have to be on their toes as much on defense. Once one team figures out how to stop you, everyone looks at the film and then they all know how to stop you. Holmgren can’t be an innovator this season for reasons just pointed out. Everyone knows how to stop us this year and we've played right into their hands, and then we've added to that the just talked about unsettling atmosphere of a coach who is going to be gone in half a season. Looking back, it probably would have made much more sense for Holmgren to have just called it quits when he knew he didn’t want to be the coach of the Seahawks anymore rather than try to do a “final year.” Right now, I think our team is suffering from all of the above going on at one time and it’s likely not to get fixed until we have coaches who are hired for the foreseeable future and a Head coach who will be there from year to year. A lot of us thought the last year concept would work. It hasn’t.

Ruskell bashers are still moaning about Hutch and saying he’s a terrible talent evaluator. That's not what everyone was saying at draft time. In fact there was a lot of excitement at that time. How come we all thought it was a great draft, but when we started losing all of a sudden Ruskell is accused of having a hard time picking good players? Maybee all that talk is just sour grapes because of the current losing streak? Otherwise, we’re all just as bad because we all endorsed his choices. Are we terrible talent evaluators too? I have to laugh when next year fans come up with the guys we could have drafted with our picks after having had the whole season to see which guys panned out. What I want to see is some of those great prognosticators pick those same players when no one knows who will blossom into a good NFL player. I remember when everyone was upset we didn’t draft Jimmy Kennedy. Enough said.

Well, thanks for reading this to the bitter end. I hope I’ve provided some insight and some further topics for conversation and haven’t bored you to tears with my first effort. I’ll try and be a bit more brief next time (good luck with that), but I had a lot to say this week. I’ll be back next Saturday with my take on Seahawk football. Let’s go knock the crap out of the 49ers and keep a small bit of hope alive for the season. Next week we’ll talk about when to think about playing younger players, when we should declare it impossible to get to the playoffs, and how we should feel as fans about the team at that point, plus whatever else happens to come up during the week.


Bill Tomisser
Anchorage, Alaska