A Tale of Two Audibles

Hasselbeck's miscue brings back bad memories for Holmgren

When Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck saw the Packers poised to blitz on 3rd and 11 in overtime Sunday, he made a decision. The results of that decision - an Al Harris interception, 52-yard touchdown return and a 33-27 Green Bay win – will live on forever in Packer lore.

Playing in his first playoff game, the 28-year-old Hasselbeck saw something he didn't like about the Packers' defensive alignment during the Seahawks second possession of OT. He acted quickly, apparently audibling out of the play. Instead he chose a quick pass toward his left sideline. Harris sniffed it out and timed his move perfectly and executed the pick which had so narrowly eluded him the past two games. As Harris, braids flapping behind him, sped toward the storied South end zone, Hasselbeck took a shot at a game-saving tackle. He fell woefully short and Harris gave the Packers a hard-earned win.

For fans with long memories, this exciting new chapter in team history brings back memories of a not-so-heartwarming story of a young QB who decided to deviate from coach Mike Holmgren's plan and blaze his own trail.

That's right. This time the audible went Green Bay's way, perhaps finally putting to rest the tale of T.J. Rubley.


For those too young to remember (or for those who are still blocking out the painful memory), Rubley was a back-up quarterback who took the Metrodome turf Nov. 5, 1995 after Brett Favre literally crawled to the sidelines with an ankle injury and Ty Detmer was injured on a subsequent play.

What happened on Rubley's only drive of the season was locked away in the recesses of my memory until the television cameras zoomed in on Holmgren's reaction to Al Harris' game-ending interception Sunday. Amidst the excitement of the Packers' thrilling 33-27 OT win over the Seahawks in the NFC wild-card round, a sense of déjà vu surfaced around the former Green Bay coach.

Rubley and Seahawks' QB Matt Hasselbeck both made the same crucial mistake, more than eight years apart. Both times, Holmgren took the brunt of the aggravation. While Rubley's miscue cost the Packers a loss in the hated Metrodome and ultimately hurt their playoff position, Hasselbeck's gamble came with the stakes a bit higher.

Flash back to 1995: The Packers and Vikings were knotted 24-24 with time winding down and the Packers driving into field goal range. Pressed into service as the third quarterback, all Rubley had to do was hand off and get the Packers set for Chris Jacke's attempt to win the game. Instead, he audibled out of Holmgren's called play, decided to pass, and threw an interception which was returned far enough to set up the Vikings' game winning field goal instead.

Holmgren wasn't happy. Rubley's performance - 6-of-4 for 39 yards and one interception - in that game became his permanent Packer line. He was cut shortly after.

Hasselbeck, who was otherwise brilliant Sunday, isn't going to be cut. However, when he watches the tape of Holmgren's face and then meets "the Walrus" face to face to discuss the decision to audible, he may envy Rubley's easy way out.

To be honest with you, I'm dying inside," Holmgren said after the game. "It hurts. Initially, I was upset considering the circumstances." After the game, Harris said he knew the quarterback couldn't bring him down.

The same can't be said for Holmgren.

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