Local sports news of the past month or so has been dominated by names rather than numbers. The latest moniker, joining such headline-makers as Griffey, Locker, Figgins and Lee, belongs to Mike Holmgren, whose absence from next year’s plans of Seattle Seahawks management amounted to a major story this weekend, much more so than the notion that the Hawks actually played a game . . . sort of.
Holmgren as of this weekend became the antithesis of the four cited above. That quartet figures to comprise much of the main attraction of Seattle sports through 2010. Holmgren, though, figures to be going to Cleveland.
Oh, yeah, that game Sunday (Dec. 20): It pitted the five-win Hawks against a Tampa Bay Buccaneer club that came in at 1-12. Certain arithmeticians might have calculated, then, that the Seattle team was five times better and hence would win something like 50-10. Instead, we got a 24-7 trouncing of the 5-9 Seahawks, who actually are better off losing now to enhance their draft position next spring.
One wondered during the early going whether the opponents were trying to prevent SportsCenter producers from having even a single highlight to show. The combatants traded turnovers the first quarter. A bad snap deprived Seattle of a friggin’-chip-shot field goal, whereupon a Buc kicker pushed another easy three-point try wide right. After 25 minutes and 29 seconds elapsed, tight-end John Carlson caught a Matt Hasselbeck pass for the game’s first score. But was it? Actually, a replay clearly showed Carlson’s right shoe was out of bounds at about the three yard line and the Tampa coaches were too inept to see it and challenge the play. The Bucs didn’t stop there, putting up the next 24, including their first touchdown in 12 quarters, a drought amounting to the football equivalent of the Dust Bowl.
Perhaps only Holmgren’s Northwest-loving wife Kathy knows whether hubby watched his never-again-to-be team Sunday. Could be he spent the afternoon leafing through tourist brochures, checking the connection-flight options between Cleveland and his hometown of Seattle. Possibly he perused the brochure entry about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (the coach once was part of a garage band) and all the terrific restaurants in and around the pride of Ohio. (I can vouch personally for the Outback Steakhouse a few miles west of town just off I-80.)
Holmgren left the Seahawks after last season, a well-orchestrated long goodbye featuring the early revealing of his successor as field mentor. Much optimism greeted the Jim Mora era. It lasted until the first quarter of the opening game. On that September afternoon at Qwest Field, facing St. Louis Rams players who didn't know "football" from "pratfall," the Hawks looked as though they were wearing their shoes on the wrong feet. Maybe they were. Later they’d “rally” to win 28-0 and briefly share the divisional lead. Seattle promptly lost five of the next six and with it the confidence of the fan base.
Team president Tim Ruskell was expelled Dec. 3; even before that, speculation was rampant that Holmgren, former team general manager and 10-year coach, would be brought back as the organization’s president. Local sports-media arbiters begged Holmy and the Hawk brain trust to get it together. But the Cleveland Browns brass made Idle Mike an offer, got first dibs, and apparently landed their man.
There’s a minority view that the Holm-Hawk non-hire is no great loss. I thought he was an overbearing control freak, always in a hurry to take credit for good efforts and less willing to accept blame when the Hawks lost. I don’t buy him as messiah, a claim based on three Super Bowl appearances. But he only won the first time (Green Bay, 1997), and what coach could’ve lost it with Brett Favre in his quarterbacking prime? The real question is how Holmgren could’ve blown it the following year. With better refereeing, he might’ve won with the Hawks in 2006.
More to the point for those blubbering about the Hawks supposedly bungling the Holmy non-negotiations: It’s not like there’s a shortage of quality front-office guys associated with pro football. If anything there’s a surplus. A quality G.M. doesn’t have to have a glam name. He needs to be a great judge of talent and team needs.
So let’s maybe get over this whole Holmgren thing. At least let’s put it into perspective and be glad Jake Locker and Ken Griffey Jr. are staying and Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee are on the way. Maybe they, along with other local hires (possibly even a great Hawks G.M.), will change the local sports culture so that someday soon we’re talking about scores and standings instead of personnel matters.
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