Fan Noise - "Is This It?"

Every year, sports fans of every type and genre gird their loins, thinking THIS IS THE YEAR! Obviously, most of them are wrong. Are we wrong yet again?

I hate the off season.

Wait. I said that last week. And the week before. Hmmm. Nope, still applies.

Well, at least my detractors (of which they are legion) won’t have the excuse to bash me for my not writing about the Seahawks THIS week. Aren’t they lucky? Now they can simply focus on my lack of football knowledge, or punctuation.

Every year, it seems, fans sit in anticipation for the season to start. Hope springs eternal. Drafts are dissected. Free Agency signings are debated. Cut on the roster are predicted. The eventual season results are prognosticated.

But, for Seattle Seahawk fans, there is one more topic routinely (and hotly) debated.

Will this be Mike Holmgren’s last year as the coach of the Seahawks?

This is not a new topic. It has been talked about for years. And yet, he still remains, to the endless consternation of quite a few vocal folks. Not I, of course. I’ve staunchly defended him over the years as the best coach we could have available on the market. There isn’t any real reason to get rid of him….yet.

Last year, I made a similar column stating basically that all of the stars were aligned for the Seahawks to achieve great things in 2003. Since the term “great things” is quite wishy-washy, it’s easy to say I was right. Going 10-6 and getting into the playoffs could be considered “great” but who am I kidding?

And now, for Mike, things are much worse. Want to talk about pressure?

Just about every media talking head predicts the Seahawks to win the NFC West.

Some even go so far as to predict a Super Bowl appearance. Some even go out on a limb and predict we’ll win it all this year. Whew. Coach Holmgren certainly hasn’t this high of expectations for his franchise since moving to the Pacific Northwest. Everyone dreamed of making it back to the playoffs and being serious contenders year after year, but to win the Big One?

As for me, I’ll be happy just to win a playoff game and get past the 1st and perhaps the 2nd round. While there are a lot of reasons why this might be our best chance this year before cap issues and free agency might start to cause problems with our team cohesiveness, I’m not going to be so quick to yank the rug out from under the Coach if things don’t go exactly as planned.

While a lot of fans pooh-pooh the 2002 season’s rash of injuries as just an excuse for poor performance, I think it was devastating, especially in losing our #1 quarterback so quickly. The injury gods did our defense no favors either. It wasn’t until Matt Hasselbeck’s gritty 2nd half performance that our team was able to string some wins together. The unfortunate fact is, the injury bug can strike at any time, and passing it off as a non factor is just silly. Does anyone give the Atlanta Falcons any chances of succeeding when M. Vick goes down?

Didn’t think so.

Another factor that might or might not come into play is the infamous “Strength of Schedule”, or SOS. Now, I don’t put too much stock into this, after all it’s merely comparing LAST years results with this year’s schedule, and as we all know in this day and age, last year’s results don’t mean diddly-squat. But, it DOES give you a good idea about how much of a tougher or easier row to hoe the team would have, if you look at it with all of this year’s changes. A lot of the traditional powerhouses, and teams looking to have made major upgrades (as well as downgrades) are on the schedule this year. I don’t think it’s too much of a leap to say our schedule is a bit harder this year over last year, simply based on perceptions of how the other teams stack up after the off season moves they’ve made.

That of course, is looking at the Seahawks like they have stood around idly while the rest of the league moved forward, which is far from the truth.

So, the added pressure of improving from a 10-6 season, a tougher schedule, and the unknown variables like injuries makes the 2004 season quite interesting. But how does this factor into Mike Holmgren’s job security? You could simply say (again) that it’s do or die time. Succeed or fail, there are no other options. That would be the easy stance to take.

Myself, I take each and every year as it’s own result. I don’t look at the overall (not seasonal) record. I do wish to see steady improvement (which we’ve seen, for the most part) but if the train suddenly derails, I’m not (if I was running things) going to suddenly whip out my axe to go behead the team.

Going on a firing binge is a knee jerk reaction based on emotion, without calculating all of the variables. Considering that Paul Allen, owner and gazillionaire of the Seattle Seahawks, I don’t think he’s prone to emotional outbursts either. I believe in responsible accountability. No matter who the coach was, they can’t:

Make the receivers catch the ball.
Make Shaun Alexander forget how to dance.
Make Walter Jones show up for training camp.
Stop an Achilles from snapping.

Or the other countless, unpredictable events within a single year.

This is a good football team. It’s well coached, it has a stable of great players, it has a great owner. It’s motivated. It has the potential and above-average chances to go all the way this year. If, when all is said and done, the team has a setback, and you can place the blame on the coaching of the team, then, sure, it’s perhaps time to move on. Until then, let’s support the team and be realistic in our assessment of how things go in 2004, okay?

Glenn Geiss writes the "Fan Noise" column for Seahawks.NET every Thursday. Feel free to send him feedback at Top Stories