Sunday, February 8, 2009

Holmgren Wrapup Brings Surprise Results

By: William P. Tomisser

What a difference a bad season and the mother of all new head coach press conferences make!

When I posed the question of whether you Addicts would want to give Holmgren another shot at it, I fully expected some guys on both sides of the debate. I’m not sure if you all are as surprised as I am that it came up 100% in favor of the new regime from those who responded but I didn’t expect that to happen.

When Holmgren announced his retirement early last year and it was decided that Mora would take over after he left, I remember a lot of fans were greatly disappointed and many were unhappy that Mora was being named his successor so soon. So many passionate comments were delivered that expressed great depths of dismay that Holmgren would be moving on and how that was going to translate into the Seahawks taking a big step backwards.

Then the 2008 season happened. To Continue………..

I think it’s fair to say that nothing Holmgren did last season was directly responsible for the collapse of the team although his playbook and terminology made it difficult to bring in replacement players and integrate them into his WCO quickly and his refusal to hold his staff accountable for poor play from proven talent on defense certainly made it difficult to correct the problems on the fly as the season progressed.

I think we all believe that regardless of any of those shortcomings from Holmgren, after all the injuries manifested themselves, no one could have pulled that season out of the fire whether he be a future HOF coach or not. Holmgren certainly couldn’t do it as a lame duck.

Still, we saw a different Holmgren at the helm than we’ve ever seen before. He looked tired and seemed to have lost the passion to get after his players or challenge his coaching staff after his declaration that this was his last year. Gone was the red face when he got upset because he never seemed to get upset anymore. He never threw his clipboard once. Gone were the glares as players walked off the field after performing poorly.

He accepted defeat after defeat and his press conferences afterwards became filled with clich├ęs. He looked like someone who needed a break and there was talk that maybe he was a step behind the game as it exists in its modern form. It was a sad ending to the great career that preceded it. Holmgren seems to have lost some respect along the way too although no one will forget his place in Seahawk history.

Even so, at the end of the season, there were still fans who were saying that we should have waited before hiring Mora and when there was a rumor that Holmgren wanted to come back one more season despite his decision to retire, there were still supporters who would have welcomed him back and put the team back into his hands to try and bring it back out of the ashes.

Mora was still being chastised by some because of his record in Atlanta and the perceived bad job he was supposed to be doing with our secondary. At that time no one knew how much he was going to tear the team up or in what direction we were going and everything was undecided. What we needed was clarification. We needed to see for ourselves.

Then it was over for Holmgren and Mora was officially given the reins. All hell broke loose! Mora hit the deck running and rapidly decided who was going to be let go (only 4 coaches lost their jobs). He then interviewed several candidates before quickly selecting his OC, DC, defensive line coach, defensive back coach, and receivers coach selecting the cream of the crop before other teams could get their new head coaches in place and start interviewing assistant coaching candidates.

Then he gave the mother of all press conferences setting a record for the longest press conference in NFL history for a new head coach going over an hour. Mora said afterwards that it seems like 15 minutes to him because he was having so much fun. Everyone could see that.

He absolutely knocked it out of the park! He was dynamic, he was enthusiastic, he was energizing, and the first thing he did was pay tribute to the greatness of Holmgren who preceded him as well as announce that one of the reasons he’s ready to take up the reins again is having the privilege of tutoring under him for the last two seasons. You couldn’t have had a couple of Hollywood writers prepare a better script and Mora sold it big time. No one had any doubt of his sincerity when he praised Holmgren or talked about the future of the Seahawks.

All of a sudden we were all hearing about an attacking suffocating defense and an offense able to take what the defense gave them and torch them with it. We later heard from the defensive assistants that they were rewriting the defensive playbook from the ground up and designing the defense from scratch tailoring it to the players talents.

The new OC told us he was simplifying the terminology of the WCO so new players could come in and become effective sooner. The DC said he was going to attack the offense rather than be reactive. Almost everything that anyone had complained about under the Holmgren regime was addressed and a solution provided or an alternate direction pointed out.

Gone was Marshall. The offense wasn’t going to be so complicated it took 3 years to master it. The defense was going to be a whole new deal that would be designed to utilize the talent we have. We would do some trickery and use misdirection to keep the other team off balance on offense. Every player, coach, and staff member would all be working towards one goal and one goal only which was to win the Super Bowl.

I’ve been around the Seahawks from the beginning in 1976 and frankly, I can’t remember a time when there was more excitement about a coming season and what new things it would bring except maybe when Chuck Knox took over. All the excitement of Mora and his staff coupled with having a high pick in the draft and presumably getting ourselves a new superstar player to cheer for has got us pumped up to the max.

Still, I never figured on Mora getting 100% of the vote for carrying on as opposed to having Holmgren back. It was unthinkable until today when I went through all the comments from the “Would You Give Holmgren Another Shot” article and tallied the comments.

Not to take anything away from Holmgren for what he did for this franchise and the new heights we found ourselves soaring from but I think a lot of you Addicts expressed the proper sentiment when you said everything runs it course and for Holmgren, this was the end of the journey here in Seattle. Back in 1999, he was probably the only coach out there who could have come in and did what he did with a team that didn’t believe in itself as a winner.

He overcame everything that had been wrong with the franchise from day one and finally got us to the big show and brought us respectability and most importantly a winning attitude. Mora was right to praise him because his task is not nearly as daunting as it was when Holmgren took over 10 years ago. Mora inherits a team with far fewer fundamental problems that Holmgren did.

The real telling sign that it is the end for Holmgren in Seattle is that in 6 months from the start of last season until now, Holmgren has lost all support for a return to being the head coach of the Seahawks and now just a short 6 months later, Mora has 100% support from everyone who responded and has the Seahawk Nation eating out of his hand.

Although Ruskell still faces somewhat of an up hill battle to prove himself in a lot of fan’s eyes, Mora has won them over as much as can be expected before the team actually takes the field and we see his plan in action for ourselves. Then the honeymoon will be over and he’ll be expected to produce more than exciting press conferences.

Of course when you think about it, how could it have gone any other way? Mora and his new staff knocked our socks off. We can only hope that the team turns out to be anywhere near as good as his charisma and ability to make us believe we’ve got the young forward thinking coaching staff we’ve talked about for so long ready to take us to the promised land.

Right now, I’m lovin’ Seahawk football and really want these new guys to be able to walk the walk. I’m ready to give them the benefit of the doubt based on their sincerity and verbal dedication to making the Seahawks as good as they can be.

Right now is a great time because we can all drink the Kool Aid and let it wash over us and there’s nothing to say that it won’t happen as it’s been laid out. Time enough later for doubt and dissatisfaction if any exists after free agency begins, the draft happens, the camps start up, and the new regime starts making real decisions. For now, it’s good to be a Seahawks fan. It’s even better to be a Seahawk Addict.