Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bill T's weekly wrapup

by: William "BillT." Tomisser

Hey gang,

Well, we already talked about the game in the last column so we don’t have a game to critique this week. It seems that the two big topics of conversation this week have been Mora’s taking over the team and who we should be drafting with the high pick we’re almost assured of having. Also the injuries are still mounting up forcing Holmgren to play younger players whether he wants to or not. For this week, the column will be a shorter than usual because of not having a game to talk about but we’ll still try and cover the topics that have been discussed all week.


Jim Mora Jr. has been held with his feet to the fire already and he hasn’t even proclaimed his first act as the new Seahawks boss yet. For some reason, even though previously we’ve been initially excited about having a home town boy like Dennis Erickson take over the team, it seems like a lot of fans can’t generate any enthusiasm for Mora taking over this time around. A couple of reasons that I’ve heard people give for that apathy is that they feel he hasn’t done a very good job as the secondary position coach and that they didn’t feel that he did a very good job in Atlanta which by the way was his first head coaching job. The Seattle job will be his second.

Hugh Millen on KJR has made the subject of Mora’s coaching the secondary a point of emphasis a couple of times during the season. A lot of people don’t really understand what a position coach does. He’s the guy who pushes the athlete in the weight room to do a few more reps. He’s the one who tutors the players on which way he should be turning his body to make that certain move. He try’s to get that extra half second off his time running downfield. He doesn’t determine how far off the line of scrimmage the defensive back plays or whether his primary duty is to stick with the receiver coming out of the slot or to provide over the top coverage. That’s all set by the scheme as determined by the defensive coordinator who in this case is Marshall. Mora’s job it to help the DB’s prepare themselves physically, mentally, and skills wise to carry out the DC’s game plan. He will also work to insure that the secondary understands the game plan and fully understand their part in it but if a particular coverage results in a man being left wide open and results in an opponent’s score, that’s not Mora’s fault whatsoever. Before you say Mora hasn’t done a good job as a position coach, make sure you understand what the job of a position coach is. A lot of fans are disgusted with the scheme Seattle is playing with their secondary this season and are directing that anger at the wrong person in this case Mora instead of the one who is devising the scheme and game plan and that is Marshall. Additionally, Mora made a promise to lay low this season and just do his job so he’s not even able to defend himself when the faults of the scheme and game plan are laid at his doorstep by you the fans and the media. Personally, I respect him for his ability to continue to do his job and abide by the agreement he struck with management and Holmgren even though I’m sure he’d love to set the record straight.

Marshall’s scheme this season has had a significant difference from the one played last season that was so successful in preventing downfield passes from being completed against us. Once again Hugh Millen has broken it down during his hardcore football segments which I listen to religiously. We play a version of the cover 2 defense and after getting burned by Green Bay in the post season last year, Millen thinks that the defensive coaches had a knee jerk reaction to being run over in the snow and devised a run stop defense for this season. Normally, the cover 2 keeps a pair of safety’s back to provide over the top coverage against those downfield passes and the version being played this year only held one safety back instead of the traditional two normally used in cover 2 defenses while the other safety was used for additional run support. That leaves scanty over the top help and may have bolstered our run defense but left them wide open for down field passes to be successful against them all season long. Worse yet, as soon as the Seahawks defensive scheme was exposed, every other team has systematically played the same game against us continually burning us with medium range downfield passes and we’ve been powerless to stop them with no pass rush and a scheme that continually puts our defensive backs out of position. Marshall hasn’t changed the scheme so we’ve just been a huge target the entire season since the first game. Once again, not the secondary’s fault and certainly not Mora’s fault.

I’ve also pointed out several times that even very good DB's can only cover an average NFL receiver for 2 to 3 seconds at best and when our pass rush is non existent like it has been most of the season any average NFL QB can pick you apart. The secondary has played adequate coverage but with no pressure on the QB, receivers have broken free and even an average NFL quality QB can kill you under those circumstances. The single most important position to upgrade on the defense is an inside rusher to bring heat up the middle like Cortez Kennedy used to do. They always had to double team the Tez and that freed up outside rushers to wreak havoc. Right now our interior defensive line can be handled one on one by the offensive linemen and we can't mount an effective pass rush without committing defenders who should be covering receivers. Not the secondary's fault. Certainly not Mora’s fault.

Now, speaking on the subject of a position coach versus a head coach, even if the secondary wasn't being coached very well by the position coach, the job of head coach is very different from that of a position coach and the skills don't necessarily translate one way or the other. The head coaching job is one of organization and overall game planning. The head coach doesn’t teach skills or make sure the players hit the weight room or work on their footwork or any other aspect of a position coach’s job. The job requirements for a head coach are completely different from that of a position coach and it’s entirely possible that a person that is very good at one won’t be worth a damn at the other. That means that even if Mora wasn't a good position coach, it would have little bearing on his ability to be an excellent head coach. However, in Mora’s case, I believe that he is excellent at both positions which is entirely possible too.

I don’t understand the mentality that says that Mora as a position coach is in any way responsible for the season the Seahawks are having and I certainly don’t see how anyone can say with any kind of certainty whether Mora will be a good head coach or not next season. If you look at his stint in Atlanta, he took them to the NFC championship and then had two progressively worse years as the team deteriorated around Vick. I’ve already said my piece about how Vick was found out to be one dimensional by defensive coordinators after they discovered that by forcing him to beat you through the air and containing his running, he could be beaten. Just as the Seahawks have been exposed this year with their broken defensive scheme, the Falcons were blueprinted by defenses and the design was to keep Vick contained and force him to beat you from the pocket and he couldn’t. By the third year, Vick was in trouble and Mora made his famous gaffe on KJR and the rest is history. How anyone can figure that Mora won’t be a good head coach from those circumstances is beyond me. As has been pointed out many times, there are a number of head coaches who are now considered some of the best in the business who did poorly in their first job as head coach and who then did very well their second time around. How can anyone say at this point that Mora isn’t a pretty good candidate to do well in his second job is beyond me especially with the interest being generated in him by the University of Washington and other franchises like the Washington Redskins last year. I still believe that he would be one of the hottest commodities on the head coaches market this next off-season if he weren’t under contract to Seattle.

The Draft

Ruskell and Mora as a team is an interesting combination that makes one think defense first and foremost. In the upcoming draft, most of us are thinking LT if we can get one of the two premier guys available but it could be that Ruskell and Mora want to go in a different direction. We've been in the Holmgren era for so long that we're pretty much choosing our favorite way to go in next year's draft based on seeing that team again next year. On Holmgren's team a LT would certainly be the way you pave the way to build a great offensive line which in turn gives you the ability to have a top rated QB and then just plug in receivers and RB's and run his scheme for good offensive production.

Mora and Ruskell might have a different vision in mind like for example building one of the great NFL defenses and having an offense capable of generating just enough points to win low scoring games where we just shut down the opponent altogether. In a case like that, LT might not be a position they would think they can build a great team around preferring to go with the great DT who can disrupt the middle of the field and provide a bull rush up the middle and then acquiring shutdown defensive backs to further limit what an offense can do. They may also try to trade down and pick up additional talent which could be ok too if we could find a trading partner and get decent value for the pick. I don't think we should give it away.

On the other hand, if Mora hires Knapp as the OC, we're likely to see a version of the WCO continue in Seattle and the LT option may be exactly what the doctor ordered. In that case, it doesn't make much sense to get rid of Hasslebeck since he's one of the best WCO QB's around right now when healthy.

I'm just pointing out that it's going to be a different vision in play come next off-season and with Mora's vow of silence, we're not going to get a glimpse of it until the season ends for us. We're all thinking what we would do if we had the reins in our hands but the truth may be stranger than fiction.

My vision is that since I'm expecting Mora to emphasize defense in the same manner Holmgren did offense, it would be good to build a great offensive line where an OC could basically get a decent QB, and good but not necessarily great WR's and RB's and put together an adequate offense from year to year because of the great line at the heart of it. That kind of offense could survive some neglect while Mora and Ruskell concentrate on the defense but to my thinking having a weak offensive line with such neglect heaped on it would be a disaster and require us to continually be searching for elite skill players on offense to compensate for the below average line play. However, that's just my perception of it and I certainly don't know as much as Mora and Ruskell do about football and building a franchise.

What I'm hoping is whatever they do end up doing, it makes good sense and ends up with us getting some good talent to build their vision with. Things will become clearer once the top talent in the draft is identified and the combine takes place where we can get a good look at them. Once the juniors declare, we may be changing our minds a bit too. All we can do is define what we think is best right now and refine our thoughts and ideas as everything becomes clearer. I'm sure that Ruskell and Mora are doing just that right now themselves.


All I can say is WOW! Have you ever seen the likes of an injury situation like we’re in the middle of this season? I can’t believe all the guys going down every week now. Even if we didn’t have the horrific start with the wide receivers corps being completely wiped out, the follow on injuries to Hass and the offensive line would have probably tanked our season anyway except we probably would have finished with enough victories to finish in the middle of the pack instead of where we might get one of the top 4 or 5 draft picks. I’ve been hoping all along that we could find a way to lose to the Rams and seal the deal with as high a pick as we could get. Now it looks as if with Spencer and Wahle going on IR along with Hass not playing that we might just be in a position to be that bad when we play them. I’m still optimistic that we’re going to finish 2 – 16 and have as high a pick as the second pick. At 2 – 14 the worst we could get is 4th but it would more likely be the 2nd or 3rd.

There’s no question now that Holmgren will be playing our younger players and there will be a lot of guys getting some valuable experience. Hopefully, they will be calling guys up off the practice squad who will be the ones trying to make the team next year. These last 4 games except for the Rams game will be against playoff caliber competition so it’s just a golden opportunity to give as many young players as we can a taste of real game action against a good opponent. I call that an almost unheard of opportunity for those players who get in those games and have a chance to show what they can do. If we could find one or two players who show us something that we didn’t know they had, that will make this a successful plan of action.

Well that’s about it for this week. This is the week you’ve been waiting for if you’re one of the readers who think the column is too long. Without a game to discuss, the column runs about half as long. Next week I expect it to return to it’s normal size, speed and weight. Here’s to a good game but ultimately a loss to New England followed by a loss to the Rams in St. Louis to put us on the path to getting our man in the April draft.


Bill Tomisser
Anchorage, Alaska