Doug Farrar: The job Holmgren's done in 2006 may be even better than the one he did in 2005, when the Seahawks represented the NFC in Super Bowl XL. This year, they may not have the consistent talent or cohesiveness to be anything more than a one-and-done postseason item, but the prognosis shouldn't even be that hopeful. On the field, this is a .500 team (at best!) that hasn't put it together on all levels for any extended period of time. When the offense struggles, the defense may step up or vice versa, but those looking for pleasant reprises of 2005, when the Seahawks would play legit opponents close and beat lesser teams into submission, will find that this is not their year.
Holmgren has been without his top running back, quarterback, slot receiver, right tackle, center, left guard and run-stopping defensive tackle for extended periods of time. His Hall of Fame left tackle has been playing on a bum ankle all year. A lesser coach would fold, pack it in, and start talking about next year. Holmgren has seen this movie too many times to do that. Those people who may express disappointment with the head coach when they point to the current team woes aren't seeing the big picture.
TK: Are Seattle fans happy with Holmgren as head coach?
DF: Generally speaking, I think they are, though my previous answer refers to a few "Holmgren's lost his fire" posts I've seen on message boards. The lesser lights of the Seattle press are chiming in with their own auto-text suggestions, but I tend to see it as a lot of noise. With all the personnel deficiencies, imagine how this team would be faring right now with Mike Martz or Dennis Green? He may not be my "NFL's Best Head Coach" (there's a guy who does his business in Foxboro that has that designation until further notice), but he really has done a heroic job in keeping it all together this season.
TK: With Matt Hasselbeck returning Monday night, do you feel the Seahawks will play better than they have in recent weeks?
DF: Tough to say. There are so many troubling factors that may affect Hasselbeck's performance but have nothing to do with his individual efforts. Seattle's offensive line, which has basically fallen off the face of the earth for a number of reasons, has already allowed more sacks through ten games than it did all last season. The receiving corps has a lot of talent with the addition of Deion Branch, but Bobby Engram's absence has hurt the short passing game. The rushing attack has been abysmal, and that makes the quarterback a marked man.
If Hasselbeck can hold it together as he did in his last two performances (4 TDs and 0 INTs against St. Louis and Minnesota despite getting sacked six times), the team will be in better shape.
TK: Do you think the Seahawks are rushing Hasselbeck back into action too soon?
DF: If there's any question at all among the coaching and medical staffs that they're doing so, I can't imagine he'll see the field. He's too valuable from a long-term perspective to risk his health for one game.
TK: Is Shaun Alexander back to normal, or do you think his foot is still bothering him?
DF: I'll paraphrase what ESPN's Will Carroll wrote, since Will's was good enough to give Seahawks.NET the expert's take on Alexander's injury shortly after it happened, and he's forgotten more about sports injuries than I'll ever know. Will wrote in his most recent column that Alexander looked like a back running post-ACL, though the injury was to a bone in his left foot – he ran better in a straight line. My own observations tell me that while he did show a good burst outside when he needed it, he may not have had his best cuts back on the first try, and that's to be expected.
The larger issue with Alexander is the larger issue with the entire offense – in fact, it's the elephant in the living room. The offensive line has taken so many hits from the Super Bowl to now that it's a shadow of what it was. From left to right: LT Walter Jones is playing on an ankle he injured in the opener, which still seems to be affecting him. LG Floyd Womack, Steve Hutchinson's replacement, is a very effective road grader when he's healthy, but struggles in pass protection. C Robbie Tobeck has been sick and unable to play in the last two games – his replacement, 2005 first-round pick Chris Spencer, has more athleticism, but is still learning to put all the line calls together. RG Chris Gray is a solid but older player who gets pushed back too often and must have a line working around him to be truly effective.
RT Sean Locklear, who's probably been the Seahawks' most consistent lineman this season, hasn't played in the last three games. His replacement, Tom Ashworth, seems to be challenging St. Louis' Alex Barron for the title of "NFL's False Start Champion."
Alexander has averaged 2.7 yards per carry in 2006, but that has nothing to do with injury – it has to do with a line that could be a year or two from anything more than serviceable.
Note: Read Doug Farrar's answers to questions on Seattle's defense and who he feels is the Seahawks' most improved player on Sunday on PackerReport.com. For more on the Seahawks, go to Seahawks.net.