Saturday, December 13, 2008

Your weekly dose of Bill T...

by: William Tomisser

Hey Guys and Gals,

Well, we had an exciting game last Sunday and it really was a perfect one from my perspective; a good blueprint for the rest of the season. A well played, hard fought game with us showing that we could easily have won the game but losing it at the end and preserving our high draft status. I know some of you disagree with my wanting to lose out but remember that it’s my wish as a fan and that I’m not advocating that the Seahawks do anything but play hard with the players who are in the game playing to win. I can be decadent and hope they lose out and get awarded the 2nd or 3rd pick though and so can you.

Let’s look at the New England game and see what good and bad things came out of it...

The Patriots Game.

The Seahawks took it to them right off the bat and Seneca showed that he has his legs back again. We looked like the Seahawks of old marching down the field to score with the first drive and for awhile, it looked as if we would dominate. Then reality set in and reminded us that we were playing our backups and their backups in some cases against a New England team also without their starting QB but otherwise pretty much healthy.

The Good.

John Carlson tied the record for receptions by a TE held by Itlu Mili at 46 and with three games to go, it seems certain that in his rookie year, he will become the most prolific TE in Seahawks history. That’s a pretty heady claim from a rookie who just tied the best that anyone at his position has been able to accomplish on a team that has been at it for 33 years now with the certainty that he will eclipse it with his next reception. Looks like Ruskell struck oil a second time when he once again spent a pretty valuable pick to move up and take Carlson as he did Tatupu in the second round before another team could grab him as indications suggested was going to happen. Once again the initial response from a lot of fans was that he wasted a pick and reached for a player and for the second time, he has been totally vindicated. Carlson should make the all rookie team at his position and be considered for rookie of the year honors. For sure he won’t get it playing on a losing team like Seattle but he’s played well enough to deserve it in my opinion. Unfortunately my and your opinions mean squat. If you’re not pulling for him, shame on you as he’s been the most steady and valuable player for the Seahawks all year game in and game out and few other rookies have made such an impact on their team.

The offense came alive and started sustaining drives again like the Seahawks of old. We had an average gain per play of 6.2 yards compared to 4.8 for New England as they ran 17 more plays than we did to gain only 5 more total yards. Wallace completed 71.4 percent of his passes compared to only 59.1 for Cassel posting a 128.9 QB rating to Cassel’s 84.3. Our offense really outplayed them and if not for an untimely fumble could have shown that on the scoreboard at the end of the game too. New England won time of possession but otherwise the game was pretty much even statistic wise. We made more big plays and unfortunately, we also made the one mistake. Seneca Wallace led all Seattle rushers with 47 yards and a 15.7 average. That’s one of the things I was talking about in an earlier column. All Wallace had to do was take off three times and basically average a first down every time and New England had to keep someone watching him the rest of the day. Notice that Wallace had time to throw? That’s the result of presenting the threat of running if you leave him open. Now the defense can’t play 11 men on 10 and ignore the QB as a threat. Of course that’s an over simplification but accurate nevertheless. I saw lots of comments this week about how Wallace would maybe our interim guy until we get a good QB again if Hass can’t go next year where just a week ago, they were calling for his dismissal as our backup. I guess that means that some of you thought he looked pretty good last Sunday and I couldn’t agree more. I still think that Seneca could become a very dangerous QB if he was used right and allowed to bring all his skills to bear. Forget conventional quarterbacking with him. He has that same thing that Vick had going except when they converge to stop his running, he’ll kill them through the air which is what Vick couldn’t do.

The offensive line allowed us to rush for 124 yards split between the QB, HB, FB, and short yardage specialist. They allowed one sack. Not bad for a line missing their star LT, starting RG, starting center, starting LG, and starting RT who was covering for Jones, the star LT. In fact, keep this one under your hat but they played better than the starting line has this year for the most part. We’re playing the backup’s backups in some cases. They opened holes and gave Seneca plenty of time to throw most of the day. We should be proud of the way they didn’t tank it and gave it their best shot. Next season, I think the experience these guys are getting will give us a formidable set of offensive line backups to play behind the starters when they return to the lineup next season. That’s what we’ve all been talking about happening and even though we were all sure that Holmgren would never do it on his own, he’s been forced to put these young players in play against playoff bound teams. Of course, I’m pleased that it gives us less of a chance to win games and destroy our draft position but the real payoff from the player’s perspective is that this kind of experience can’t be gotten any other way. Training camp and pre-season games just don’t have the intensity and real feel to them that a live game does and these players will be leaps and bounds ahead of where they would have been without this valuable experience.

The defense put pressure on Cassel for most of the game and it really had an effect. This defense really hasn’t got as many holes as we think they do when they can mount a decent pass rush. As I’ve preached before, the defensive backs can cover pretty well when they don’t have to do it for over 2 or 3 seconds. When we get to the opposing QB within that time frame and disrupt his progression of reads, all of a sudden we find ourselves in the ball game and the defense looks pretty good. I’ve said all along that our biggest need on defense is an interior bull rusher like Cortez Kennedy used to be for us. I think we’ve already got DE’s who can bring decent pressure from the outside and LB’s who can bring it on a blitz. If we just were able to bring it up the middle to so they couldn’t form a pocket and allow the QB to find his target and get the ball on the way, we would have a much more consistent pass rush and therefore much more consistent play from our DB’s. Of course Cortez Kennedy’s don’t grow on trees and there aren’t any in this draft coming up so we’d either have to find someone in free agency, find a sleeper who everyone later say’s “who knew” about, or maybe, just maybe, Red Bryant could develop into that player. If we found an inside rusher and re-signed Hill, I think this defense as it is could become productive if the offense could put some points on the board and didn’t force the defense to always be under pressure to quickly get the ball back because we’re playing from behind. If we’re in a position to improve the defense some more, I’d go for a safety and CB but the critical one is the interior rusher. If Patrick Kerney can’t come back healthy and able to pull his weight next season, a DE to replace his production and ferocity will also become a real need. DD Lewis had a good game in relief of Hill too. At one time DD was going to be one of our starters and he got hurt and then traded. Ruskell made a real good move in bringing him back into the fold in my estimation. Of course, I look for the good that Ruskell has done for the franchise instead of any little thing that even looks like a mistake or can be mislabeled as such as some unnamed fans tend to do here at SA.

Dion Branch had the best game since before he was hurt. Leading all Seattle receivers with 88 yards, two touchdowns, and a whopping 22 yard average, he showed us the potential we’ve been waiting for from him since he came to the Seahawks. He showed his old team the stuff they’ve missed since he left. One can only hope that he didn’t just get up for his old team running on adrenalin and that this marks the game where he finally started feeling close to 100% recovered from his injury. Hopefully, he’ll continue to impress in the three remaining games. No matter how you feel about his injury and how much time he’s missed for us given that we gave up a number 1 draft pick for him, you have to admit that he’s got talent and can be a game changer when he plays like he did last Sunday. Let’s hope Dion’s back.

Honorable mention for Koren Robinson too who didn’t catch a ball though he threw some blocks downfield that allowed our receiver to gain yards after the catch and score a TD on one play. Showing that he’s not adverse to doing the dirty work in a game where he’s not producing as a receiver, he’s doing other things to make himself valuable to the club and help them win. He should be given a good shot at making the team next year and still could become a feel good story for the Seahawks down the line somewhere.

The Bad.

We still can’t seem to stiffen our backs when the game is on the line in the 4th quarter. Once again the Seahawks held the lead going into the 4th Quarter and just needed to play tough defense and maybe score once more to put it away. Instead, as we’ve seen the team do in prior years and earlier in this one too, they allowed the opponent to drive down the field and ultimately score and take the lead with little time remaining. Even then, the Seahawks were driving and let the game get away by fumbling and allowing NE to recover. With timeouts gone, all we could do was be frustrated again (I was doing cartwheels because I was watching our high draft pick go down the drain with that drive) and watch NE burn up the remaining time by kneeling on the ball.

I think that Jennings and Russell are still not playing very well and although when a good pass rush is mounted, they can play adequately, it would be a boost to the team to get a young fireball in at safety and another DB to compete with Jennings and Wilson next year for the CB spot opposite Trufant and the nickel back position.

The Ugly.

Ok, I’m going to give the team a pass on the ugly this time around because although there was the bad thing about losing at the end of the game (which really was a good thing in my book), the team played good enough to win and they played hard. There was really nothing really ugly about it. This is the first game since I’ve been writing the column where I’ve felt that way. Nuff said.

Odds and Ends.

Even though the team is battered beyond belief and we’re down to second and in some cases third string players, they are playing hard and playing to win. Almost beating the Patriots showed that Seattle will still be a force to be reckoned with and when they get all of their players back healthy and get another chance at a season without all the injuries and having a dedicated and solidified coaching staff, they should once again be the team to beat within the division.

I was hearing about a lot of fans who are unsure of Mora being the right choice to be given a chance of pulling the Seahawks out of the ashes to once again be a contender from the West saying that if Mora doesn’t produce right away, he should be fired and a new search begun for yet another head coach. Some have said that he needs to make it happen in his first year and a few are willing to give him a couple of years to show big results. I got to thinking how it was when Holmgren arrived and Erickson was the coach on the way out. There were quite a few fans who resented the Erickson firing saying that he was on the cusp of turning the corner and resented turning the reins over to Holmgren. Holmgren was initially given 5 years to build a winner when he was first hired and it soon became apparent that he wasn’t going to get it done right away. He failed to bring the Seahawks any further along after his first five years than Erickson did during his tenure and in fact, Holmgren maybe had won one more game than Erickson after coaching the same number of games that Erickson did before he was fired. There were a lot of guys calling for Holmgren’s dismissal and it was a somewhat unpopular move to extend his contract. He was given three more years and then an additional contract which is the one he bailed out on this year. Those next 5 years were the pinnacle of the franchise's success to date. It just took a little longer than anticipated to get the players and coaches in place that Holmgren wanted and he had an injury plagued season that set him back a year or more during that first 5 year contract too.

The point of this story? It would be stupid in my book to give Mora just a year or two to accomplish what it took a probable HOF coach 7 years to do in all. Everyone thought Erickson left Holmgren a pretty good team and the fact that he wasn't able to win with that team right away was held against him for a long time. He was constantly being compared to Erickson and found to be just about even as far as success went. It wasn't until he cleared out half of Erickson's players and got his own people and coaches in place that he finally started to have good success 5 years later. Here we are again. Mora is taking over a team that a lot of people think is a pretty good team that Holmgren has left for him but will it suit Mora and his philosophies? It's going to be entirely possible that Mora is going to release some players and get his own type of players in before he can get the team to work his way and become successful just like Holmgren did. Are we so short sighted that we're going to say that Mora should be able to do it all in a year or two? Fortunately, even though some fans are very short sighted and would put a new coach on such a short leash, I think Paul Allen is a much wiser individual who will want to see signs that progress is being made but having been shown that it is, will let Mora have the time he needs to get things arranged to suit him and build a team to his liking. If Mora is just sucking after two years, that’s a different story but even if we’re not the division winner in the next two years, as long as things are looking good and the team is poised to take the next step, I see Mora being given every chance to succeed without the fear of a quick hook just as Erickson and Holmgren were. That’s a good thing. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a championship football team.

The Week From Your Comments.

This week we continued to talk about whether it would be better to see the Seahawks lose the rest of their games or win out and the consequences on the draft. We further had some more great discussions on who would be the best player to take in the draft. Then, just a day ago, Holmgren admitted that he wanted to come back and coach next year and that Ruskell wouldn’t consider it. Here’s my take on that one.

Holmgren really had a big hand in screwing up this year as far as I'm concerned with his announcement of retirement and the big deal about having the next coach already signed and on the staff as a position coach. All of that seemed as if it would be ok when the season started but even giving consideration to all the injuries, there was something missing from the coaching this season and I think we all agree on that one. It's now pretty obvious that with assistant coaches unsure of their status next season and Holmgren not invested in what happens to the team after this season, it all came apart when adversity hit in the form of injuries and even when we got players back, the apathy couldn't be overcome. In retrospect, it probably would have been much better to keep it quiet that Holmgren was going to leave and that Mora was taking over. It seems entirely possible that it could have been handled that way. Maybe it would have even been better to just let Holmgren go when he said that he didn’t want to coach the Seahawks any more after this season but really, he had earned the right to have a final season of his choosing for what he’s done for the franchise and have one more shot at the title. Maybe Holmgren got a little full of himself and thought he could stand like a rock and be above such concerns and that nothing could go wrong. Well, I'm here to tell you that the best in the business isn't above what football can dish out if you're not at the top of your game and have everything working just right. Mike, I love you to death but you called it quits and I'm ready to give Jim Mora his shot at it. I'm tired of your holding on to guys like Marshall way past the time they are useful to the team. I'm tired of watching the scrotum tuck offense when we're barely leading in the 4th quarter instead of firing on all cylinders and taking it to them for the win. I'm tired of the "Bless their hearts" speech at the podium after another loss. I'm tired of watching the seconds tick off the clock in a one point game while we piss away our only chance to get down into field goal position because you can’t manage the clock very well. Despite all these negatives though, I would have supported his being our coach for as long as he wanted to be in a heartbeat. Last year, he said he didn't want to be our coach anymore and that hurt. That one cut me to the quick. He wanted one more grand season with all the stops pulled out to go for the Title and then he wanted to ride off into the sunset the grand hero of Seattle sports and we all know he’s going to end up in San Francisco coaching one of our biggest rivals. Most of us feel that was the plan all along and that hurts too. We all bought into that fairytale of the one last glorious season but it has turned out to be a nightmare instead. When my first wife said she didn't want to be married to me anymore, I was hurt but I never begged her to stay. I moved on and remarried. I'm not begging Holmgren to stay either nor did I expect Ruskell to do so. He moved on too and made sure his man was locked up for the job to succeed Holmgren. Mora wants to be our coach and just as I would never have ditched my second wife to return to the first one, nor should we ever consider doing that to a coach who calls this his dream job and wants to be here with all his heart to return to a coach who called it quits and really wants to become one of our biggest rivals. It’s just too late now and too much water over the bridge. Too bad Holmgren didn’t get in touch with his inner feelings last year before he called it quits but what is done is done. It is what it is and all that stuff. That’s my take on the latest Holmgren drama and although he’s been the greatest coach The Seattle Seahawks have ever had, the bridges have been burned and we must all get behind Mora to take us into the future now. I feel Holmgren is destined to become the enemy within a couple of years and as much as I’ll hate that, I’ll treat him as such and hope we have his number because he’ll be running he same old stuff there too of which we’ll be exceedingly familiar with.

This season strikes me as a sort of “wake up season” in the grand tradition of the so called “wake up game” that is a loss that comes after a few wins that serves to wake the team up to the fact that they can’t become complacent and have to continue to give 100% or they can be beaten. For a good team, that loss usually stiffens their resolve and puts them back on track to get on another good winning streak. The Seahawks had made the playoff’s five years in a row and were division champs for the last four. Maybe they had become a little complacent too and just figured the division was theirs for the taking again and that feeling added a little to the fire that consumed the team this season. This season has certainly served to show that even if they think they are hands and feet above the other teams in the division, stuff can happen and they can still be shot down to the bottom of the division and the very league itself. Hopefully, this season will charge them up to once again do the necessary work and do what they had been doing when they had the great streak going. Here’s to starting a new streak next season and using this season as a springboard in the best “wake up call” tradition to leap into contention next year right out of the gate.

Weekly Topic Of Discussion.

I thought we’d talk about Tim Ruskell today and why I think he’ll do what’s right in the draft next April whatever position we end up in. I think he’s about to finally take complete control of the franchise and make it his and that’s a good thing. I can feel the tension building in some of you already but here’s why.

I really trust Ruskell to sort it out and decide who will be the best choice for us in next April’s draft. Even though we've been losing, you've got to love the way the team even though playing with second and in some cases third stringers is still battling like crazy to win and not just giving up and tanking the games like Cincinnati seems to be doing. I think a lot of that moxie should be attributed to the kind of football player Ruskell drafts. It's in the character thing and the way he requires a player to give 100% all the time as well as the way he looks at a prospect and asks the question "can he play the game" more than "does he have the ideal weight, size, and speed". He's looking for football players not just bodies that fit a pre-determined mold and I like the way he goes about finding them.

You guys should really read the book by Pete Williams called "The Draft" which details the year before the 2005 draft which was Ruskell's first in Seattle. Ruskell is a main character in the book and it gives a lot of background on Ruskell's experience and how he developed his philosophy on drafting players including high character and football skills as separate indicators from ideal size, weight, and speed when looking at prospects. Actually, I was impressed with the amount of experience he has and had no idea before reading the book that he has been around for so long and had so much experience.

After reading that, I realized that this is really Ruskell's first chance to use his philosophy and all that experience he's gained to put a football team together his way. Seattle is his first job where he's in charge and now with Holmgren leaving, he finally has a chance to put his own coach on the field. This draft will be the first where he really has a great position to work from pick wise and the coach of his choice to partner with in deciding who to draft too. Because I read the book and have some understanding of what his philosophies are, I think it’ll be real interesting to see what direction he and Mora strike out in with regard to the first choice which should give us an indication of where they are headed with the team.

He's made some mistakes but what first time coach, player, or anyone else doing something for the first time in the NFL hasn't made mistakes? Some of them have been because he was a bit naive and for example trusted Hutch way too much but I'll wager he never does that again. It's how he learns from them and avoids them in the future that matters now and I'm really excited to see how he handles this draft and how he sets up the team with it becoming unquestionably his team from the players selected to the coaching staff to the way he is able to get the whole team from the front office to the water boy working together and on the same page. Somehow, during the Holmgren/Ruskell years, there seemed to be some contention although I believe that both men were consummate professionals who were able to put their massive egos somewhat aside and work together but now, it should become much more harmonious with Mora and that should spell even better chemistry for all concerned. This should be an exciting time for Seahawk fans although it seems to have made some of you miserable already. I really think some of you should calm down and wait until there’s a real problem to vent your angst against. If Mora and Ruskell get everything going in the right direction, you’ve saved yourselves all that worry and anger which would have been in vain. If things go poorly, that’s the time to get upset and vent. Give the GM and coach a little time to get their magic working before you start dumping on them.

If Ruskell thinks Oher is the man and he's available, he'll select him. If not, we'll see a different LT or even a different direction taken but looking at how he moved up and grabbed both Tatupu and Carlson and how they both have shown some real talent makes me feel that Ruskell will do a good job for us especially with a great first pick to work with finally. That high pick will be in every round of the draft too. Look for us to acquire some good football players this next draft and plug some holes. It appears as if we’ll get at least a couple of compensation picks which Ruskell can do something with too. April looks to be exciting for the Seahawks in 2009.

Since we got rid of most of the dead money this season if not all of it from Wistrom, Alexander, Fisher, and any others we were carrying, we should have good cap room to work with and I think Ruskell is going to do more cutting this season which will bring even more cap room. That will give us free agent money and room to sign all our high draft picks. I’m excited by the prospect of rebuilding some of the key areas of our team that have grown stagnant from both the great draft position we’re going to have and having the cap space to entertain a couple of big free agent signings and some minor ones.

It will be interesting to see what Ruskell and Mora perceive our biggest problems to be and who will be that one player they draft with probably the highest pick they're going to have for the length of their Seattle careers and certainly the highest one we’ve had for a decade. I can't wait for April of next year and watching the Seahawks rise out of the ashes to become the dominant power in the NFC West again. I’m sure a lot of you feel the same way. Once again, I implore the ones of you who would be negative for no good reason at this stage of the new regime’s tenure to lighten up and enjoy the changes coming and embrace those changes until you have reason to complain that things aren’t going well. You may find out that you never have to go there. To each their own though and if you must be a sour pickle in a jar of sweets, I guess that’s just in your nature and you can’t help being in the pit of despair all the time.

Well, here’s to a Rams win Sunday and a step closer to a top 3 pick. It’ll be another day of agony for me especially having to root for that little pecker of a field goal specialist to beat the Seahawks and get his hour of glory but hopefully I’ll be the one doing the dancing next April and for the next 10 years as we have a blue chip player to cheer about. Until next week.


Bill Tomisser
Anchorage, Alaska