Friday, November 21, 2008

Weekly Wrapup with Bill T

by: William "Bill T" Tomisser

Hey gang,

I’ve been in Seattle since Saturday and am enjoying the good weather and frequenting all my old haunts. I went to the game Sunday against the Cardinals and will be going to the Redskins game before returning to Anchorage next Monday. I got a special treat on Wednesday evening when I met with all but one of my old band members who were in the band “Backbone” together back in the '70s, which toured out of Seattle down into Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and places in Canada. We hadn’t gotten together in over 30 years, so it was really fun sitting down and having a meal and reminiscing about the good old times and having a few good laughs over some of the highlights of our time together and the events that happened while touring on the road. We’re hoping to have a Backbone reunion next year and maybe get together for a jam session and bring back that '70s sound for an evening somewhere. Like they say, some things money can’t buy and this one definitely fell in that category.

Now let’s get on with the football . . .

As many of us suspected, Arizona turned out to be the better team even with Hass and Branch playing and of us playing home at Quest Field. Barely. Warner looked very good for a man his age and basically, as everyone has done this year, shredded us and good. Now there’s no question that we should turn our attention to next year's draft and get some of our younger players some playing time this season to better prepare them to play a significant role next season. That’s hardly how I expect it to go, though. I’ll be surprised to see Holmgren doing anything but playing his best veteran players and trying to win every game to the best of his ability because that’s who he is, and frankly he has no incentive to do otherwise.

The Arizona Game

This is the first game I’ve attended this season and I was overjoyed to see Hass and Branch back in the lineup. I thought both played well, and without them it would have been a much easier win for the Cardinals.

To me, the big key to the game was our inability to put pressure on Warner in the first half. In the third quarter, our defense started blitzing effectively and kept Warner at bay. I don’t understand why we didn’t use or have those blitzes ready to go in the first half when the Cardinals really killed us.

The Cardinals can clinch a playoff spot and the division title with a win this coming weekend. How many of us, if told before the season started that someone would clinch this early, would have believed that it wouldn’t be the Seahawks?

The Good

The team again played with emotion and played damned hard. They almost took it at the end and showed a lot of moxie by coming back and getting back in the game. This isn’t a team that has the look of being defeated or ever giving up until the game’s over. That bodes well for next season and I truly believe that, with the right draft choices and free agent acquisitions, we can be back in contention next season for the conference championship if Mora plays his cards right.

Hass was back and once again showed us the difference between a backup QB and a top-notch one. He had the team playing at an up tempo rhythm, and with a couple more breaks could have won the game for us. Speaking of the up tempo rhythm, that’s the first thing I noticed about Hass being back. The team was in the huddle for just a few seconds, then broke and got up to the line of scrimmage ready to execute the snap. The team played much more crisply than they had for Wallace. There’s something about that up tempo offense that Holmgren runs that keeps the opponent off balance and the Cardinals looked like they were struggling at times to be ready for the snap.

The Bad

Again, the dropped passes. Carlson again dropped a big opportunity to keep a drive alive and so did other receivers including K-Rob. That’s hurt us big time all season and it’s continuing to kill us. Looking at Arizona, it seemed that whenever Warner put the ball in a receiver's hands or even anywhere close, the receiver caught it. That kept their drives moving and kept our defense on the field instead of handing our offense another quick opportunity.

The Cardinals out-gained us by around a two to one margin. It was lucky for us that the score didn’t follow the stats. The offensive board really told the whole story of the game when you looked at the stats, as the Cardinals dominated every offensive phase of the game. It’s real difficult to win games with those kinds of stats.

The defense didn’t start putting pressure on Warner until towards the middle of the third quarter. Warner carved us up like a Thanksgiving turkey and we were just powerless to stop it in the first half. After we started blitzing in the third, we started driving him out of his comfort zone and he started missing receivers and making mistakes while we played our way back into the game. It really points out the obvious problem with our defense and the passing game this year. It’s not necessarily the defensive backfield who are the problem here. If the defensive line can’t put pressure on the opposing QB, we’ll be an easy team to throw on for a long time to come. Any decent NFL-qualified QB can kill you when you give him plenty of time to find his receivers and throw. DBs can stay tight on their man for from two to three seconds, and then if the QBs not under pressure it’s a shooting gallery in favor of the passing attack.

The Ugly

The ugly part of this whole thing is that the best scenario we can hope for during the rest of the season is what happened against the Cardinals. We want the team to play hard and not give up and at least show that they could have won the game with a break or two, but ultimately lose so we don’t end up in the middle of the pack in next April’s draft. Any victory would be a hollow one at this point and only hurt us next April. With the talent we do have on this team, and if Hass comes back healthy next season, having a top 5 pick in the first, second, and third rounds would enable us to add three very talented players to the team. Add to that two or three top free agents and we could patch most of the holes in the team, including backups. This is a team that has the capability to rebound from a two win season and recapture the division crown as well as advance to the conference finals. I hate having to root for the team to lose in order to get better, though. It’s like football tough love.

The Week From Your Comments

A lot of you guys had some thoughtful comments on the direction the team is going to be taking next year.

A lot was discussed about how Alexander was let go and how Holmgren and Haskell took jis release according to Alexander’s comments. Most of you guys supported Ruskell’s decision on that one and discounted Alexander’s comments as coming from someone a bit disgruntled with how it all went down. Our favorite Ruskell basher was back again in full force and once again everything Ruskell has done from the time he got here evidently went from bad to worse. References to how the 2005 Super Bowl team was absolutely none of his doing sort of piqued my ire a little because I remember some of the biggest holes we had were plugged by guys like Darby and Jurevicius, who were both Ruskell recruits. Of course Lofa Tatupu wasn’t a bad pickup either in the draft and neither was Leroy Hill. I’d have to do more research than I have time for to find the other free agents that Ruskell found that year, but suffice to say that without Darby, Jurevicius, Hill, and Tatupu at the least, I doubt that Seattle would have made the Super Bowl that year. Darby was a force on the defensive line and Jurevicius played for injured receivers all season long and led the team in receiving TDs. Could we have won enough games to have the playoffs at home without all-pro linebacker Tatupu and Hill’s backup play and special teams play? Ruskell, in fact, did put us over the top that year with just the right players at the right time to plug our holes, and acquiring a top-notch receiver to play when all our top receivers were hurt that year in Jurevicius was instrumental. Can anyone remember who else Ruskell added in 2005 who helped us get to the Super Bowl?

It was also suggested by our designated Ruskell basher that Ruskell has been grooming the team for Mora since 2006 and leaving Holmgren out in the wind to twist and turn, making him look bad in the process. I’ve heard this line of argument before, and it goes on to say that Ruskell resents Holmgren getting the lion's share of the credit for the success of the team and wants to undermine that credit so that it falls on him when Holmgren leaves and Ruskell magically pulls the team out of the ashes to shows that it was him all along who was the real architect and force behind the success of the team. Ruskell’s very actions during the last draft and during the receiver crisis refute that nonsense. If Ruskell was going to do the suggested dirty deed, I’d guarantee you that he wouldn’t have moved up in the draft to get Holmgren’s handpicked TE Carlson. The TE isn’t used as widely as it once was and it’s only important to have a complete one who can block as well as catch and be a threat upfield when you’re running an offense like Holmgren’s WCO. If Ruskell was going to let Holmgren die on the vine, he certainly would have taken whatever TE was available at the end of the round and preserved our third round pick to use for another player for Mora. Instead, he did everything he could do to give Holmgren what he needed to have a great season for his last year in Seattle. He certainly could have left Alexander in place and waited to fix the left guard position until Mora took over if he wanted to have Mora resurrect the team after Holmgren failed. Instead, he completely revamped the running game and got Holmgren the player he wanted. When we ran out of receivers in the early part of the season, Ruskell brought in everyone he could find and made deals with guys like Colbert in order to find Holmgren some receivers with which he could try to save the season. He even brought in a guy without the Ruskell character qualification in Koren Robinson because Holmgren wanted him. Ruskell surely could have said that a third round pick was too expensive to move up for Carlson and ended up with another TE that Holmgren didn’t want and not pulled out all the stops in fixing the running game if he wanted to discredit Holmgren by assuring he’d have a bad season and no one would have raised an eyebrow. He could have just said that no receivers were available, and he’d have had no problem selling that one to us either if he wanted to assure that Holmgren wouldn’t have been able to resurrect the season. Instead, he’s done everything that he could as GM to try to get Holmgren the best team he could for Mike’s last season with the Seahawks. The record’s out there in black and white for anyone to see and I don’t understand how you could interpret it any other way, especially in light of the Carlson acquisition. Who even knows if the team will use a TE much when Mora takes over? That one was a Holmgren concession, pure and simple.

I was gratified to see that most of you would rather that we played some younger guys like Adams, Bumpus, Kent, Hawthorne, and Forsett to give them some game experience for the rest of the season rather than play all of our veterans with the thought of trying at any cost to win more games. It’s not so important that we start those guys, just that we get them in the game when it still counts and give them a little real game experience. To me that’s the way we can best prepare this team to be a contender next season. I think that, as Michael’s article pointed out, that trying to win a bunch of games after you’re out of post season play in order to build some kind of mythical momentum going into next season is vastly overrated. I just can’t buy into the notion that wins in garbage time last season translates into more wins the next season than having young players getting real game experience and getting higher draft choices does. Real game experience is very hard to come by for younger players who are playing behind a veteran. Preseason really doesn’t play like regular season games do, and most younger players are playing with other second and third string players in preseason rather than playing alongside the best like they would in a regular season game. Practice and training camp are even further away from live regular season action. The absolute fastest way of bringing a young player forward in his development is to get him into a regular season game and let him have some reps. There’s no better or faster way to develop a player. The problem with this season is that Holmgren isn’t going to be the coach next year so he’s not invested in who gets development time or how well the team does. In fact, human nature would suggest that for him to go out with a really crappy record and have Mora come in and turn the team around and make the playoffs would reflect badly on him, and it would take a saint not to ignore the good of the team when it comes to your own personal reputation. I feel confident that Holmgren will be trying to absolutely win every remaining game and no young player is going to get some developmental time over a veteran who can still hobble out on the field and play.

Odds And Ends

I enjoyed a pre-game meeting with a couple of Seahawk Addicts posters whom I’ve known for a few years now over on the dinosaur Usenet in the Seahawks newsgroup. Stephen Trapani and Robin Henderson met me in the Seahawks Event Center before the game and we all had our underage kids in tow so we couldn’t go to a bar. Additionally, my longtime friend and bluesman extraordinaire Dick Powell from Seattle joined us. I used to play with Dick back in the '70s and we’ve been best friends ever since. He always goes to the Seahawks' games with me, from the first one in 1976 to last weekend against the Cardinals. Although I’d had many discussions with Stephen over the years on the Seahawks newsgroup, it was the first time we’d met face to face. I love meeting people with whom I’ve had Seahawks discussions because they’re always different than I have them pictured in my mind from posting over the internet. Stephen and I had this long discussion over the offseason on whether the Seahawks were going to acquire a veteran receiver or two or just go with the young guns we were all talking about last offseason. Well, I won the discussion because they didn’t acquire a veteran but Stephen sure was right as it turned out about the need for a veteran or two. If the Seahawks had acquired a veteran or two, they could have been in much better shape when our entire receiving corps went belly up. The young guns had absolutely no impact on the season as I had predicted they would, so Stephen, here’s a public pronouncement that you were right after all, even if it isn't for the reasons we discussed. Who could have foreseen that one though, huh buddy? It went all the way to the bone. Well, I wanted to say that I really enjoyed finally meeting you and now I’ll have your face firmly in mind when I’m discussing the next big happenings with the team. I hope I have the chance to meet others from Seahawk Addicts in the coming years when I come down for Seahawks football.

Weekly Topic of Discussion

For the Topic of discussion this week, I’d like to touch on why or why not you guys think that Mora should be in the position he’s in now as our head coach in waiting.

I see some of you still asking questions about what is so special about Mora that we chose him over guys like Zorn or other head coaching candidates who could be available like Cowper, and some of you have pointed out that he was fired in Atlanta and that we should have looked more.

Face it, no one us included had any inkling that Zorn would become the head coach of Washington or any other team, and at best he was figured for an OC position. That being the case, it would have been in bad form to hire an OC for the Seahawks and then hire a head coach who had to live with Zorn as his OC. When you hire a head coach, particularly if he’s been a head coach for a long time like Cowper for example, you just don’t force him to accept someone as his OC so Zorn wasn’t going to have an opportunity to apply for that position with the Seahawks until the 2009 season anyway. The Redskins grabbed him and that’s that. He would never have been a head coaching candidate for us and he was offered a great opportunity with the Redskins.

Mora was actually the Redskins' first choice last season, and it’s been said that he would have been the top candidate out there for many of the vacancies from last season. I would venture a guess that he would be the top candidate again this offseason if he were to not be under contract to Seattle. We hired him so we wouldn’t lose him to Washington or another franchise anyway. His firing at Atlanta had more to do with his jokingly saying that he would quit his job to take the Washington Huskies' job even if he was in the middle of the playoffs and having Arthur Blank take him seriously or at least feel that it was a seriously big mistake to even joke about it. If it hadn’t been a joke then he would be leaving the Seahawks for the Huskies right now, but he’s already put that fable to rest. The team’s lack of success had to do with Vick and his troubles over dog fighting in the later years and the fact that he couldn’t pass the ball well prior to that. Mora had little choice but to build the team around Vick and his flaws. They had an awesome running attack, but of course teams could defeat that when he couldn’t at least keep opposing defenses somewhat honest with a little bit of a passing attack. That was a seriously problematic franchise when Mora left due to a situation that had absolutely nothing to do with him. He was well liked by his coaching staff and the players. The one rap that he had was that he became too close to his players and had problems disciplining them.

We’ve had the discussion before and Michael has written an article that you can dig up in the Seahawk Addicts archives about how many head coaches have had success their second time around. It just seems that it takes a first time to get your feet wet and get used to being the focal point of the franchise and being the one in charge. Once you’ve done it, coming in the second time to a franchise isn’t such a unknown and you can be better prepared to take charge and get things rolling right away. A lot of analysts think that Mora will be one of those coaches who will do very well their second time around and Mora had one more added advantage that I’ve pointed out before. He’s had a chance to take a two year sabbatical between his first and second head coaching jobs and work on the staff of a future Hall of Fame head coach in Holmgren. That has to be a big advantage over other coaches who moved right from their first to their second jobs without a break for reflection and seasoning like Mora has had. If the biggest problem Mora had was getting too close to his players, Holmgren would have been the perfect role model. No one in the league cares for his players more than Holmgren does but he’s able to keep an iron fisted control over his team, and his relationship with those players he cares about has always been very professional and above reproach. He’s able to walk that fine line between caring for the player and understanding about family and how import that is to a player, and not letting that relationship between player and head coach become more than just that. Although he liked Koren Robinson as a person a very much and tried to help him by giving him chance after chance, he would also fine him and bench him when he disobeyed the rules, another example of football tough love. Mora’s had a front row seat during the last two years to see how that’s done and I’m sure he’s ready for his second stint as head coach.

I don’t think that any of the above information has been lost on the rest of the NFL either and that’s the very reason Mora would be in high demand if he weren’t already under contract to Seattle. He’s a coach who showed promise during his first job and has had a very good opportunity to grow and prepare himself for a second run at the position. Lots of now great head coaches had a similar start and proved themselves in their second chance at the job. He comes from a football family and his background all the way back to childhood was football, football, and more football. I have a hard time understanding those of you who don’t feel that we’re fortunate to be the ones to have him for that second time around; if so many franchises would hire him in a hot second, there must be a good risk/reward potential at play here in our favor. Of course, nothing’s for sure and if he doesn’t set the league on fire next season I’m sure there will be a lot of you guys calling for his head. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail like Tim Ruskell's and Mora will be given a chance for at least a couple of years to get some players and coaches in place to run his vision of a successful NFL team and we’ll all benefit from his background and experience to date.

One thing I’m pretty sure of is that we’ll be an exuberant team who plays with excitement and one who is obviously having fun while doing it. That’s my kind of team, provided you sprinkle in enough wins and continue to be a team we can be proud of who fights to the last whistle and never gives up. I think Mora will blossom into a fine head coach and will end up being enormously popular with fans and players alike. If we gave him up now and he went somewhere else and had success, we’d be kicking ourselves blue for not giving him the chance here first. If he doesn’t pan out then we’ll find someone else and keep on truckin’, but we must give him a shot at it first or we’d be seriously delinquent in no small part because he fits the profile so many of us have painted of the young energetic coach with a fresh approach and enthusiastic attitude.

I’ll see you guys at the Redskins game and then it’s back to the frozen north for another year. Thanks for reading.


Bill Tomisser
Seattle, Washington