The first factor was the streak itself – culminating in the Seahawks’ most embarrassing defeat in (debatably) team history – the debacle in Tempe. Coach Holmgren finally realized that you can scheme and scheme, and plan and develop chess-like moves for any situation – but if it’s not working, then it doesn’t matter how clever you are.
More and more, Holmgren heaped contingencies and checks for every possible defensive formation with every play he called in. The trouble was, the offense wasn’t executing – even when the chess moves were made – that they ended badly.
Thus, the second factor – the famous “dumbing down” of the offense – which has probably been most misunderstood. Most fans thought this meant reducing the playbook down to a handful of vanilla plays, and resorting back to off-tackle runs by Alexander. This is only partially correct. Holmgren, instead of reducing the plays, finally decided to remove all of the cute checkdowns and chess pieces from the board. No longer was Hasselbeck going to have to audible the plays every other down. I went back and reviewed some of the earlier games – especially the ones we lost badly, and I noticed a trend. The better the other team’s defenses were, the more Hasselbeck called an audible. Just about every time Hasselbeck called an audible – it didn’t work.
Holmgren had to stop putting all of the play calling pressure (which is what he was doing) on Hasselbeck, and take responsibility for what was called on the field. You’re the coach. You’re faced with a situation. First and ten. Second and long. Third and short – you call a play that fits the circumstances, and expect the team to execute the play as called. Don’t let the other team’s defense dictate what you’re doing – you dare the other team’s defense to stop what YOU’RE doing. Own the process. Quit trying to be cute.
Lastly, the third factor. The Carolina Panthers’ run defense was among the worst in the league. Feeding a steady diet of Shaun Alexander behind the considerable skill (and girth) of Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson until they prove they can stop it.
Which they couldn’t.
All three of these factors lead to a textbook schooling as to why Mike Holmgren’s version of the West Coast Offense can be a perfect storm.
It will be much more interesting to see in the coming weeks if this trend can
continue, but if watching the pure beauty of that first, opening Seahawks drive
against Carolina is any indication, I think it will.
Glenn Geiss writes the Fan Noise column for Seahawks.NET every week. Feel free to send him feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.