To the bitter-cold end, Mike Holmgren plays it safe

It's fourth and two, there are 12 minutes left, and you're down by 22 points. Punt or go for it? Typically, Holmgren punts.
It's fourth and two, there are 12 minutes left, and you're down by 22 points. Punt or go for it? Typically, Holmgren punts.

For much of the season, when the Seattle Seahawks went on the road, they looked like something you found on the road. It didn't quite start that way Saturday, Jan. 12, when the Hawks season ended on the tundra of Green Bay. A couple of quick turnovers and touchdowns actually had Seattle up 14-0 with barely four minutes elapsed, but "four" - "4, actually" - would prove to be the big difference, with a Green Bay 42-20 victory in a National Football Conference semifinal.

The numeral, of course, is worn by Brett Favre. No matter how one feels about the deity status media and fans have conferred upon the quarterback, Favre was undeniably brilliant (if not quite god-like) in leading his young club to a 28-17 halftime lead and a seemingly effortless dispatching of the Hawks during the second half. He was never sacked and seldom rushed by a Seattle defense that gave up 408 yards (versus the losers' 200) on snowy, storied Lambeau Field.

The Pack was particularly effective keeping possession in third-down situations. Running back Ryan Grant coughed the ball twice to give Seattle that early lead, then galloped for 201 yards and three touchdowns: the perfect complement to Favre's 18-for-23, three-TD passing.

The Hawks may have gotten complacent early in the game. In any case, they couldn't seem to get out of their own way for the final 56 minutes, with a revved Green Bay defense bedeviling Matt Hasselbeck's desperate attempt at a passing game. The running component? About what Seattle fans have come to expect this 11-7 season: 28 yards on 18 carries.

Coach Mike Holmgren, possibly finishing his final game for Seattle (he has a year to go on his contract but hasn't denied that he might not return), effectively conceded his team's futility when he ordered a punt on fourth and two with about 12 minutes left. His club was down by 22 points: insurmountable in the minds of many, but does anybody else punt in that situation? When you need three touchdowns and other luck? With the season ending if you lose? The next play, Grant ran for another 28 yards to the delight of home fans who have good reason to anticipate seeing the Pack in the Super Bowl Feb. 3.

Afterward, a reflective Holmy, seeming to fight off a Hillary Clinton moment from somewhere in the bowels of the facility where he made his name with Green Bay, stated the obvious: "Today the Packers were the better team."

Ya think?

Hasselbeck refused to comment about the coach when given a few opportunities to speculate about his team's future, other than to say that the Seattle franchise has "the makings of something special here."

It's hard to argue with that. Nor would one not concede that Holmgren has his admirers. I'd also note that, while he gets his club into the playoffs, a lot of Mikes (Gravel, Myers, Open, eg.) probably could do that given a division in which the rest of the "competition" is a combined 16-32.

The Hawks need a leader capable of instilling the willingness to win anywhere, anytime, and under any circumstances, and not just in the glow of home-town adoration. Part of the allure of Holmgren was supposed to be that he'd bring a high-velocity "West Coast offense" to the Seahawks. Too often the coach has shown a conservative game-management tendency when fans seem to prefer a wide-open approach.

The nine-year Seattle mentor recently told a reporter he aspires to pursue the proverbial "other challenges" here or elsewhere. Much of his personal and professional life is centered in the Northwest now, but that shouldn't preclude hitting the road one more time to try to win somewhere else (as his Hawks apparently can't), and to do so before he spoils the memories of success he will have left here.


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