WMQB - "Letters...We Get Letters..."

The Seahawks and Cowboys displayed their own "special" brand of Monday Night Mayhem with America as their witnesses. As usual, Seattle's defense blinked first and left the team hanging. The fans have written in with their verdicts...and they are NOT amused.

In the two years I have been writing for Seahawks.NET, the single most inexplicable and enjoyable aspect of slathering my pigskin “expertise” all over the internet has been (and continues to be) the surprisingly voluminous e-mails from people who:

A. Actually seem to read my articles from beginning to end; and

B. Feel a compulsion to respond to said articles with their own thoughts; and

C. Feel a compulsion to respond to said articles with their own thoughts that DO NOT include opinions such as, “How the %^%* did you get a sportswriting gig for a national website, you $%@# %$#@#???”, or “You need to be relocated to a Bad Sportswriter Compound somewhere that engages in heavy nuclear testing, or on a remote island that has an unusually large concentration of sharks and no laptops”. The Eagles fans that I hacked off with my preseason predictions pretty much had those thoughts (and others) covered.

Seahawk fans, for the most part, have responded to my increasingly frustration-filled missives with their own Holmgren hate-bombs. What I have deduced from my Inbox is the fact that not only is the Seahawk Nation COMPLETELY fed up, but they are able to put their fed-upness on e-paper in some very creative ways.

So, I thought it was high time that I gave some space to those who have taken the time to read and respond. Not to mention the fact that it’s going to take a while before I’m ready to ATTEMPT to describe what happened to the Seahawks on Monday night…

Probably the best reader e-mail I’ve ever received was from Tom Wright (who lives in Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, but follows his Seahawks faithfully) after the Bills debacle last week. Tom’s e-mail was like the Peyton Manning of reader e-mails, except that it would do better in the playoffs:

”Despite my better judgment, I will admit that with about 8 minutes left in game four and a 17-point lead over the defending division champs, I fell victim to the hype and allowed the S-word (Super Bowl) to enter my mind. We had been circling the drain since the instant I had that thought but yesterday, against Buffalo, we plunged head-long down the drain like so much waste. This team is chronically ill-prepared, poorly-coached, and completely uninspired and uninspiring. I have never seen a team that was so self-destructive. These guys are the bi-polar crack addicts of the NFL - the highs are really high and the lows are really low.

If I were Paul Allen, I would call Holmgren into my office and offer the following rules for keeping his job:

1. There will be no more field goal attempts inside the 10 yard line.

2. There will be no more punts when the ball is on the opponents’ side of the field.

3. On 4th and 1 from anywhere on the field, at any point in the game, you will "go for it" - if you can't get 1 yard, you don't deserve to win

4. Ray Rhodes will now coach from the sideline.

5. "Prevent defense" is no longer allowed.

6. If a player drops a catchable pass (as judged by whether fans boo or not) the following penalties will apply:

-First drop: player benched for at least 3 possessions
-Second drop: benched 3 more possessions and no pay for the game
-Third drop: call timeout; the player is released and should be escorted from the stadium by security to make an example of him.

7. The following fines for penalties will apply: 5-yard ($1000), 10-yard ($2000), 15-yard ($5000). An additional $5000 fine will apply to penalties that kill our drives, take our points off the board, or extend an opponent's drive.”

Great stuff, Tom – although the NFLPA would have some serious issues with your player penalties! Tom’s comment about the prevent defense reminded me of a marvelous idea that was recently fabricated during a stint in a local sports bar by myself and fellow .NET staff members Mark “Rockhawkx” Olsen and Dylan “NJSeahawksFan” Johnson, as well as Dylan’s friend Eric, the increasingly distressed Giants fan:

Before every home game, one fan will be chosen at random to sit next to Paul Allen in the Owner’s Box. Directly behind the fan will be a large gong. Directly behind Ray Rhodes in his little skybox will be a replacement defensive coordinator. The first time Rhodes calls a prevent scheme, the fan will sound the gong and a trap door underneath Rhodes’ seat will open. Rhodes will be jettisoned through a chute (possibly incorporating the revolutionary “air compressor/ferret” technology recently pioneered by our own Trav Flatt) right out to the street. The replacement coordinator will then move forward into the Hot Seat, with the stern warning that the same fate awaits him should he call an similar alleged defense.

How’s THAT for accountability? Folks, this is why you should NEVER underestimate the Seahawks.NET think tank – especially when beer is involved!

Reader Terry Burlison asserts the following hypothesis:

“The much-maligned 80's Seahawks (Knox, Krieg, & Co.) could kick this team's ass sideways.”

Indeed, Terry. Former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox, often taken to task for a supposedly “boring” style called “Ground Chuck”, would have the modern Hawks talking to themselves all damn day. At heart, Knox was a football fundamentalist, and his teams were built on the concepts of a relatively mistake-free offense, a tough, merciless defense, and excellent special teams (Rusty Tillman, who coached Seattle’s special teams under Knox, was one of the best at his job in NFL history). Such teams that cover all the bases and don’t leave themselves open to boneheaded decisions have teams like the modern Seahawks dead to rights. Buffalo was that team last week, weren’t they? Knox would have been proud…of the Bills.

Reader Norith Soth chimed in after the second Rams debacle of the season with the following thoughts:

“There was so much hope and anticipation for this year's Seahawks. Matt Hasselbeck had improved so much last year that we forgot about the old Hasselbeck, the one that was benched for Dilfer at one point.

The truth may be that frightening.

The loss to Green Bay in the playoffs last year symbolized Hasselbeck's Seahawks perhaps too accurately. To be placed in a position to win. Then, choke in the worse way possible.

A situation true heroes thrive in... Montana, Elway, even Brady. Hasselbeck has yet to play that type of game and surface above water.

The guy is talented, but he may of the Drew Bledsoe-Chris Webber breed. I think the Seahawks will make it to the playoffs this year (their schedule is shockingly tame for a team that made the playoffs last year), but I will be surprised if they get past teams like the Eagles or Falcons or even the Packers.”

I have said before that I believe Matt Hasselbeck to be a “system quarterback”, but I also believe that such a title is in no way pejorative. You could easily classify Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger the same way – their systems are just BETTER than ours. Matt’s not a super-improviser a la Brett Favre, but that’s not such a bad thing all the time. You get a super-improviser with a faulty GPS and you wind up with whatever it is Aaron Brooks has been this year. And the jury’s still out in many minds on Michael Vick, although he’s working more towards a systemic model (as has Donovan McNabb, to an astounding, Limbaugh-killing extent). Personally, I think Vick will get it – and when he does get it, watch out! Hasselbeck has everything it takes to be a Top-5 quarterback in the NFL, with the possible exception of a touch with the deep ball. Then again, Joe Montana didn’t really have that, either. What DID he have? A system. Boy, did Montana have a system. I believe that anyone who makes final judgments on Hasselbeck at this point is acting in haste.

Jon Church of Naselle, WA also sent his thoughts after the Bills disaster:

“We're looking at 8 - 8 here. This may be one of those rare occasions that the division winner has a record of .500 or less. But I think St. Louis will take it. Mike Martz isn't a very good coach either. Holmgren is worse, however.

Who will be with them next year? Alexander? Probably not. He wants to play for an east coast team (closer to his home) and has a value he thinks he's worth (which he probably is worth), but he's rubbed people the wrong way in previous years with the team. I don't think they'll miss him until the first play of the first game next season. If they give Alexander what he wants, kiss Walter Jones goodbye. Hasselbeck? Despite a lackluster year I think he will be resigned.

So we're looking at a new running back next year. They'll have to trade with someone to get one because there aren't any big stars coming out of the draft. Will Holmgren make a trade (take our wide receivers please)? No he won't because he won't be there next year to make the decision.

Who will be coaching the Seahawks next year? Ray Rhodes? No. He will disappear like Holmgren. Mike Tice? I've heard Vikings ownership isn't sold on Tice because of his mid-season collapses. But it won't be Tice. Bill Parcells? Maybe, but he's flaky. Retires unretires retires unretires. He'll walk on Dallas after this year. Jimmy Johnson? I fear he was simply the beneficiary of talent -- he didn't have success in Miami. Dave Wannstedt was a poor victim of circumstances, but it won't be him next year.

You know who I think it will be? Brace yourself -- Mike Ditka. Laughable and impossible since he vowed to never coach again. But I'd love to see him storming the sidelines pissed off instead of Holmgren standing there with a clipboard with an expressionless face daydreaming about bon-bons.

But naaah. It'll be an assistant coach from New England. I think that's a good move.”

Last point first. If Mike Holmgren is indeed fired at the end of this season (and I believe that without at least one playoff game, he’s as good as done), I want Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel in Seattle to talk turkey the day after New England’s season ends (which, of course, will be a damn sight later than the end of Seattle’s season). I think it’s time for an intelligent defensive-minded coach to man the ship. Even with the inevitable free-agent dropoffs after this season, there will be more than enough offense to succeed, and enough opportunity to fill the holes. You put a guy like Ken Lucas in a hot defensive scheme and he’s the NFL’s #1 shutdown corner before you know it. And Lucas is a free agent after this year. Do you think he’ll want to return to a team with a coordinator who has him playing five-yard cushions on middle-tier receivers all the time?

Regarding Ditka…if I had a nickel for every coach who vowed never to return to the sidelines and then turned around and did exactly that, I’d be able to buy the materials for the “Ray Rhodes Chute” and pay for the installation at Qwest Field myself. However, I want Ditka to stay right where he is, as an NFL analyst for ESPN. Their “Four Mikes” put together (Ditka and Irvin, as well as Greenberg and Golic, who are also known as “Mike and Mike In The Morning”) are a virtual one-stop shopping haven for my Unintentional Comedy needs!

Jon also touches on the Seahawks’ zillion-dollar question – who among the free agents will stay and who will go? Personally, I’d break from the endless franchising game the team plays with Walter Jones and franchise Shaun Alexander instead. The fact that Alexander has had his best season in his walk year with an offensive line that has not performed to last year’s standard has me a little nervous about giving him a long-term deal. Give him a year as the team’s franchise player. If he still lights it up, THEN you talk about the bigtime! My first priority would not be to sign Jones– it is a two-way tie between Ken Lucas and Matt Hasselbeck.

Walter Jones is a freak of nature in the way he can miss training camp each year and perform at a Pro-Bowl level, but he’s 30 years old. This is going to catch up to him, and I’d rather see the Seahawks take one final stab at a deal with him and cut bait if it doesn’t work. It would be a blow to lose Jones, but it might be an equivalent blow to Jones to move away from guard Steve Hutchinson, who is also among the finest in the league at his position.

So much depends on the coach next year, and I don’t think it’ll be Mike Holmgren.

However, Holmgren wasn’t really at fault in the Monday Night game against the Cowboys. Seattle’s offense was, for once, efficient and predominantly well-coached (the Hasselbeck, Alexander and Urban fumbles aside). It was the Seahawks’ defense that blew this game (and quite possibly the season) by giving up first 26, and then 14 unanswered points…IN THE SAME GAME. Can’t wait to hear the excuses on THAT one!

Handouts To The Standouts: Jerry Rice, for slipping into a time machine, bagging 145 receiving yards, and becoming the all-time total yardage leader with 23,351 yards - an absolutely staggering feat for a wide receiver with only 645 career rushing yards and SIX career yards on punt and kickoff returns…Matt Hasselbeck, for throwing three TD passes and almost proving that he could overcome the awesome losing power that is a Ray Rhodes defense…Darrell Jackson, for apparently discovering an invisible, league-approved strain of stickum…Shaun Alexander in the second half...the Seahawk fans at Qwest Field, who showed a national audience that we can make just as much noise as any other fanbase in the country…especially the guy four rows behind me, who kept yelling “GO SONICS!!!” as the Seahawks leaked the game away through the second and third quarters. It was that manner of levity that kept me from going all Samuel L. Jackson on the Cowboy fans all around me.

Things That Made Me Go, “Blech!”: We’ll get to most of that later, but as to the controversial Keyshawn Johnson touchdown in the fourth quarter: First of all, whether it was a forceout or not, the booth should have reviewed it anyway. This, we can all agree on. Still, what would have happened had the call been overturned? Rhodes calls a dime defense and Julius Jones gets four rushing touchdowns instead of three? Pretty good chance. In addition, those who actually blame that call for the loss (Puh-LEEZE!) have apparently failed to notice that on Seattle’s first touchdown of the day (a 27-yard pass from Hasselbeck to Rice with five minutes gone in the first quarter), Rice was mugging CB Nate Jones like there was no tomorrow, and the official called defensive pass interference. Where I come from, we call that “Quid Pro Quo”. Although I do start to wonder about Vinny Testaverde showing up every few years like the Seahawks’ version of Punxsutawney Phil, telling us that it is once again time to change head coaches with his magical phantom touchdowns…

Offense (First Half – B, Second Half - A): As questionable as Matt Hasselbeck’s performance has been over the last few weeks…well, that’s how good he looked in this game. Mike Holmgren once again put the season on his quarterback’s shoulders (possibly to a disproportionate amount), and Hasselback responded with what was probably his best game of the year. Throwing for 414 yards and three touchdowns (no picks!), Hass showed what can be done when his coach is calling a halfway decent game and his receivers are actually catching the balls he throws.

In the past, I had criticized Holmgren for avoiding the screen pass, certainly a staple of the West Coast Offense he so loves. Well, he had Hass throw two screens to Shaun Alexander, and Shaun dropped them both, I’m sure that will be the last of the screens for this season. In fact, you may have seen your last Holmgren-called screen pass. Other than that, Shaun ran well in the second half after being bottled up in the first half for a total of 83 yards and 2 TDs on 21 carries.

The most interesting aspect of Darrell Jackson’s great performance? Well, here’s a question: How many of D-Jack’s 9 receptions did it take before you stopped wincing every tine the ball was thrown his way? My personal number was six, and now that I’m over it, let’s hope Darrell can use this great game (113 yards on those 9 grabs, including some really outstanding yards after catch in traffic) to propel him through the rest of the year. The Seahawks will not do what they need to do without him.

As for Jerry Rice? Sheesh. It has always been my “Immovable opinion” that Walter Payton is the finest football player ever, but Jerry’s working on me.

Defense (First Half - D, Third Quarter And Most Of The Fourth Quarter – F, Fourth Quarter With Two Minutes Left: YOU’RE FIRED!!!): Is there anyone in the free world who has an easier job than Ray Rhodes at this point? I mean, the guy doesn’t talk to the media, leading some to believe that he’d prefer to spend all his time devising brilliant new defensive schemes. However, what we see on the field each week leads me to believe that he’s napping in his office or antiquing in North Bend or watching SpongeBob SquarePants DVDs during business hours. The most his head coach has to say about him is, “Ummm…I dunno. That’s Ray’s job.” Seattle’s defense has, in the last calendar year plus two weeks, given up late fourth-quarter leads of 17 (to Baltimore in 2003), 17 again (to St. Louis this season) and 10 (to Dallas on Monday night). After reading most local post-game sports media, I was quite surprised to find that nobody seems to want to hold Rhodes accountable for his decision-making.

On the other hand, it’s pretty common knowledge among regular visitors to Seahawks.NET that I’ve never been all that impressed with Ray-Bob…in fact, some would say I have an ax to grind. So, in the spirit of objectivity, I’ll just list a few things I observed last night, and let you, dear reader, draw your own conclusions:

• Vinny Testaverde threw for a grand total of six yards and three incompletions in the first quarter. Julius Jones, in his third NFL game, rushed for 150 yards on 33 carries against the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving Day. And yet the Seattle defense could not and would not adjust to the run. Do you ever get the feeling that there is one Seattle defensive gameplan, and that it gets taken out of the freezer and half-thawed each week no matter what?

• With 3:47 left in the first quarter, Seattle went up 14-3 on Hasselbeck’s TD to Jackson. The Seahawks did not score again until there was 3:01 left in the third quarter and the score was 29-14, Cowboys. Again, that would be 26 unanswered points – in approximately ONE HALF OF FOOTBALL.

• Both Dallas TD passes had safeties in the middle of the end zone covering solo with no help – Ken Hamlin on the first, Terreal Bierria on the second. There seems to be a gradual regression away from the middle of the field on the part of the Seattle defense, which just may explain why the Cowboys were able to run 5,000 consecutive draw plays for 12 billion rushing yards with no argument from our side.

• Including assists, Seattle defenders tackled Jones 36 times on his 30 attempts. Seahawk linemen had 14 tackles and assists, their secondary recorded 12, and the linebackers had 10. Football 101: If the opposing RB gets far enough in your kitchen that your defensive backs out-tackle your linebackers, you have a distinct problem.

• If Terreal Bierria is indeed so effective against the run (the reason we’re given that he’s starting over Michael Boulware), why did he absolutely whiff tackles on two of Julius Jones’ rushing touchdowns?

• With nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, Grant Wistrom sacked Testaverde, and Testaverde left the field for one play. With Drew Henson in and the Cowboys facing 3rd and 20 at the Seattle 22-yard line, Rhodes called a dime defense, despite the fact that Steve Raible, Warren Moon, Paul Moyer, New York Vinnie, the ghost of Chief Sealth, and the barista who made my coffee this morning all knew a draw play was coming. Result? Jones up the middle for 15 yards. The Cowboys had to punt on the possession, but the tone was set: Run the draw up the middle against this nonexistent defense and their moronic schemes. If there was one play where the trap door would have opened, it would have been this one.

• In the final three minutes of the game, Seattle’s defense gave up 121 yards and two touchdowns. Ballgame!

I shall refrain from further comment, at least until the same thing happens next week against the Vikings.

Special Teams (Incomplete): To properly grade something, you must first prove that it actually exists. I am unconvinced that the Seattle Seahawks have a special teams unit, or, for that matter, a special teams coach. So why write about it?

Summary: Funny - no matter how bad things get, there’s Coach Mike trying to appease the masses with his outstanding selection of postgame fluff. You’re always welcome to choose from popular favorites such as “Golly gee”, “Too bad”, “We can still get this done” and my personal favorite, “It might prevent us from getting into the playoffs, who knows?”

Here’s what I know, buddy. The Seahawks are 6-6, with the sixth and final playoff seed in the NFC as it stands. Currently, there are six teams in the NFC with records of 5-7. Mike, that vertigo you’re feeling is a bunch of people pushing on your floor from below and knocking you against a short ceiling. It is a virtual guarantee that at least one of those 5-7ers will make a late run (my money’s on two – the Panthers and Buccaneers). There is no more patience for cocky guarantees, no more room for error, no more excuses for poor coaching, bonehead plays or any other manifestation of the lack of preparedness and urgency that has marked this team all year. Are you, dear reader, confident with that concept?

Nope - me neither.

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at doug@seahawks.net.

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