With just 109 seconds elapsed Sunday, Nov. 2, at Qwest Field, the Seattle Seahawks scored on the longest from-scrimmage play recorded during a team history that stretches back to the year when Jimmy Carter beat John McCai — oops, sorry, beat Gerald Ford for the presidency.
When the remaining 3,491 clock ticks had tocked, the Hawks were stuck with that one storied score, a 90-yard pass play from Seneca Wallace to Koren Robinson. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles had put up a bunch more, and the Seattle franchise ended the first half of the season 2-6 with a 26-7 loss. Coupled with an Arizona Cardinals win, the setback means the Seahawks still have a reasonable chance to make the National Football League playoffs, but not until next season, when each team again commences at 0-0. The 5-3 Cards probably only need to win two of their remaining eight to lock the Hawks out of a playoff appearance for a sixth consecutive year. Conveniently, the Cards can accomplish that merely by besting Seattle in the two games the one-time rivals have scheduled.
It wastes energy, perhaps, to belabor the obvious ways this season got away. On the other hand, isn't it at least worth noting that departing head coach Mike Holmgren can't manage a game clock, can't call a third-down play, and doesn't know when to (and when not to) throw a protest flag? Is it just a long-time observer's parting cheap shot to remember how short-timer Holmgren never, during his decade here, let a quarterback more than a yard off the master's leash, yanking back whenever something imaginative seemed possible? All of the coach's shortcomings were in evidence against Philadelphia, a beatable team (the Hawks actually "won" the first quarter) if only Holmgren hadn't let his practiced histrionic sideline bluster get in the way of trying to maintain a game plan.
Unfortunately for fans, control-freak Holmgren isn't the Seahawks' only coaching problem. Those who watched Donovan McNabb of the Eagles complete 28 of 43 for 347 yards (200 more than the Hawks had from passing) can't help but wonder how McNabb's success reflects on the apparent coaching prowess of Jim Mora, the Hawk head-man-in-waiting who has been the Seattle secondary mentor the past two seasons. McNabb was terrible the first quarter. After that, his completions couldn't have been more accurate if he'd sent the ball to his receivers via pneumatic tube. Hawk defenders routinely allowed opposition pass-catchers five- and 10-yard buffers, letting McNabb run up completion after completion and keeping Seattle's offense off the field. Seattle D-backs had repeated opportunities for interceptions, picking off just one end-zone floater that the bygone Rutgers great Mister Magoo could have snagged with a butterfly net. Two possibilities present themselves: The Hawk secondary is second-rate; the Hawk secondary coach is third-rate.
The Seahawks have numerous excuses to explain how a promising season imploded. Certainly, the loss of key receivers before the season began was as critical as the prolonged skein of injuries to Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. But a football team can overcome adversity when a coaching system is capable of finding fixes during hard times, even if it means having to find ways to patch up after the loss of, say, stellar defenders Patrick Kerney and Lofa Tatupu, as was the case this week. If Hawk backup players weren't ready to take over when injuries set in this season, doesn't it indicate that the back-up guys never should have been on the roster to begin with? If not, then why were they on the roster to begin with?
Much of the local sports talk has been about how swell it would be for the supposedly soon-to-retire Holmy, beloved by many here for who-knows-what reason, to wind up in San Francisco coaching the 49ers next season. There are those of us who believe that there's no point waiting so long. Since Mora, such as he is, already has been hired to succeed Holmgren, why not just release the head coach now and let him finish the current year in the Bay Area? The Niners already have had two head coaches this season, so what's one more?
Mora, then, could take over almost immediately and be the steward of what figures to be an eight-game run every bit as ugly as the 2008 showing of Mora's alma mater, the Washington Huskies, the latter threatening to become the worst version of that contingent since Hubert Humphrey almost beat John McCai — I mean, Richard Nixon.