Behind Enemy Lines: Mike Holmgren

The Seattle coach understands taking heat; that's what he had done for a couple years. Given time, Holmgren has the Seahawks playing well witha 6-2 record.

Q: Last year you were 2-6 and the Redskins were riding high. This is quite a reversal in only 12 months, isn't it?
A: Yeah. We played a horrible game last year against them. Since that game our team has gotten better. We finished last season on a good note and Matt [Hasselbeck] established himself as the quarterback of the team, which was a big step in our foundation getting better. It feels a lot better to be 6-2 than 2-6.

Q: What was the turning point for Matt?
A: A couple of things. Sitting back and watching Trent, when we made the change, and then going through tough things about being a starting quarterback, losing tough games and being hurt. Matt had never experienced those before. Then when he got his second chance he grabbed it by the horns. I asked him in our exit interview last season what the difference was. He said inwardly that he said it's not working the way he's doing it so he had to stay within the system. And he had some success. The coach and the quarterback develop this trust and things just get better after that. I said, Didn't you think I wanted to help you? He said, `I was just dumb.' We have a good understanding.

Q: Steve Spurrier has taken a lot of heat. What are your thoughts on what he's doing?
A: I don't watch the other team's offense all that much during the week. I'm focused on the other side of the ball. I do know this, however. Steve is a fine coach, that I know. We played one time and he beat me. Look it, sometimes it takes time. You've got to get the right combination of players and you have to believe in what you're doing and stick with it and then teach it. If you're given enough time things usually work out for you. Everyone knows Steve is a great coach, that's not even a question. My feeling is it takes some time when you start a new program to get the players you want and need to make your system work.

Q: When a quarterback gets beat up like Patrick Ramsey has, or Matt has as well, do they get tentative in the pocket?
A: We're talking about it all the time and watching for that in a game. If you even think that's happening then you change protections and go to different plays. If I thought we were having a tough protection day, then I take the ball out of his hands by changing protection, handing off more. Just to get him out of that. They're all tough guys. If they can make it through those tough times, then things are a lot easier later down the road. You try to help any way you can.

Q: You don't want a young QB to be marred from all this pounding, do you?
A: You don't. But most of these guys are so tough mentally that unless it's catastrophic, you don't ever have to worry about it that much. I've been asked many times if it's better to watch and learn or play. I've always felt it was better to play. It comes along faster and you have a better player sooner. Some of this stuff is unavoidable. You have to live with it a little bit while you're going through it together and help him the best way you can.


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