Saturday, November 1, 2008

Weekly Roundup With Bill T

by: William Tomisser

Hey gang. Here we go again with another short (dream on) synopsis of the week, including all the hot topics of discussion. Michael said that my weekly column is like one of my regular posts on steroids, so let’s get pumped up!

It was a lot more fun writing the column this week, but I’m sure it was a lot more fun for all you guys posting, too. That’s what a win does for you. I was able to wear my Seahawks gear all week in public instead of hiding it in the closet. Man, I hate the weeks after a loss, but since this wasn’t one of them, we’re off to the races. To continue . . .

The San Francisco Game.

Well, that was a refreshing game on Sunday. It looks as if Holmgren finally got tired of playing conservative and decided that if we’re going down, then we’re going down with guns blazing. Even at the end of the game, where in the past with a lead he’s gone ultra conservative and run the ball even on third and long, he was throwing for the first down on a 3rd and 8 and got another unexpected TD out of it when Weaver took it 62 yards for the score. He gambled at the start of the game by going for it on 4th and long instead of trying a long field goal. Not typical Holmgren, but they did look like our old Seahawks out there for a while Sunday on both sides of the ball. A good team win.

Let’s look at the game more closely:

The Good

Holmgren opened up the passing game, and it paid big dividends as we started sustaining drives and getting 3rd down conversions. The defense benefited from not having to spend most of the afternoon on the field. We got some turnovers, which meant that those 4 or 5 big plays that we talked about last week that all went against us in Tampa Bay went mostly in our favor this time, which showed in the final score. Although looking at the statistics you would guess that San Francisco had won, that wasn’t the case as they lost the field position game all day long and played catchup but failed to put up points. They put up some yards, but did little in the scoring department as we managed to thwart them all day long. As always, the game is decided on points, not yards gained.

Touching on the subject of Leonard Weaver, all I can say is WOW! He gave us everything except a good dose of “The Baptism” during the game. He gave us the works, from bone crunching blocks to elusive running and also made a couple of the biggest plays of the year to date. He had 4 receptions for 116 yards and was by far Seattle’s best receiver last Sunday. He is the first Seattle receiver to top 100 yards this season, by the way. Watching him on Sunday, I can see him making us forget abut Mack Strong with a few more performances like that, as was mentioned last year. Although he swears that all he was concentrating on was making his blocks, he noted that he had to make hay while the sun was shining by taking two opportunities to score on passing plays and heading for the bank with the payroll. You heard it here first, those neon green shoes ARE all that and a bag of chips!

Although Holmgren says he doesn’t expect to expand Weaver's role in the offense, I’m not sure that in future games he can ignore the obvious game-breaking talent we saw on display Sunday. I’d bet on the fact that Mora was taking notes in his mind for next year--42 and 62 yard TDs are nothing to sneeze at.

The defense played well Sunday and one of the better performers was none other than Josh Wilson. The more time he gets both as a defender and return man, the better his play becomes. He made a great move on the ball Sunday and returned the resulting interception for a TD. What I want to know is, who the hell was that long-legged son of a gun who caught Josh Wilson at the goal line? Vernon Davis is the answer. Wilson is about the fastest guy on the Seahawks, but Davis looked like he had rockets strapped on. Mike Sando said it looked like a parent running down his 4 year old son. That’s what real speed looks like folks. Josh also had a 40 yard kickoff return, and the last two weeks has shown that he possesses some real talent at both the CB position and as a return man. Right now he’s the best 2nd CB we have, and alongside Forsett provides a double whammy in the return department. Wilson and Forsett are providing much more talent than I thought we’d have in the return game after Burleson got hurt. Too bad Wilson’s not 6 inches taller but he’s starting to play like he is. Here’s a heads up to you Josh Wilson bashers. You might not be able to kick Josh Wilson around much longer.

Wallace looked a lot more comfortable at QB, this week even though he had pressure on him all day long. The offensive line wasn’t able to contain San Francisco’s rush to give him as much time as he would like, but he made his reads quickly and got rid of the ball a couple of times just before would have been sacked. I’m not sure if it was the extra week of practice with the first unit or if he’s just running hot and cold like Dave Kreig used to do, but let’s hope the former and that he’s even better next week against Philly.

John Carlson continues to impress big-time. If he’s not being considered for rookie of the year, then they are once again disrespecting Seattle by not including him in that group. He’s throwing blocks, leading running backs around the corner, catching balls all over the field, and just doing everything a complete TE is supposed to do and doing it at a very high level for a rookie. There are a lot of veteran TEs out there that aren’t playing at his level right now.

Hill had another good game Sunday, showing himself once again to be Seattle’s best linebacker by leading the team with 9 tackles. Rocky Bernard and Craig Terrill were both looking more like they did last year, and Kerney was a beast again although he re-injured his shoulder in the process. It looked like our defense was back, and indications are that they will continue to play well if our offense can continue to sustain drives like they did Sunday. Trufant, D.D. Lewis, and even Brian Russell all had a good game with each adding 5 tackles to augment Hill’s performance.

Koren Robinson had several good catches and threw some good downfield blocks, too. He was tied with Weaver for most receptions for Seattle with 4 catches. I really am praying that he can keep his life together this time around because he could become a big time player for us again and because I’m always pulling for people who want to change themselves for the better and manage to pull it off. Kudos to Koren!

The Bad

Lofa Tatupu is getting more and more banged up as the season progresses. It’s very likely that he’s not going to make the pro bowl for the first time in his career unless he gets voted in because of past accomplishments. Playing against Philly and Brian Westbrook is going to be dicey without someone who can patrol the middle of the field and keep Donovan from killing us with short passes and dump-offs to Westbrook. Let’s hope he’s recovered enough to play and play well tomorrow.

Lawrence Jackson, after looking like he was going to take the league by storm at the start of the season, has come down to earth and is showing himself to be a rookie after all with a few things to learn about playing in the big leagues. He lost his job to Tapp, and while he’s still showing promise of being a good player for us when he gets more game experience, he’s not going to be an all-pro like Tatupu was in his first year. Tomorrow, due to an injury Kerney re-aggravated Sunday against San Francisco the word is that Tapp will start at Kerney’s position against the Eagles instead of moving Jackson over. The Seahawks are still not a good pass rushing team with just its front four. Unfortunately, they've proven they don’t have a good enough blitz package to make up for it after having been beaten several times this season by an opposing QB throwing downfield on a blitz for a big play. I can see us going for another DE or DT in next year’s draft. Like Ruskell said last year after drafting Jackson, you can’t have too many good defensive linemen and it makes a lot of sense to go after one every year in the draft. I agree with that philosophy wholeheartedly. If we have a high first round draft choice next year, a blue chip passrushing DT or DE wouldn’t break my heart.

The running game wasn’t its usual hard pounding self Sunday. I thought when we got the passing game going like we did the running game would really take off, but the Niners had us bottled up pretty good. Our offensive line wasn’t as good as we’ve seen previously this season. As Michael pointed out, Robbie Tobeck had some good comments on the value of having your offensive line stick together throughout the season. A platoon system doesn’t work there like it does on the defensive line, but more on that later. That was one of the reasons our 2005 line was so good. They had played together for several years before that season, and when it all came together they played as a single unit and knew each other so well that they were able to communicate without words. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll get both parts of our offense in gear and present a balanced attack against the Eagles and keep their defense off balance all day long by making them guess where we’re going to attack or where we’ll be coming from. We need to set our offensive line and stick with it. We can’t keep switching Locklear and Willis.

The Ugly

Bobby Engram continues to drop balls. Although he did make a couple of catches, he’s still not looking anything like the receiver we saw last year pick up the gauntlet and become Seattle’s top receiver. For a guy who complained bitterly about being paid what he’s worth, he’s not making a very good case for himself right now to be worth the money they are paying him. Come on Bobby, you’ve got to start playing like the pro you are and justify that new contract and salary. Get a grip--and I mean that literally.

After chasing O’Sullivan out of the game Sunday, we let Shaun Hill come in and have a field day passing against us. He ended up with a 104 QB rating. We seem to have a big problem with a QB who shows good mobility and is elusive when chased out of the pocket. I was real glad that the 49ers didn’t make their QB change in the first half with significant time left to play, because the way he was driving the team on us they could have scored a couple of times and made a game out of it. We are supposed to be a speed team on defense, but quick elusive QBs like Garcia in Tampa Bay and Shaun Hill in San Francisco last Sunday both moved their teams pretty well on us. We need to get a good pass rush, but we also need to get good containment on those types of QBs who can complete passes and make their reads while getting flushed out of the pocket and being chased. We seem to do much better against pocket passers where we don’t have a moving target. You’d think with a speed rush instead of a power rush it would be the other way around, but ain’t football peculiar?

Matt Hasselbeck is not going to be back for the Philly game. It’s looking like we may not see him soon if at all the rest of this season. At Matt’s age, this could be the beginning of the end of his career. I think it’s really important for the Seahawks to acquire another QB who has the talent to be groomed to be Matt’s replacement. This is not a situation we can put off any longer or we’re going to be going with Seneca Wallace for a whole season or longer and I don’t think he’s the long term answer. Holmgren says that he expects Seneca to get better the more he plays, but after this season Holmgren’s not going to be around to develop him further. The game against the Eagles is one where we can make up one for those losses in games we expected to win like the first San Francisco game and the Green Bay game at Quest Field. I expect the Cardinals to win against the Rams tomorrow, and to keep pace we need the win against Philly. Hass would help that effort a lot, but we’re just going to have to hope Seneca can put two good games together in a row--and after the reports on Hass, probably beyond.

Initial reports on Kerney suggest that he may also be out for a while, and he is another one we could have to do without for the rest of the season. That’s a tough one to swallow because Kerney always puts out at 100% and forces teams to deal with him. That frequently allows another Seahawk defender to be able to put pressure on the QB while they are concentrating on Kerney. That would be a big loss, guys. I don’t believe either Tapp, Jackson, or Atkins can come close to replacing his production.

Our running game was looking like it did last year, maybe worse. We only gained 39 yards on the ground Sunday. The offensive line wasn’t opening holes. Robbie Tobeck was highly critical of switching between Locklear and Willis during the game. He speculated that maybe Holmgren was trying to get Willis some playing time because of his outstanding play recently, but that they need to decide who their RT is and stay with him because the offensive line needs to play together for awhile to gel. My take is that if Willis is playing better than Locklear, then we need to promote him to starter and make Locklear the backup. If he’s using Willis to light a fire under Locklear, he’s sacrificing our cohesive line play to do so. We need a balanced attack to beat Philly tomorrow. I trust Robbie on this one since he’s been there and done that and then some. If you haven’t caught Robbie Tobeck on KJR, you should give him a listen sometime. He’s got great insight into the offensive line play and, alongside Hugh Millen, disperses a wealth of hardcore football information.

The Week from Your Comments

A lot of you guys seem to think Mora will be taking the UW coaching job. I’m not sure how you came to that conclusion. He has a contract to coach for the richest owner in pro football, who has been used to paying the highest salary for a head coach in the league for several years now. Although he said that the University of Washington was his dream job, he’s also said the same about coaching the Seattle Seahawks. He’ll make quite a bit more money in the NFL and have the opportunity to advance his career in a huge way at the top level of football with a successful stint as Seattle’s head coach. He’ll be coaching the top football players in the world versus teaching undeveloped college players. I’m not sure what would entice him to walk away from that opportunity and take over a Washington program in shambles. He would have a rebuilding project that could take years to get back on its feet instead of a team loaded with talent that just needs a few more pieces to be a valid contender for an NFL title. I know some of you are hoping he takes the Huskies job, but I don’t see it happening. Mora has one of the most desirable jobs in the NFL locked up by being next in line to coach the Seattle program and working for Paul Allen, and I don’t see him taking a huge pay cut to go coach an inferior brand of football at Washington. It ain’t going to happen, folks.

I’ve heard from some people who would like to see Mora leave and then want to bring in Cowher. Let me tell you right now, Cowher is the last guy I’d want to hire along with Gibbs, Parcels, Schottenheimer, or whatever other old fossil you’d like to dredge up to come in here and try to resurrect old style traditional NFL football again in Seattle. I thought you guys had enough of guys like Marshall, who is old school to a fault, and even Holmgren at times has been criticized for being old school. I want to see a young innovator come in here who is in touch with the modern NFL and has some fresh ideas on how to put together a great offense and/or defense. The thing is, that’s exactly who we've hired already to take over next year. Mora is young, energetic, and a defensive specialist who can hopefully design a defensive scheme to take advantage of our young, talented defense and will work against modern NFL offenses. If Mora did leave for the UW job, I’d rather we hire an up-and-coming OC or DC or a young head coach from a successful program to come in here and get this team energized. I’m through with the 55–65 year olds who are from my generation, are too old to learn new tricks, and have gone a bit rigid in their thinking. I can relate to that whole scenario, and I’d rather have someone with a more supple mind at the helm. Now that I think about it, I think I just dissed myself.

What a difference in the tenor of the group after a big win. All of a sudden some of you think we have a good chance against the Eagles. Nothing like a win to chase the doom and gloom away, huh guys? On the other hand, there are still a lot of posters who are still saying that the season’s done and the win Sunday didn’t mean squat. When you read the Weekly Topic of Discussion, you’ll all have a chance to think about when we should call it quits on this season and what we should do about it if it comes to that. Read on:

Odds And Ends

With the Cardinals getting a probable win playing at St. Louis, we need a win against Philly to keep pace. I see things a bit differently than Chris does with regards to how our division race plays out. The way I figure it, we have to keep pace with the Cards by winning when they do and only being able to lose when they do, and then if we win the two games against them we’ll division champs. Pure and simple. They’re two games up on us, so if we win the two against them that evens the records and gives us the tiebreaker if we’ve kept pace. It actually works out the same either way you look at it, but I prefer to keep looking at it as a head-to-head match. San Francisco and the Rams I still just ignore.

Leonard Weaver got his first TD thanks to classic Bill Walsh West Coast Offense football on Sunday. Walsh wanted to design an offense where you stayed in the base offense with two receivers, a TE, and two backs in the backfield yet could still present a sophisticated passing attack. He used skilled receivers at all those positions and therefore was able to not give away his intentions through personnel substitutions. No one expected the play to go to Weaver, obviously least of all the 49ers' defense, but that’s the beauty of the WCO offense. He was the open man and therefore got the opportunity.

On a side note away from football but one that’s got me excited, my band, Power Of Ten, will be opening for the Alyson Williams concert tonight in Anchorage. I guess I’m officially out of the loop when it comes to the younger generation’s music icons these days. I had no idea who she is and had to look up her music videos on YouTube to see who it was we were opening for. I hadn’t heard any of her songs and still don’t know much of anything about her. I knew this day would come when I was officially considered to be out of the pop scene, but now it looks as if it’s been here for some time and already gone by. The old guy is always the last to know.

Leonard Weaver’s new nickname is “The Church Van.” The players decided he needed a name like “The Bus,” but because he's an ordained minister they decided on "the Church Van" so he could take them to church on the football field, so to speak. That certainly goes with his stiff-arm being dubbed dubbed “The Baptism.” Weaver looks like he’ll eventually become the next Mack Strong, complete with Pro Bowl appearances. His interview with Mack Strong on KJR had everyone in stitches, as Leonard is showing himself to have a great personality to top off the package. Look for him to work his way into broadcasting when he’s done with playing the game.

Weekly Topic of Discussion

I said last week that we would talk about what point we should call it impossible to get to the playoffs and what would be the proper time to think about giving the younger players some playing time. I also want to touch on how we should feel as fans about the team at that point and what we consider important to achieve the rest of the season if we know that we’re not going to be in postseason play this year. I know we have a little bit of renewed optimism after the San Francisco win, but we’re still not in a strong position and could still very easily be out of the race by Thanksgiving if we don’t play well.

My thoughts are that once we have 9 losses or are 3 or 4 games behind our division leader and needing to win every game to pull even, we’re for all intents and purposes out of it. For the Seahawks, I can see a strong possibility of a loss to Philly at Quest, to Miami on the road, either to the Cards or Redskins back at Qwest (games I’ll be attending), and then to Dallas on Thanksgiving. That would put us at nine losses against 3 wins with 4 games to go, with one of the remaining games being the Patriots at Qwest. That scenario would make me say that, while we’re not mathematically eliminated, for all practical purposes we’re out of the post season. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s say we’re 3 games behind the Cards, who are 6–6 while we are 3–9. Given that we would have to win 3 out of 4 at that point and the Cards would have to lose all the rest of their games, I’d say we could all agree that at that point it’s a given that we’re done for the season as far as the playoffs are concerned.

Now the question becomes, what should we do then?

That brings us to the real point of this discussion. I’ve heard some folks say we should scam the league and just tank the season to get a high first round pick. Those fans are actually talking about deliberately playing poorly to achieve a worse record. Others are saying we should play our younger players with the explanation that we’re grooming them for next season and if they play poorly and we end up with a worse record than we might have had if we had played our best players, that's good for us because once again we get a higher draft pick. Some fans still say that we should play our first string players and try to win every game as hard as we can to give ourselves good momentum going into the next season. How do you all feel about that situation and what’s ethical?

My take on it is who needs to pull any scam? It would be illegal and highly unethical in my opinion to have the team you field deliberately not play as well as it could or for the coaches to not coach as well as they could with the goal being to lose games to land higher draft pick. I doubt that anyone connected with the Seahawks--from Paul Allen down to Tim Ruskell and Mike Holmgren--would have anything to do with such a scheme. In fact, I’m pretty sure that to the bitter end they will continue to put our best players on the field and try to eke out every win they can.

However, I’m not sure I’d do it that way.

The thing of it is, you can justify giving your younger players some experience if the season is lost anyway and they are likely as not to lose more than they'll win in that situation. If your star QB Hass still has back spasms or whatever, it's perfectly justifiable in that situation to keep him out and protect him from a more serious injury (or any other star player, for that matter). If one or more of your players aren't playing well, it's perfectly justifiable to put younger players in to see what they can do, especially if you’re not going to see postseason play anyway. We put younger players in along with our second or third string QB at the end of games where we’re hopelessly behind for just that reason. What is there to justify here, anyway? A perfectly reasonable and often used ploy by other teams throughout NFL history is to play your younger and inexperienced players after the season's lost to give them some game experience for next season. If your younger players get it together and win some games, the better it will be for you next season as you now have more experienced players to build your team around, plus you may have discovered some talent in the process. If they don't win, they still get valuable game experience and you get a higher draft pick as well as having a chance to evaluate your younger players under game conditions. That's a win/win situation no matter how it comes out, and not the league nor can anyone else say or do a thing about it. It's all legitimate. As long as the players you elect to play are doing their best to win and the coaches are coaching them to the best of their ability, you're covered. If they don't play quite as hard as you think they can and you decide to accept that level of play from them then that's bad coaching but not something the league can do anything about, although that starts bordering on unethical to say the least.

I'm sure this subject gets discussed in private here and there among the players and coaches in the league at one time or another. If they don't get caught, nothing happens and nothing is ever said about it as far as the league is concerned. I’m not advocating the Seahawks to be anything but honest in their approach to a plan to play younger and more inexperienced players to give them a deeper and more experienced squad of players for 2009, but I wouldn’t say that every team is so inclined to be that honest about it.

The problem with the Seahawks doing that is that Holmgren has nothing whatsoever to gain from any tactic like that and Mora is in no position to decide to play younger players for the win/win scenario that comes out of it. If we get in the situation of being out of contention before the season’s over, it would be to Mora’s advantage all the way around to get young players more experience and get higher draft choices at the same time.

The way the Seahawks are playing this year though, we might not have to do anything to enhance our chances at a higher pick. It might get done anyway simply through the current state of the franchise. Just let Marshall keep calling the defense like he has been and keep the offensive game plan vanilla and predictable so the other team can just tee off on us and we can keep a losing streak going without intentionally doing so. We've got a possible 9 game losing streak on the line right now, starting with Philly and another Walter Jones-like LT waiting as the consolation prize if we can pull it off. :) (Taking tongue firmly out of cheek.)

I hope I didn’t have to point out to you guys that I’m joking.

I’d like to hear you guys give your opinions on whether you think it’s ethical to play your younger players when you’re out of contention when the probable outcome is a worse record and a higher draft choice. Do you think we should be above all that and just give it our best team effort to win every game regardless of our playoff chances? Would you advocate behind the scenes actually putting a plan into effect to pull your punches and deliberately lose games to get that high pick?

Well, that about wraps up my second week. I hope I’ve brought you all some things to discuss and think about and maybe even provided a little entertainment along the way. Having been a Seahawk supporter and season ticket holder since 1976, I’ve seen all the coaches and players come and go over the years as well as the way the fans have interacted with the team. Next week I’d like to talk a bit about what it means to me to be a Seahawks fan and what kind of relationship it takes to be faithful for 33 years of my life to a franchise that has at times frustrated me to tears and other times brought great joy into my life. The sacrifices that one makes and the rewards one gets in return for keeping the faith are truly amazing.

I’m outta here. I’ve got to ride the Church Van down to the concert and check out Alyson Williams after we do our Tower Of Power thing to kick off the concert. Sometimes I just love my life. There’s nothing like playing a little soul on a Saturday night followed by Seahawk’s football on Sunday.

The Seahawks plan to do some rockin’ and rollin’ of their own on Sunday. Those of you going to the game need to make yourselves felt by the Eagles early and often. If we’re going to beat the Eagles with all of our backups playing key roles, the 12th man has to make himself known.


Bill Tomisser
Anchorage, Alaska