MMQB - "Two Seasons"

Again, a 3-0 start. Again, an inexplicable series of miscues both on and off the field. Again, a season ends with an ill-fated missile from Matt Hasselbeck. So why does it feel so different this time?

St. Louis Rams 27, Seattle Seahawks 20
Saturday, January 8, 2005
Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington

Two seasons – so similar, and yet so different.

The Seattle Seahawks, in their 2003 and 2004 seasons, experienced extreme amounts of déjà vu. Both seasons saw the Seahawks confounding themselves and their fans with spiky unpredictability, alternating highs and lows to a bipolar degree. Both seasons saw events beyond control affect the team’s final standings (especially a truly comic level of officiating incompetence), and both seasons featured soundtracks filled with lament at what could have been, after both seasons began with hope-filled 3-0 starts, were marked with mid-season brainfreezes, and ended with ill-fated missiles from the hand of Matt Hasselbeck.

What’s different after the 2004 season is the feeling many of us are left with.

In 2003, the 10-6 Seahawks finished second in their division, went to Lambeau Field in the first round of the playoffs, provided one of the more interesting soundbites of all time (courtesy of Mr. Hasselbeck), and very nearly came away from the Frozen Tundra with a miraculous victory. Seattle’s 2003 season appeared, at its conclusion, to be the penultimate step in Mike Holmgren’s agonizing reconstruction…and it was impressive enough that many prognosticators had the Seahawks as the NFC’s lead pipe lock for the Super Bowl. Then, it was about hope, heart and potential.

Following the 2004 season, many are left with a far different set of emotions. Primary among these emotions is regret when looking back at so many missed opportunities. So many times in which the Seahawks could and should have shown their bright side, only to find darkness. So many times in which the coaches and players on the opposing sideline very simply wanted it more. So many little collapses leading to larger collapses, and no instances in which external factors could be entirely blamed. The injury factor, the youth factor, the growth and progression factor – these elements rang far more hollow when they were cited in 2004. Perhaps because, from our new exalted plane, it was easier to see the larger defects that began to destroy the machine. Now, it is about blame, despair and a very uncertain future.

Whatever this season was, and whatever the aftereffects may be, falls solely on the shoulders of this organization. For this was to be the year that the Seahawks would push all their chips in with united effort and resolute purpose, in the relentless pursuit of one common goal.

That was the promise – and the perception. The reality is as follows – a 9-7 record, another first-round playoff exit that featured all the typical Seahawk bugaboos, and a division championship that couldn’t possibly be more hollow. Pointing to an NFC West title over a team that beats you three times in one year is about as meaningful as reliving Mike Holmgren’s coaching record in Green Bay.

And now, it’s midnight.

Zebra Hunt: First of all, I’m not blaming this loss primarily on the refs – I’m blaming this loss primarily on Ray Rhodes, and we’ll get to that later. But given the Seahawks’ relationship with the NFL’s referees over the last two seasons, it was fitting (and almost karmically humorous) that this game was presided over by Walt Coleman, the only official in any sport on any level that has an entire webpage devoted solely to his incompetence. Yes, Walt Coleman versus the Seattle Seahawks…why, you could see the first headlight gleam of the 18-wheeler coming straight at you before the game even started!

Anyway, as we do here every week at MMQB Headquarters, we’ll just list the bogus calls and wait for the official apology. By the way, good to know that boneheadedness like Coleman’s is rewarded with at least one playoff game just about every year. Good to know that the NFL is living up to their alleged disciplinary standards:

• With 11:36 left in the first quarter, the Rams completed their first drive with a Marc Bulger 15-yard TD pass to Torry Holt. Seattle challenged the catch, but it appeared that Holt did have control of the ball. I wouldn’t mention this play if Holt’s catch didn’t exactly resemble the Ken Lucas interception last week against the Falcons that was called a non-catch and upheld by Mike Carey. Which just goes to show that Walt Coleman is not Mike Carey, but he might as well be.

• 8:26 left in the first quarter – Bulger threw an incomplete pass to Kevin Curtis from his own 42-yard line. Coleman called holding on Lucas, which turned a 4th and 8 into a 1st and 10. The replay clearly showed that Lucas did not hold – in fact, Lucas barely touched Curtis.

• With 1:53 left in the first half and the Rams facing 3rd and 7 from their own 25-yard line, Chike Okeafor sacked Marc Bulger for a 9-yard loss. However, Lucas was flagged for illegal contact, a foul that brought the ball from the Rams’ 16-yard-line to their 30, and gave them an automatic first down. The replay showed that Lucas barely touched Isaac Bruce’s helmet in the initial five-yard zone in which contact is permitted.

• With 1:32 left in the first half and the Rams facing 3rd and 13 from their own 27, Chad Brown’s facemask was obviously held by tight end Brandon Manumaleuna with no call. Despite this, Brown got to Bulger after Bulger was flushed out of the pocked and rushed for a 4-yard gain.

• In the Rams’ first drive of the fourth quarter, both Lucas and Marcus Trufant were called for illegal contact. The call on Lucas, while he was covering Isaac Bruce, was completely away from the play (an incompletion to Manumaleuna covered ably by Chad Brown). The call on Trufant was even more ridiculous because TRUFANT DIDN’T EVEN PUT A HAND ON BRUCE. Those two calls helped the Rams tie the game at 20-20 with 8:10 left in the fourth quarter.

• In total, four flags for illegal contact, all automatic first downs, and not one of them was legitimate. Two of the calls allowed the Rams to convert first down from fourth and long. Ostensibly, the idea is supposed to be that officials will call the contact rule far more easily in the playoffs…ALL of the playoffs. It will be EXTREMELY interesting to see if that actually occurs, especially with anyone who’s name isn’t John Lynch.

Quote of the day was by ESPN commentator Joe Theismann, who said after the fourth illegal contact penalty, “You know, this worries me – if there’s a situation where the officiating could decide who advances in the playoffs.”

Uhhh…yeah, Joe – that would indeed be a shame.

Handouts To The Standouts: Chike Okeafor, for forcing his will (almost single-handedly) from the defensive line…Chad Brown, for matching Okeafor’s effort and effect…Matt Hasselbeck, for fighting through yet another indifferent effort from his targets…Jerry Rice, for playing the role of decoy with his usual professionalism…Darrell Jackson (at times)…Itula Mili (all the time)…and the Qwest Field crowd, for frequently taking the Rams out of their game at a Kingdome-esque pitch.

Things That Made Me Go, “Blech!”: Ray Rhodes, asleep at the wheel again…Mike Holmgren, the tactician…Koren Robinson, the problem child…Darrell Jackson, the drop artist…and a season filled with far too much “what-if” and “maybe”, and far too little “I can” and “I will”.

Offense (First Half – C, Second Half - C): Six years ago, Mike Holmgren came to Seattle. In his first season as the coach of the Seahawks, he took a Dennis Erickson team to a 9-7 record and a first-round playoff exit. Now, six years on, he has taken a Mike Holmgren team to a 9-7 record and a first-round playoff exit. This would be fine if there hadn’t been so few highlights in between.

First, we had to endure four years of the failed “Coach/GM Experiment”, patiently watching Holmgren blow two personnel decisions for every intelligent one he made while his coaching suffered under the weight of his two titles. Then, when Holmgren was stripped of his GM duties after the 2002 season, there were understandable voices of optimism. After all, we would now see the Mike Holmgren that transformed Green Bay in the early 1990s! Unfortunately, the coaching staff, quarterback and GM Holmgren had in Green Bay would not fit on his motorcycle. And in those two subsequent years (the same amount of time it took the Carolina Panthers to vault from a 1-15 record to a near-Super Bowl victory), we know Mike Holmgren the man as well as we know Mike Holmgren the coach.

What complicates the inevitable is that Mike Holmgren the man…well, he’s a great guy. He still carries the patience of his teaching days, a fact to which Koren Robinson would attest if somebody could wake Robinson up long enough to speak. He is a religious man – a family man. He really isn’t a small-minded despot in the Steve Spurrier/Butch Davis mold, as some might argue. He is a big guy with big ambitions, and his resume is almost impressive enough to convince the hardest-hearted among us that with just one more year, Mike Holmgren can set things right.

What forces the inevitable is that Mike Holmgren the coach scuttles the dreams of Mike Holmgren the man at every turn. In constructing his “Five-Year Plan” (or was it six? Seven?), Holmgren casually and foolishly ignored the fiscal and competitive landscape around him. Multi-year plans began to lose their luster in the late 1990’s with the dawn of the salary cap, as the NFL became a cash-and-carry league dominated by teams who were smart enough to stock up for immediate success and accept off-years as the inevitable afterburn of league-mandated mediocrity. Even the dynastic Patriots could not avoid this phenomenon in 2002, following a Super Bowl victory with a (you guessed it…) 9-7 record.

Holmgren thought he could create his own San Francisco Dynasty in an age when the principles that created that dynasty just don’t apply anymore. And he has exhibited little to no ability to run in this new, more ruthless game.

That is my intellectual argument for change. My visceral argument for change goes something like this:

“The Seahawks are paying SIX MILLION BONES A YEAR to a guy who was outcoached by MIKE FREAKIN’ MARTZ three times in one season. WHAT THE &$@%?????”

In the end, either argument is pretty effective. Mike, it’s been real…but it’s time for a new master chef.

Holmgren’s offense in this game fairly typified his tenure in Seattle – great performances marred by inconsistency and immaturity and his own stubborn unwillingness to back out of what he thinks will happen as opposed to what will actually occur. Down 7-0 before his precious offense even hit the field, Holmgren wanted to get some quick strikes going.

First play on offense? Matt Hasselback to Darrell Jackson…and a dropped ball by Jackson which fell into the hands of the Rams’ Travis Fisher. And so it would go.

It was miraculous, in a way, that Matt Hasselbeck was able to have a quality game (27 of 43 for 341 yards, 2 TDs and an interception that was NOT his fault) – but in reviewing the 2004 season, it’s miraculous that Hasselbeck was able to do much of anything. Beset by injuries, limited playcalling and the rabid inconsistency of his receivers as he was, Hasselbeck marched through this game as he marched through the year – courageously, throwing off those injuries with veteran toughness and forcing smiles after every dropped pass. It is difficult to know whether he has the potential to be Brett Favre in an offense that seems intent on making him look like Aaron Brooks. Mike Holmgren holds some responsibility here, as well.

Teams who have countered the Rams’ quickstep game know that there are ways to beat St. Louis – you go smashmouth, keeping their offense off the field, wearing down a defense that has more than its share of weaknesses and establishing dominance in the pit and on the clock. Their defense is very quick from side to side, so you bash straight at them until they break and avoid the longer, delayed running plays. Shaun Alexander, in the Seahawks’ two regular-season contests against the Rams, gained more rushing yards against St. Louis (326) than any other back against any other team this year.

Or…if you’re Mike Holmgren, you give your stud running back under 20 carries and throw the ball all over the field in an ill-advised attempt to out-Martz Mike Martz. What made Holmgren’s strategy so troubling is that it was exactly the same one that did not work at St. Louis earlier in the season. In that game, the Seahawks were shut out of touchdowns in the red zone (0 for 4) because of Holmgren’s insistence on the low-percentage pass play (NOTE: With these receivers, every pass play is low-percentage) over the run inside the 20.

When Holmgren did call Alexander’s number, frequent sweeps and other drawn-out running plays were quickly shut down by the Rams’ speedy defense. Smashmouth football was sacrificed against the defense that gave up enough rushing yards to the Jets’ Curtis Martin last week to cause quite the little controversy around here. This week? Shaun Alexander had 40 rushing yards on 15 carries (and 15 of those yards were gained on four consecutive carries on the Seahawks’ third drive of the game), and his only impact play was a 25-yard reception in the third quarter. If your receivers are Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokely, you can get away with that.

If your receivers are Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram and Koren Robinson? Better to have one heck of a Plan B when everything is on the line. Because with these guys, everything is an adventure.

Darrell Jackson? Well, this guy can lead his team (and all receivers on both teams) with 12 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, this guy can also sleepwalk through several plays in the first half, drop crucial passes and prove, once again, that he does not have the hands or the competitive makeup to be a true franchise wideout. He’s a great #2 guy – maybe the best in the league – but he is sorely miscast as the top cat.

Bobby Engram? Well, who has been more consistent this season than #84? With his Amigo compadres dropping balls and acting like idiots all year, Engram stepped up, time after time, to make the crucial third-down catch over the middle from the slot. There is no telling how many drives he has extended in his time in Seattle, and no telling how much of a balm he has been to his quarterback. Unfortunately, the last pass of the day had to go his way – rated difficult but eminently catchable, it placed a pair of goat horns on a very unfair recipient.

Koren Robinson? Well, we’ve heard a lot of flat-out garbage about his infinite potential. What we have seen is a young man who very obviously cares absolutely nothing for his teammates or the coach who so staunchly defends him. What we have seen is a receiver who dropped ten balls in the regular season – when he only played half a season due to suspensions, both internal and external. What we do not know is just how much Robinson’s uncaring immaturity has affected the 2004 Seahawks – how many times Holmgren had to “counsel” this jerk when he could have been building the better mousetrap…how many times Holmgren gameplanned around a receiver who couldn’t be bothered to make practice. What we do not understand is what possibly possessed Holmgren to make Robinson a featured aspect of the offense in this game. What we could expect was the result – four catches for 40 yards and two fumbles, neither of which (miraculously) caused a turnover to the Rams. At least Randy Moss and Terrell Owens back it up on the field.

Yes. Now I see the worth of Koren Robinson, I now understand why he is still a Seahawk. Don’t you?

Jerry Rice? Well, where was he? Nothing more than a decoy, yet still running his routes with skill, and clearing out the secondary on Jackson’s touchdown. That Rice was able to do the latter is telling – it showed me that the Rams have more respect for Jerry Rice than his own coach.

Itula Mili? Nice game, guy. 6 catches for 98 yards from a Seahawk tight end? Pretty miraculous. Unfortunately, if Mike Holmgren is here next year, you probably won’t be. Because you, sir, are a consummate professional, and Jerramy Stevens is still a reclamation project. Guess which one of you Holmgren will champion?

And yet…and yet – with all the offensive issues, the Seahawks still could and should have won this game. You see, we haven’t dealt with Public Enemy #1 yet.

Strap in, kids…this could get ugly.

Defense (First Half - D, Second Half - F): After the 2002 season, Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan took one very important step in the evolution and improvement of his team – he fired defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, and had the class to do so in a way that made it look to the untrained eye as if it was Rhodes who made the call. No matter – Denver’s defense was porous, incapable and inflexible down the stretch, turning a 6-2 start into a 9-7 (there’s that number again!) finish. The Broncos were unraveled by Rhodes’ inability to adjust, his infuriatingly passive zone defenses, and the declining faith of his players in the scheme. The history is that players believe in Ray Rhodes the man…but Ray Rhodes the tactician? That’s a different story, over time.

Had Rhodes come to Seattle in 2003 with no history of collapse, it might be easier to blame the defensive nightmares of the last two seasons on injuries or young, inexperienced players. What prevents the intent observer from doing this is the alarming similarity between Denver’s defense then, and Seattle’s now. What makes this all the more alarming is the fact that Denver’s defense then was predicated on fast, talented linebackers, while Seattle’s defense now has been built around a talented young secondary. Completely different defenses…but the same base schemes.

In other words, if you give Ray Rhodes your defense, you know exactly what you are going to get. You will never get any more than that, and there will be many occasions where you will require more. He will ignore your personnel. He will ignore the opponent. He will ignore everything, bullheadedly rolling along with the finesse of a Stegosaurus…and with about the same intelligence.

What makes Rhodes’ coaching job so completely…well…unforgivable is that, for the most part, the Seahawks have done virtually EVERYTHING IN THEIR POWER (minus one Jeremiah Trotter) to give him the tools to succeed. In 2003, they drafted Marcus Trufant, Ken Hamlin and Rashad Moore. In 2004, they drafted Marcus Tubbs and Michael Boulware. Free agent acquisitions Chike Okeafor, Randall Godfrey, Norman Hand and Bobby Taylor augmented this charge, but the offseason acquisition of Grant Wistrom was the ultimate concession to the idea that Seattle’s defense did not have the personnel needed to succeed. And even with all of the subsequent injuries, Rhodes has had far more talent on the field than his predecessor, the (rightfully) much-maligned Steve Sidwell.

What, precisely, has Ray Rhodes accomplished in two years?

Not a single thing.

After the 2002 season, Sidwell’s defense looked like this:

28th overall

16th against the pass (3411 yards, 21 tds, 19 int, 28 sacks)

32nd against the run (2441 yards, 4.9 yards per carry, 18 tds, 19 carries of 20+ yards)

Ray Rhodes’ 2004 defense?

26th overall

23rd against the pass (3590 yards, 24 tds, 23 ints, 36 sacks)

23rd against the run (2031 yards, 4.5 yards per carry, 17 tds, 12 carries of 20+ yards)

Yes, Ray Rhodes has been a MARVELOUS improvement. What makes his ranking even more embarrassing is the fact that after the third week of the 2004 season, the Seahawks had the #1 ranked defense in the NFL. What in the Wide World of Sports kind of tankjob do you have to accomplish to go from #1 to #26 in thirteen weeks? A Ray Rhodes tankjob, that’s what!

It wasn’t enough for this defense to collapse and allow the Baltimore Ravens to overcome a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter in the 2003 season, was it? Nope – Ray Rhodes had to come back in 2004 and give up ANOTHER 17-point lead to the Rams (with his starters healthy), and a 10-point late lead to the Cowboys as well.

Football 101, guys – when it happens this often…with two different teams…it’s not just the players. The Seattle Seahawks need to fire Ray Rhodes immediately, and I will go on record as saying that if he is the team’s defensive coordinator in 2005, this organization is sending a distinct message to the players and fans that it does not have a complete commitment to winning. How many more times must we suffer through Rhodes’ lack of capability?

With Mike Holmgren, there are gray areas. With Ray Rhodes, there are NONE.

And if this was indeed Rhodes’ farewell performance with the Seahawks, he certainly put together a six-pack of everything that makes him an enormous liability. Wacked-out coverage schemes, huge cushions on receivers, no creativity whatsoever with blitzes, and absolutely inexplicable concessions to the opponent on crucial third downs. It was everything you ever expected from Ray Rhodes…and less.

Joe Theismann made an interesting comment at the beginning of the game – he relayed a tidbit from an conversation he’d had with Rhodes in which Rhodes maintained that he directs the safeties not to break to the receiver until the ball has left the quarterback’s hand. After two years of trying in vain to solve the mystery of Seattle’s epidemic late safety help, I finally had my answer. The Rams’ first touchdown of the game (and the 6-play, 75-yard drive it entailed) was symptomatic of this issue. The Seahawks began the game as they ended it – rushing four and dropping seven, leaving enormous gaps in coverage for Marc Bulger to exploit. The third play of the game, a 52-yard pass from Bulger to Torry Holt with took the Rams from their own 37 to the Seattle 11, happened when Holt slipped through Ken Lucas’ coverage and beat a late Michael Boulware. Keep this in mind when you criticize Boulware for breaking late in coverage – he is doing what his coach has directed him to do.

The Rams’ sole turnover was caused by Ken Hamlin’s refusal to do this. On St. Louis’ second drive, Bulger threw deep again to Holt from Seattle’s 44-yard line. Hamlin did not bite on Bulger’s pump fake – he instead followed Bulger’s progression and was in place for the interception at the Seattle 4-yard line. This writer would like to thank Ken Hamlin for apparently disobeying his coach and making the right play.

Much of the pregame talk was about the necessity of the Seattle defense to put constant pressure on Bulger, who has a history of getting rattled and making strange decisions. The Seahawks did sack Bulger 5 times (with Chike Okeafor getting two of those), but what they did not do – what Rhodes has never understood – is to provide middle-distance coverage to avoid Bulger backing out of the blitz with short passes. Time after time, Rhodes would direct his linebackers to backpedal into deeper coverage…and again, huge gaps in coverage resulted from this. Ram receivers were also able to come off the line of scrimmage with almost complete immunity, as Rhodes set up his usual 10-yard cushions, putting the defensive backs at yet one more disadvantage.

Rhodes’ biggest sin of the day primarily involved the linebackers. When he would direct them to repeatedly backpedal on third and short, he was virtually conceding first downs to the Rams (ESPECIALLY in the fourth quarter). What better reason can you think of for change than this? How about the fact that you’ve seen this before?

In the end, Chike Okeafor performed majestically. Chad Brown was great as well. The secondary had some really fine moments…but I’m less and less inclined to focus on individual defensive performances right now. What I want to know is what these guys will be able to do with a defensive coordinator who has even the slightest hint of a clue as to what’s going on.

Seahawks? I am asking…no, BEGGING…you to make it so.

Finale: And again, it is over – another season is done. I want to thank everyone who has e-mailed me with comments this year (yeah...even those Eagles fans!), and all the kind words on the Seahawks.NET Fan Forum. It has been a great pleasure being your “MMQB” for the another year. And in the true spirit of Seahawks.NET, I would like to close my last “MMQB” of the season with the voices of the fans:

PAHawksFan: “Yes, I am upset and disappointed that we lost, especially the way we did. Too many dropped passes, and stupid secondary penalties (most of them were questionable) is what cost us the playoffs. But that being said, a NFC West Title, and a great season by SA and Hass, have me excited for next year. This year was up and down. Hopefully next year will be mostly ups, and I think it will, since our D will be healthy, hopefully. Congrats HAWKS on another playoff year!”

SharkHawk: “This season almost killed me (literally). I never thought I could feel any more despair than I did after the Baltimore, Washington, and Green Bay games from last year. Then they went and did it again with St. Louis, Dallas, and St. Louis (AGAIN!!!!).

Why are we seemingly cursed? Seattle is a nice place with nice people. The folks here deserve it just as much or more than a lot of other places. I mean when the hotheads in Boston get to celebrate more than once in a year then something is terribly, terribly wrong. Seattle needs something good to happen, but apparently it's not to be.

BDStryker: “A VERY young secondary which is only going to get better.

A Good Offensive line that not only pass blocked well but opened holes for a great running back.

A Quarterback that didn't quite have the season he had last year but still had a decent year. Many other teams would love to have him.

A Special Teams that not only appeared poorly coached but lacked the talent to do much of anything. Poor kick-off coverage and poor kick off / punt return average.

A less than average D-Line that could not put any pressure on the opposing Quarterback and all to often forced the linebackers and secondary to make tackles.

A Very, Very, Very, Very disappointing receiving core who for the second season in a row lead the NFL in dropped passes. (I think).

Overall Offense --------------- B-
Overall Defense -------------- D+
Overall Special Teams ---- C-

I'll still wear my Hawks Jersey tomorrow......well maybe I'll wear it Monday.”

Marylandseahawker: “I really believe in this team. There have been some letdowns and heartbreaking losses. But this team has a young bright future. There are a lot of "ifs" but IF we resign some of our key free agents, IF we have a good draft, and IF we can bring in a free agent or two, the sky is the limit for this team. This team is way too young to bail ship.

I will admit this playoff loss hurts. I will admit the dropped passes make me throw my remote. I will admit the pass rush and the big pass play (especially in the 4th quarter this year), but I believe the best days are ahead for this team. I will be here everyday and I'll be counting the day to free agency starts and the draft, and I'll be here for the start of training camp.

Keep the faith my fellow Seahawkers.”

FlyingGreg: “This season was all about fundamentals (or lack thereof): dropped passes, interior pass rush, special teams. Do you realize the Seahawks managed to complete the season without a blocked punt, a blocked field goal, or a return touchdown (kick or punt)? Mike Holmgren cannot catch passes, he cannot rush the passer, he cannot return kicks. This team needs to perfect the little things, and they will be able to get over the proverbial ‘hump.’”

Tmbrwolf: “The most disappointing season in Seahawk history. A group of highly talented but poorly focused and immature players led by an out of touch coaching staff with some very weak links.

After week three it really looked like this was the season we have all been waiting so long to enjoy. WRONG!”

"A season of great expectations dashed by indifferent play both on and off the field. Somewhere there has to be someone or something that can get us moving forward again."

KMedic: "No doubt, it hurts. It HURTS bad. But let's keep our chin up Seattle. This is not the end of the world. Emotions are high right now. People will want Holmgren's head on a plate tomorrow. But let's face it. This loss was about giving up 27 points to the Rams. I cannot blame our offense for losing this game. Yes, there were dropped passes. But if you rewind this game, none were in critical situations. You can harp on it all you want, but there never was a drop on a critical 3rd down conversion. Hass was hot today. He set a playoff franchise record for goodness sake. What more can you ASK out of your QB? Let's face it, there was just TOO much adversity on this team this season. Koren's immaturity, SA's selfishness, the injuries on defense, Rhodes' stupidity, the games lost in the last 2 minutes. And MOST of all, it was the LACK of defense.

Rhodes has got to GO!!!! If Holmgren doesn't fire him, Whitsitt will. I guarantee it. Rhodes is gone~!

The only question is whether Holmgren is gone. But you know what? Holmgren is a GOOD coach. I want everyone to really think about this. Who is better to lead this team at the moment? What coach out there is gonna do better than Mike Holmgren right now? Frankly, I have a little pity for him- He's been completely cursed with a bad defense the past 6 seasons. NEVER ONCE has the defense been the strength of this team the past 6 seasons. Until then, we will never win a championship. The offense has been consistent during the Holmgren era. You have to admit that this is true. Yes, it hasn't been perfect, but it has been above average and it has been overall consistent. The defense is what has come up short over and over and OVER again. We need fresh blood on defense people.

We need Holmgren to get himself involved with the defense. He needs to be RESPONSIBLE from now on regarding the defense. He can't just let his defensive coordinator be 100% responsible for the defense. There needs to be repercussions. It starts with FIRING our defensive coordinator. We also need to make off season moves regarding our LB's and defensive line. We need more heart and gut on defense. Keep Holmgren and the offensive core together. It is the best offensive core in the history of this franchise and we need to recognize that. Again, this team must focus on the DEFENSE. Rhodes MUST go. I REPEAT MUST. We need a whole new philosophy. We need another life. We need a fresh start.

But let's keep our heads high guys. Let's be optimistic. It was a year of adversity and injuries. We were lucky to make the playoffs to be frank. Let's look to next year and a whole new DEFENSE.


Hawkboi: "I think Ray Rhodes needs to be fired as of tomorrow! I think Holmgren needs to look at what his future has in store as an NFL Coach and maybe take a look at his future! I think Paul Allen should look at the whole situation and make major changes! The future of the Seahawks is really in the hands of the big Paul, and he needs to take a real close look, because Seahawks fans aren't going to take too much more pain!"

DrDiags: "The defense needs help and we need to create a presence on defense that can help balance our team. Special teams need to be reworked. Our offense needs to become a little more bruising because just relying on the passing doesn't seem to be what playoff football is all about.

As far as this game, key of the game, 9 minutes left, our offense was unable to sustain a drive while the Rams given a 75 yard field drove the length of the field and does what was required.

Whatever it is to get a harder edge, the Hawks need to do that. We really need to catch up with the top tier teams defense. Offense just needs tweaks and ***may*** need to get a different type of running game, with more productive north-south running. Having a Stephen Jackson switch-up type back to go along with Shaun if he is back would be a positive step."

Cajunhawk: "Life goes on, but man its always so close with this team. Hope is something that we all have in spades when the Hawks get to the 5 yard line almost tying the game. But just like it always does, bad news comes our way. And to the Rams of all teams. At least last year it was a team you could respect. I cant respect the Rams. Their coach is a smug SOB that gets lucky, but is due losing a job more than Holmgren. I just want a playoff win. So close, yet so far away. One of these days it will happen, but just like a Red Sox fan, I want it now, but Im not going anywhere. Still madly in love with this damn team, I am fortune's fool!!!"

NJSeahawk: "A few things about the D need to be looked at:

first and foremost, i think ray-bob needs to be canned immediately, and we need someone that can scheme and not be as stubborn as our head coach when it comes to adjusting your play calling when taking a look at the personnel available.

second; we need a good fortune on health. those that have been injury prone, brown and simmons specifically, need to be dealt with appropriately. its time to restructure their contracts or cut ties. we need players that can withstand a full season of football. (grant should also restructure, and i think he will)

third, and i'm probably in the minority here; but our secondary needs to be kept intact. they are extremely young, but all four starters (ken, tru, hammer, and boulware) are extremely talented and should be our starting secondary for the remainder of the decade, with better results on the horizon. we could use a healthy, again - see a theme here?, b taylor and some more veteran leadership for nickel and dime packages and not the c.r.a.p. we have now.

our O will fall as our FA's fall into place and there wouldn't be much work there needed if we were to maintain the core pieces. that said, it probably doesn't happen, and the pieces that we lose (whatever they may be) are also key issues that need to be dealt with ASAP in free agency.

it will definitely be an interesting offseason. at the same time, it could be worrisome and, for the lack of a better word, gruesome..."

ArosNET: "The 2004 Seahawks, when all is said and done, was to me an underachieving disappointment. Although much of the preseason Superbowl hype was just that, it was expected by most for the Seahawks to better their 10-6 record of the previous year and make a deep run in the playoffs. Winning the division was nice, but hardly a reason to run into the streets, turning cars over in celebration.

Certain factors certainly helped in altering the desired course, most obviously key injuries to our starters on defense. Another rough year of ridiculously poor officiating could have been the difference between 9-7 and 11-5. However, beyond speculation, there was the inexplicable continuation of dropped passes on offense and the lack of fire and intensity in key games that would seem to point to the the coaching staff.

Mike Holmgren was continuously out coached and outsmarted as was his counterpart Ray Rhodes. The lack of creative scheming and play calling based on available talent and game-by-game circumstance certainly cost the Seahawks a few games at least.

I think the inability to lock up some of our top guns during the season hurt the team. The power struggle between Bob Whitsitt and Mike Holmgren has had undesirable effects that have trickled down to the field. Who knows how much it hurt Matt Hasselbeck's performance this year when a contract could not get worked out. Losing Mike Reinfeldt was a huge blow to this team, and the effects of which will not fully be realized and felt until we start losing some of our top UFAs to free agency.

My gut feeling right now, one day removed from yet another playoff loss (6th straight playoff loss, most in the NFL) is that Mike Holmgren will remain as head coach for the 2005 season. It may be predicated on his asking Rhodes to step down. A Franchise tag will likely be placed on Shaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck will get his contract and hopefully deals will be made to keep Ken Lucas and Chike Okeafor. Walter Jones may be the top gun out here.

With injuries having healed successfully in the offseason and our key UFAs resigned, not to mention a new effective DC, the 2005 Seahawks may be able to end the playoff loss streak."

BucketheadJones: “Close. Everything about this team is close. Last week. This week. Last year. This year. The split-second difference between catches and incompletions. Close. But, you know what they say about close...

The Seattle Seahawks are a good football team as evidenced by two consecutive playoff appearances, but the margin between good and advancing in the playoffs is razor thin. Whether it's regular season or the playoffs, for two years the Seattle Seahawks have agonizingly danced on the ragged edge of success - success so close that players, coaches and fans alike feel that FINALLY we can reach out and grab it, only to have it slip away again.

It goes against conventional wisdom to make significant changes to a team that is so close to achieving success, but by leaving so many key players to play out the final year of their contract the new front office of Whitsitt/Ferguson has assured the Seahawks of substantial changes in the off-season. Let's hope that they don't drop the ball when it comes to deciding who to keep and who to let go."

SchleprockHawk: "Without question the most frustrating and debilitating Seahawk season I have ever endured. The season ending image of Matt Hasselbeck - crashing to the ground in agony, fighting off the demons of failure (the hideous irony of faith in the hands of another, met with defeat - scratching away at his brain)... is one that will forever spell the memory of the Seahawks in 2004. My heart hurts from the crush of lost hope."

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at Top Stories