MMQB - "The Anti-Report Card, Part Two"

In Part Two of his "Anti-Report Card", .NET's Doug Farrar takes an in-depth look at the coaches, games and players that defined the Seattle Seahawks' 2004 season.

In Part One of “The Anti-Report Card”, I dealt with the Seahawks’ wacky front office, the dismissal of Bob Whitsitt and what the future may hold in the executive suites. Now, it’s time to look at the coaches, games and players that defined the Seattle Seahawks’ 2004 season. Same format as Part One – it’s a season review, but no grades - just quotes from Quentin Tarantino’s fabulous “Kill Bill” movies.

And away we go…

“For ridiculing you earlier…I apologize”

To Mike Holmgren – had I known what you were dealing with…uhhh…”Whitsitt-wise”, and the fact that you stuck it out, I might have gone a bit easier on you in writing at times. Having said that…

“Bill…it’s your baby!”

…Now that you’ve won the war of attrition, this is, indeed, your baby. A six-year-old baby with some definite maturity and responsibility issues. Now that you have the 16-ton weight off your back, are you finally going to be the father this baby needs? We’re waiting…but for now, we’re forgiving.

“Charlie Brown, beat it.”

To ex-special teams coach Mark Michaels. The amount of energy expended in the creation of the sentence I’m typing right now appears to be more than the amount of energy you put into the gameplan, buddy. For your next gig, a few pointers:

1. The NFL allows eleven men on the field at one time. That’s one less than twelve. Do you need flashcards?
2. Punt return coverage and kickoff return coverage are two different things, and may require different personnel. Imagine!
3. To that end, sending the wrong unit on the field and having your 5’11” backup running back trying to block a punt is what is known as a BAD IDEA.
4. The goal of kickoff returns is not to get up to the 20-yard line, fall down, and breathe a sigh of relief. Rumors persist – there are those who use their return teams as scoring weapons and drive-helpers. You may wish to investigate.

“So, O-Ren…any more subordinates for me to kill?”

To defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes and wide receivers coach Nolan Cromwell, the two Holmgren subordinates who are hanging on to their jobs for unknown reasons at this point. You want the grisly details? By all means.

“Your so-called kung-fu – is really – quite pathetic.”

To Rhodes and his outdated, inflexible, Easy-Bake, passive-aggressive schemes. When he replaced Steve Sidwell after the 2002 season, the idea was that Rhodes would turn around Seattle’s D the same way he’d done it so many other places. In the two years since, Seattle’s drafts and free agency shopping binges have been heavily oriented toward giving Rhodes the players he needed to succeed. Injuries (which affect every team in the NFL – the 2003 World Champion Patriots led the league in player games lost to injuries) aside, the front office did their part in this regard. And what has Ray Rhodes done?

In two years, he’s raised Seattle’s defense from 28th overall to 26th overall. Since I’ve practically written a book on Ray Rhodes over the last two years, I’ll just leave it at that.

“It's the wood that should fear your hand, not the other way around. No wonder you can't do it - you acquiesce to defeat before you even begin.”

Cromwell’s case is just as indefensible. Seattle’s receivers have led the NFL in dropped passes each of the last two seasons. In 2004, Darrell Jackson was second in the NFL in drops with 11, and Koren Robinson was third with 10. K-Rob even gets an asterisk for his part, since he accomplished that total in half a season. So what’s being done about this on a coaching level? We don’t really know. What we do know is what Holmgren said about Cromwell at his season-ending press conference:

“I’ll stick with Nolan as long as I’m coaching. To me that’s a dead issue. I know what he’s doing out there. I know what he does in meetings; I know what does in drills. I know what he does in the off-season. He’s been with me now for 12 or 13 years. He is not a yeller or screamer. He’s a nice person and a good man. The only thing is there are times when a player might take advantage of that just a little bit. But not in the physical part of playing football. You can’t convince me if you get another coach in here and put a player on the J.U.G.S. machine for 24 hours a day he’s going to catch the ball any better. I don’t believe that."

In truth, it isn’t any better for a team to give a coach a pass for poor performance than it is to do the same for a player – in fact, that sort of lax performance analysis just compounds whatever problems players may have. If Holmgren needed friends he could trust around him during the Whitsitt Regime of Doom, that’s understandable. But now that the clouds have lifted, it’s time to sharpen the knives and get serious here.

“Impervious to bullets, Mommy!”

To Matt Hasselbeck, Holmgren’s football progeny. After a Pro Bowl year in 2003, great things were expected of him this season. While he did see a slight downturn in most of his numbers, he did so in the face of several injuries, Holmgren’s at times ineffective playcalling, and a truly horrific number of drops by his receivers. Through it all, he was tough, poised and aware of his status as a team leader, keeping the inter-office blame game out of the papers. Credit to friend and mentor Trent Dilfer should be given, but it is Hasselbeck who has established himself as the pointman for the offense. To say that the Seahawks need to sign him to a multi-year deal is to take the term “obvious” to an entirely new level.

“Do you find me sadistic? I bet I could fry an egg on your head right now.”

Bill’s quote to Beatrix right before he shot her in the head is also awarded from Mike Holmgren to Shaun Alexander. Caught one yard short of the NFL rushing title at the end of the season, Alexander made a bunch of noise about being “backstabbed” after the finale against the Falcons, effectively throwing a wet blanket over the Seahawks’ first NFC West title and throwing a large number of sports journalists into a self-righteous frenzy.

To Shaun Alexander, I say: You’re a free agent on the verge of the payday that will leave you set for life. And if you go to a team that’s dumb enough to balk at one yard when check-writin’ time comes around…I don’t envy your competitive future.

To Mike Holmgren, I say: Remember the game at St. Louis, when Shaun tore up their D and you barely used him at all in the red zone and didn’t score a touchdown in the entire game and lost 23-12? He’s got a legitimate beef about your playcalling, even if he expressed it in a questionable fashion.

Move along people…nothing to see here…

“Silly girl likes to play with Samurai swords. You may not be able to fight like a Samurai, but you can at least die like a Samurai.”

To Heath Evans, who is finally, finally, FINALLY an unrestricted free agent. Unless you can develop a reasonable ability to play special teams, block, run, or catch the ball, I’d say it’s buh-bye, Heath!

“That good-for-nothin’ dog of yours? Got his little ass in the living room and acted a damn fool.”

To Koren Robinson. Good Lord…where do we start with this guy? The missed meetings and practices and subsequent Holmgren benchings? The four-game substance abuse suspension that hung over the team like the Sword of Damocles through the first half of the season? The numerous vehicular and legal peccadilloes? Perhaps we should just leave this about football and talk about the 10 drops in the half a season he did play, or the two fumbles in the playoff game against the Rams. Did somebody write, “Born To Be An Raider” on his bassinet 24 years ago, or what? Why is he still here? Why doesn’t he get it?

“I don’t know at what car wash you worked before you came here that let you stroll in 20 minutes late, but it wasn’t owned by me, and I own a <expletive> car wash.”

Because he’s not hearing anything remotely like Larry Gomez’ strip joint “pep talk” to Budd in Vol. 2, at least not in public. Why he’s still here is that Mike Holmgren loves this kid, believes he has problems beyond what Holmgren himself is letting on (and I have no right to opine on that – he could be right, for sure), and wants to be the one to turn him around so that his incredible potential will be realized in Seahawk Blue. However, given the alarming regularity of Robinson’s brainfreezes, it looks more and more like Holmgren is the only one of the two who actually wants this to happen. And Holmgren’s constant validation of Robinson to the media sends a contradictory message, at best, to those players who bust their butts every week and actually manage to keep their names out of the papers. Help him if he has a problem? Unquestionably. Drag the team down with him? Well…in what way is that coaching?

Perhaps it’s that the team is afraid of the idea that in another environment, Robinson’s light will go on, his awareness will match his potential, and he’ll become the elite receiver many thought he would be.

All of which begs the question: So what if he does? Shawn Springs toddled off the Redskins, got religion under a great defensive coordinator (ahem) in Gregg Williams, and might have been the Defensive Comeback Player of the Year. Did we care in Seattle? Nope…we were too busy watching Michael Boulware save four games with interceptions. All Koren Robinson’s doing here is slipping further and further down…and, most likely, taking some good people who defended him down when he disappears. Isn’t that always the way?

“From here, you can get an excellent view of my foot.”

To Grant Wistrom’s training camp plantar fasciitis – a big, bad omen of things to come. The foot injury was the first speedbump in a very frustrating season for the team’s marquee free-agent acquisition. Having missed only five games in his six years with the Rams, it was thought that while Wistrom might not be as spectacular an edge-rusher as Jevon Kearse (who was also available), he would provide consistent, injury-free production opposite Chike Okeafor. In his first season with Seattle, he missed seven games. While Wistrom looked to be worth every penny of his 6-year, $33 million contract and $14 million signing bonus when he was healthy (he’s an elite disrupter of opposing offenses), he hurt his left knee tackling Corey Dillon in Week Six and was never the same.

The good news? He’s young (28), sincerely motivated to prove the naysayers wrong, and will do everything in his power to become the force the Seahawks need him to be.

“Bill always said you were one of the best ladies he ever saw with an edge weapon.”

To Chile Okeafor, the Seahawks’ only consistent “edge weapon”. With minimal help from an inconsistent defensive line, Okeafor recorded 16.5 sacks in his two seasons in Seahawk blue. Put him in a line with other hard men and a coordinator with half a clue, and you’re looking at a double-digit sack total every year. Okeafor is an unrestricted free agent, and Seattle would do very well to make sure that such a scenario does not occur elsewhere.

“Since your arm now belongs to me…I want it strong.”

To first-round draft pick Marcus Tubbs. Having started the season late (understandably, as his mother was very ill in Texas) and ending it with a high ankle sprain in the Dallas game, Tubbs did have some highlights. His first NFL game (the opening preseason contest against Green Bay) was hopefully a portent of things to come, when he clowned Pro Bowl guard Marco Rivera and sacked Brett Favre. Tubbs was also double-teamed during the season more often than most rookie DTs, a sure sign of respect. Let’s hope 2005 is a new dawn for Tubbs, a good kid who wants to succeed.

“I’m not feeling very well, and this <expletive> is starting to piss me off.”

To Chad Brown. Chad, we know what a warrior you are. We know that being hurt all the time tears at your very soul. We wish we could take some of your heart and give it to some of the younger guys, because when you’re healthy, you’re still an absolute unholy terror. If the team can re-work your contract, with your help, in a way that befits an “eight-gamer” and bring some depth in around you? Watch out.

“You're a natural-born killer.”

To current All-Pro Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jeremiah (“I could have been a Seahawk for the 7-year league minimum”) Trotter. Whoops!

“By (age) 20, she was one of the top assassins in the world.”

To rookie nickelback/safety Michael Boulware, the Seahawks’ Tedy Bruschi-in-training. The second-round pick from Florida State came to the NFL with an immediate mandate – switch from outside linebacker to safety, with the transition predicated on his spot in the nickel (one of the few coaching decisions Ray Rhodes absolutely nailed in his time here). All he did was to provide four game-saving interceptions (against New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Miami and Minnesota), five overall, and crucial safety coverage later in the year when he was ready to start there. Did he get caught out of position? Yes. Rookie mistakes? Absolutely. Were some of those interceptions gifts of the “right place at the right time” variety? You bet they were…but all too often, the 2004 Seahawks were given gifts which they inexplicably rejected. Boulware’s playmaking intangibles will make him an absolutely crucial component of Seattle’s future defenses.

“You’ll find it a bit lonely on my side…”
“Your side always was a bit lonely.”

To safety Ken Hamlin, the sole source of legitimate pass coverage from the safety position until Boulware was ready to join him. Frequently hung out on 20-yard islands with Terreal Bierria (a good run-stopper, but quite possibly the worst cover safety in the NFL) as his counterpart, Hamlin faced a difficult second year. Given those factors, Hamlin’s interception total (up from one in his rookie year to four in his second – including two in the Buffalo game) is even more impressive than it looks.

“In Africa, the saying goes that in the bush, an elephant can kill you, a leopard can kill you, and a Black Mamba can kill you. But only with the Mamba – and this has been true since the dawn of time – is death sure. Hence, its handle…’Death Incarnate’”.

To cornerback Ken Lucas – in a secondary full of young players with envious potential, Lucas established himself as the elder statesman, standard-bearer, and team defensive MVP – all in one season. If there was one bit of value that the acquisition of Bobby Taylor brought to the team, it was Lucas’ reaction to what he perceived as a slap in the face. Unlike some of the more petulant players (and like Beatrix Kiddo herself), Lucas didn’t get mad – he got even. Even to the tune of six interceptions (tied for the NFC lead, and not counting the pick he had taken away from him by head official Mike Carey in the second Arizona game), an entirely new rep as a near-shutdown corner, and a special seat at the grownups’ table when it comes time to negotiate with the team’s premier free agents.

“This ain’t no squirrelly amateur…this is the work of a Sooooooolid Dog. You can tell by the cleanliness of the carnage.”

To the Seahawks’ very best friends in the whole wide world…the referees of the National Football League and their Master Protector, Mike “I have an excuse for everything” Pereira, the league’s Head Of Officials. I’ll save the specifics for a later article (as Dave Barry would say, “Foreshadowing alert!!!”), but I will say this (again!) for now:

“<Expletive> with your cash is the only thing you kids seem to understand!”

When Clinton Portis gets fined five thousand dollars for wearing the wrong color socks, and Randy Moss gets docked twice that much for his pantomime trouser-drop (leading to the fabulous quote, “When you're rich, you don't write checks. Straight cash, homey!”)…what disciplinary actions are assessed against officials whose rank incompetence can turn a game in the wrong direction?

“When you grow up…if you still feel raw about it…I’ll be waiting.”

To the St. Louis Rams…the Seahawks’ bete noire and mirror image, the first 8-8 team in NFL history to win a playoff game (against the Seahawks…in our stadium…ugh!), and the Apollo Creed to Seattle’s Rocky Balboa in what is shaping up to be one of the more interesting division rivalries in the league. They beat us three times, and we won the division. What the heck?

“Your anger amuses me. Do you believe you are my match?”

To Mike Martz, the uber-eccentric Rams coach who provides infinite amounts of comedic fodder to grateful journalists…and also just happened to out-coach Mike Holmgren at least twice in 2004 (I’d call the playoff game about even in the coaching department). Ouch.

“It will take me a month to make the sword…I’d suggest you spend it practicing.”

To the Arizona Cardinals, who were one Dennis Green Midseason Meltdown away from possibly making the NFC West a three-horse race. With Josh McCown at quarterback, the Cards started out 4-5, with an offense built around a potentially terrifying group of young receivers. Green then benched McCown for Josh Navarre and Shaun King for the next month – a month in which the team went 0-4 and fell apart. Still, the Cards are worth a sharp eye in 2005, as defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast assists Green in the installation of a winning attitude with a franchise who only knows of such things from distant NFL Films memories.

“I might never liked you…point in fact, I despise you. But that shouldn’t suggest that I don’t respect you. Dying in our sleep is a luxury our kind is rarely afforded.”

To the Artists Formerly Known As The San Francisco 49ers – once the Seahawks’ division rival, now its personal punching bag, thanks to John York and his Merry Band of Goofballs. But as with the Cardinals, the Niners appear to be taking some steps toward improvement with the hiring of Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary to head up their new coaching staff, and the dismissal of Dennis Erickson and Terry Donahue. Now if York can be convinced to take a blowtorch to that famed welded-shut wallet, they might have something to build on in a couple of years.

“That gentled you down some, didn’t it?”

To the Hit of the Year – Terreal Bierria’s whackjob on the Rams’ Torry “Big Game” Holt at St. Louis, in which Bierria played the hunter and Holt finally lived up to that annoying nickname (heh-heh…)

“I just caught me the cowgirl ain’t never been caught.”

Hit of the year, runner-up – Michael Boulware’s fumble-causing snot-bubbler on Tom Brady against the Patriots. The Seahawks lost both games in which these hits happened, but they were two highlights to be remembered, regardless.

“You didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you?”
“You know…for a second there? Yeah. I kinda did.”
“Silly rabbit…”
“Trix are for…”

To all the preseason prognosticators (including yours truly) who predicted that the Seahawks were a lead-pipe lock to make a run at the Super Bowl in 2004 – based on a 10-6 record, a second-place division finish, and a first-round playoff exit in 2003. Hindsight is always 20-20, but Mike Holmgren’s statement that “to make it that far, every one of our great players will have to have great seasons” seems fairly wise in retrospect. Seattle’s subsequent 9-7 record, division championship by default and first-round playoff exit in 2004 – to a divisional opponent who beat them three times in the season – tells the real story. This was a team that played below its potential, but not as much as some would like to believe. Reality hit this team harder than most.

“Wakey wakey…Eggs and bakey!”

To the first three games of the season – victories against the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers. In those three games, the Seahawks outscored their opponents 65-13, had the #1 overall defense in the NFL, and were officially the hottest thing in Washington State since the SUV hit the Eastside. Little did we know what was just around the bend…

“Y’all beat the hell out of that woman, but you didn’t kill her. And I put a bullet in her head, but her heart just kept on beatin’.”

Those first three games and three more quarters through 2004, the Seahawks looked quite a bit like the Best Damn Team In Football. Then…well, the unthinkable happened. The Seahawks led the Rams 27-7 at the half at Qwest Field, and 27-10 halfway through the fourth quarter. When the Seahawks next opened their eyes, they were on the wrong end of a miraculous 33-27 St. Louis overtime comeback…a comeback that featured two of the team’s worst recurrent liabilities – Ray Rhodes’ suicidal prevent tendencies at the end of every game, and Mike Holmgren’s issues with clock management. The Seahawks were never the same, and there were more late-game circuses to come.

“So, that’s a Texas Funeral.”

If the collapse against the Rams was bizarre, the Week Thirteen Monday Night face-plant against the Cowboys was downright infuriating. With 3:47 left in the first quarter, Seattle went up 14-3 on Matt Hasselbeck’s TD to Darrell Jackson. The Seahawks did not score again until there was 3:01 left in the third quarter and the score was 29-14, Cowboys. That would be 26 unanswered points – in ONE HALF OF FOOTBALL.

In the final three minutes of the game, Seattle’s defense gave up 121 yards and two touchdowns. Ballgame! Dallas 43, Seattle 39 – and now, an entire nation knew that the Seahawks couldn’t hold a lead to save their lives. If anyone outside Seattle was still on the bandwagon, this is when they officially jumped off.

“Your instrument is quite impressive…Swords, however, never get tired. I hope you’ve saved your energy. If you haven’t, you might not last five minutes. But as last looks go, you could do worse.”

O-Ren’s tête-à-tête with Beatrix in the winter garden behind the House of Blue Leaves before their climactic swordfight goes to Bill Belichick – this just sounds like something he would say to Mike Holmgren before the Pats’ 30-20 win in Week Six..

“There’s a baseball diamond where I coach our Little League about a mile from here. We meet there at 2:30 in the morning dressed all in black – and we have us a knife fight!”

The goofiest line in either movie (Jeannie Bell, a.k.a. Vernita Green, lived in suburban Pasadena. I’ve been to suburban Pasadena, and I can tell you that Pasadena police would have noticed a knife fight at a little league park at 2:30 in the morning – it’s not like they’re overcome with crime. The only way this works is if it was during the Rose Bowl…) goes to the Seahawks’ goofiest game of the season – the 24-17 Week 11 near-disaster against the bottom-feeding Miami Dolphins. Were it not for Michael Boulware’s 63-yard interception return for a TD with 1:05 left in the game, the Dolphins would have gone into overtime with the momentum – and the Seahawks could have authored another late collapse, having been up 17-7 at the half. Seattle’s defense was unable to corral a hobbled and heroic A.J. Feeley (despite his two fumbles and two INTs), and this was the game that made Miami interim coach Jim Bates a Name To Know.

“One more thing, Sophie…is she aware her daughter is still alive?”

The cliffhanger that concludes Vol. 1 (and apparently resulted in Tarantino getting accosted everywhere he went by annoyed moviegoers in the 8-month period between Vol. 1 and Vol.2) goes to the Seahawks’ 2004 cliffhanger - the Atlanta Falcons’ failed 2-point conversion with no time left on the clock in the regular-season finale. The Seahawks won, 28-26 and took the NFC West for the first time, allowing 67,000 fans to leave Qwest Field overjoyed…and relieved that the Falcons didn’t have anything to play for and thus took Michael Vick out in the first quarter.

“What the <expletive> did you just shoot me with!?!?!”
“My greatest invention…or, at least my favorite. What lies within that dart – just begging to course its way through your veins – is an incredibly potent, and quite infallible, truth serum. I call it, ‘The Undisputed Truth’”.

To Trent Dilfer and Grant Wistrom – both of whom, after the season was over, called in to local sports radio station KJR and gave very revealing “state-of-the-team” addresses. Both said (without naming names) that there are a few guys on the team “who just don’t get it”, and Wistrom advised that it might be time to cut bait with those gentlemen. What we also learned from Dilfer and Wistrom is that the misdeeds of a few are overshadowing the team-centric focus of many. And both acknowledged that the perception of the team’s fans, many of whom believe that this Seahawks team is populated with a large number of “me-firsters”, is understandably skewed as a result.

Is it a coincidence that Dilfer and Wistrom, both of whom officially entered the Curt Schilling Memorial “Man O’ The People” Pantheon with those calls, are two of the very few Seahawks who own Super Bowl rings? Most likely not. Certainly, their honesty and openness was a welcome break from business as usual...

“A staple of superhero mythology is that there’s the superhero, and there’s the alter ego. Superman doesn’t become Superman…Superman was born Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. What Kent wears…the glasses, the business suit…THAT’S the costume. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He’s weak, he’s unsure of himself, he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.”

To the Seattle Seahawks, and their squirrelly, screwy, schizophrenic 2004 season. To those players who more interested in talking smack than backing it up…those reprobates who care more for the bright lights than the real prestige that comes with being a part of a true champion…the coaches who are slipping from their perches…this underachieving, immature, infuriating mess. And yet…

“You and I have unfinished business.”
“Baby…you ain’t kidding.”

To the Seattle Seahawks, and their brilliant, brainy, ballsy 2004 best. To those players who took needles to stay on the field…the character guys who led from the bench…those exemplars of football who do it right so that they can look in the mirror every morning and deal with the faces they see…this group of men who could still put it together and shock the world someday…

…and to the fans, who endured it all for yet another year – and will be back in 2005 with the same hope that makes the chase of the dream worth every single moment.

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