The Seahawks.NET Fireside Chat

In early September, Seahawks.NET assembled many of our best and brightest contributors and asked them to look ahead to the regular season. The first of what we hope will be many more "Fireside Chats" was successful enough that we knew we'd be revisiting the idea when the playoffs began.

So here we are again, gathered around a cozy fire for another chat about all things Seahawk. Except…we are not actually sitting around a fire. Maybe the warmth of our hard drives will suffice? Farrar just stuck a marshmallow in the floppy drive…and, well…we might have to edit ourselves for awhile.

The regular season has come and gone like your favorite recess from 5th grade. All we have left now in Seahawks Nation is to analyze and look ahead to the playoff push.

The assembled brain trust: dfarrar777 [DF]; ArosNET [A]; Rotak [R]; FlyingGreg [FG]; AbsolutPlayer [AP]; Scott Eklund [SE]; NJSeahawksFan [NJ]; rockhawkx [RX]; SchleprockHawk [S]; Hawkstorian [H]

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Q: What has been the biggest surprise this season?

DF: That the Seahawks aren’t 4-12 with a fired coach, no Hasselbeck and Alexander and a huge rebuild to deal with. If Bob Whitsitt were still in charge, that might be what you’d be looking at right now. Instead, Tim Ruskell spearheaded a real revolution in Kirkland. I had the 13-3 season predicted in his second year, and I’ve been drinking the Ruskell Kool-Aid since the day he was hired. He’s exceeded the expectations of his most ardent fans.

A: How quickly the team came together under new team president Tim Ruskell. Not even the most optimistic among us could have predicted the level of success we have enjoyed under his inaugural season with the team. Before his hiring there was such turmoil and compartmentalization in the front office, our top players were inches away from free agency…So much dead wood to chop from the tree.

How Tim was able to come in and manifest the new paradigms he brought with him and perform all the various tasks and things that are necessary to win – in such a short amount of time – is the biggest surprise.

R: Defensive back play. Before the season, we really thought this would be the strength of our defense. Instead, it has been awful. Not just bad. Awful. As in, awful in a Chicago Bears QB way.

FG: That we finally got some breaks and won the types of games (Cowboys, Giants, etc.) that in years past we would have found a way to lose.

AP: Leading the league in sacks. Oddly enough, it doesn’t seem like it. I guess I expected a sack-leading team to be knocking the QB around every play like playing Rookie League on Madden.

SE: So many to choose from, but I would say it really surprised me how well the team did during pressure situations. Save Josh Brown’s missed field goal against Washington, this team won every close game. I cannot say enough for the leadership of this team from the players (especially Matt Hasselbeck and Lofa Tatupu) and the coaching staff (mainly Mike Holmgren and stand-in defensive coordinator John Marshall).

NJ: The defense. More specifically how the defense has weathered injuries that would have crippled them in years past. The “second string” has made all the difference this year.

RX: The number of big surprises. So far, everything about this season has been surprising, but I think the most surprising to me would be the 13 – 3 record. I had this team pegged as barely making .500 with a perfect case scenario being 9-7; I never thought anything like this season would happen. A close second for biggest surprise would be that Shaun Alexander would not only still be a Seahawk, but he would have arguably the best season ever by a Seahawk player.

S: That’s a convoluted question as the season on the whole has been quite a surprise. But if I’m going to pin it down… I had the Denver Broncos in the middle of the pile. This is a team whose big off-season push was to gather the entire Defensive Line of rejects from a suffering Browns team, and draft a trio of mid-level Corners. The results? They tore through the league’s most difficult schedule and may actually threaten the Colts on the road to the Super Bowl. I’m shocked.

H: The 2005 Seahawks led the NFL in quarterback sacks. Every time I read that sentence it seems stranger and stranger.


Q: We touched on this in the pre-season chat…but after seeing how the 2005 season has gone, if the Seahawks fail to win at least one playoff game, does Mike Holmgren get fired?

DF: Not after a three-loss season. With another 9-7 sneak-job and a first-round playoff loss, there might be some legitimate talk about it. Now, I think Holmgren has an open road in front of him no matter what happens in the post-season.

A: No. At this point, you can see the momentum. It would be a failure of colossal proportions given the success of the season if we were to lose our divisional playoff game but I don’t think we would have gotten close to 13-3 without Mike Holmgren as the head coach of the team this year. Right now, I can’t think of anyone more qualified than Holmgren to continue what he’s started here. The system works, it’s proven and the players have bought into it. Mike Holmgren deserves to finish out the terms of his contract, at the very least. The better question at the moment may be; “Does Holmgren deserve a contract extension?” My answer to that is yes.

R: No. There is no question this team is playing tough. And there is no question that Holmgren has been calling good plays. That's all you can ask of him.

FG: No. They will honor the last year of his contract regardless of the playoff outcome.

AP: No, you don’t fire a coach who goes 13-3. Especially when you don’t have problems with preparation, execution or team self-image.

SE: I don’t see how you can fire him after the regular season the Seahawks just completed. Now, that being said, he and the team could make the decision a lot easier if they win, but I think Holmgren will be in charge of the Hawks in 2006 and will likely get a two or three-year extension no matter what happens.

NJ: Does he? No. Should he? Ask me after the first playoff game.

RX: No, not a chance. Holmgren has shown the brilliance in his offensive game this year that we all expected when he arrived in 1999, but it’s been his transition in coaching style that I believe has made a huge difference on the field. He seems much more adaptable in his play calling (including involving QB Matt Hasselbeck in the game plan and audibles) than in any year before. He will be given an extension not only because he’s made the Seahawks a perennial contender, but also because there really isn’t a better coach on the market to replace him.

S: Without question. If it falls apart next week – nothing that came before matters. He’s a goner.

H: No.


Q: What is your biggest concern heading into the post-season?

DF: Secondary play and Darrell Jackson’s health. The defensive backfield has got to find a way, through scheme or effort, to eliminate its vulnerability to the mid-level cross and slant. One-on-one matchups aren’t always advantageous to the Seahawks, either.

Jackson really helps spread the offense and keeps opposing defenses from stacking the box and keying on Alexander. If he’s in the playoffs at 90%, his tight route-running and ability to break free for yards after the catch might make the difference in at least one game.

A: Defense. As the regular season wound down, the DL was no longer able to get much of a pass rush going which is the death of any secondary. The health – and performance - of the secondary was troublesome but we know we get our top two corners back in time for the playoffs which will make a huge difference. In order to advance deeper into the playoffs it is imperative that we rediscover the aggressive, blitzing, effective pass rush we had earlier in the season. We need to get back to that defense that led the NFL in sacks all year long. Everything starts up front. Put pressure on the quarterback and the secondary’s jobs become exponentially easier.

R: How I will occupy a bye-week.

FG: Two things. First, our secondary – specifically our corners. Ancillary to that is the pass rush, which has tapered off quite a bit. Second, our offense against some defenses that could potentially bottle us up (Skins, Panthers, Giants, Bears).

AP: Our secondary playing healthy. We saw what happens in Green Bay when we get to the bottom of the chart and don’t produce pressure.

SE: The mental toughness of this team and the health of the defense. Offensively this team is better than anyone in the NFC. Defensively, if they are healthy, they can man up against any offense in the league. I won’t believe this team is mentally tough enough to win the Super Bowl until they prove their mettle in the playoffs. The regular season is one thing, but you must perform in the post-season to be considered a great team.

NJ: The team maintaining focus. They’re playing at a high level and will make the Super Bowl if they can keep their minds on the task at hand.

RX: That’s simple; losing the first playoff game here at home. I can’t think of a worse thought than going through this magical season and going one and done in the playoffs.

S: To be honest, I haven’t thought about that at all. This year has been all about catching UP with the Seahawks. They’ve been dropping stun bombs on us all season long. Meanwhile, I’ve been scrambling around trying to find my glasses (and I don’t where any). For years I’ve been used to spouting my concerns at the drop of a hat. This year? My team wears a grin and a wink, “I’m sorry, were you expecting incompetence? Tune in next week and see what we got for ya”. I’m not used to that kind of moxie coming from them… and I like it very much. I’m thinking I’ll enjoy the moment before I ruin it looking right past.

H: Giving up those blasted deep-crossing routes.


Q. Name the Seahawks’ MVP (offensive and defensive) for 2005.

DF: Offense – Shaun Alexander. Defense – Lofa Tatupu.

A: Offensive MVP is Shaun Alexander with Matt Hasselbeck a close second. Defensive MVP is Lofa Tatupu.

R: Offensive is my league MVP - Shaun Alexander. Defensive has to be Lofa Tatupu. He's the QB of the defense and, oh yeah, pretty darn good.

FG: Offense – Shaun Alexander. Hasselbeck, Jurevicius, Strong and the line deserve some love as well but Shaun was “off the charts”. Defense – Lofa Tatupu. He played far beyond the level I expected.

AP: Shaun Alexander and Michael Boulware. Boulware is our beacon for young guys stepping up and making an impact.

SE: Shaun Alexander on offense (duh!) and Lofa Tatupu on defense. I think you could make a case for Hasselbeck or Jones on offense, but when you lead the league in rushing and set the league-record in touchdowns, there really isn’t much of a debate.

NJ: Shaun Alexander isn’t just the Seahawks MVP; he’s the NFL’s MVP. I believe Matt’s success and the success of the entire offense are predicated on the threat of Shaun’s running. The defensive MVP is Lofa Tatupu. He’s been nothing short of miraculous this year.

RX: Offensive MVP is obviously Shaun Alexander, and if you have to ask why, you’re not paying attention. (Honorable mentions go to Matt Hasselbeck, Walter Jones, Mack Strong, and Joe Jurevicius.)
Defensive MVP would go to Lofa Tatupu. For a rookie to come into the league and take control over an NFL defense is inconceivable, but to also play at the high level that he has in those games makes him an easy choice. He would win just by virtue of him finally filling the MLB role that the Seahawks have so sorely lacked for almost a decade. (Honorable mention to Rocky Bernard).

S: Offensive: Same as the League, Shaun Alexander. Defensive: While there are several deserving like Rocky Bernard, Chuck Darby, maybe even CB Jordan Babineaux (and several other hidden names). I’ve got to go with Lofa Tatupu – the guy I punked out after the draft. If he doesn’t step in there and play the way he’s played, inspiring everything around him to rise to another level? The rest of it doesn’t happen. Most significant addition to our team, no question.

H: Offense - Shaun Hasselbeck. Defense - Lofa Tatupu.


Q. What was the key to the offensive success this season?

DF: Walter Jones making training camp for the first time since 2001. When Jones hit the season in game shape, he proved himself to be the NFL’s best offensive lineman. This had a ripple effect on the rest of the offense, starting with the line, which may have been the best in team history. Steve Hutchinson was a beast all year, Robbie Tobeck and Chris Gray enjoyed career years and Sean Locklear made himself a name to know. That sort of O-line continuity is as indispensable as it is underrated. When you have that, the entire offense becomes productive, efficient and fearless.

A: The offensive line. These guys are in my mind, the best in the NFL. They know each other’s tendencies, they know what to expect from one another and they are among the best at each position. Without them Shaun Alexander isn’t potential NFL MVP, Hasselbeck doesn’t get anywhere near 3,000 yards passing and neither of them head to the Pro Bowl in February. It behooves me to mention the addition of Joe Jurevicius who brought such needed intensity, professionalism and the ability to catch the ball which trickled down to all the other receivers on the team.

R: No dropped passes.

FG: The receivers did not drop passes. Plain and simple, that helped this offense finish #2. Hasselbeck had a 98.3 rating in 2005 after posting an 83.1 rating in 2004. Did he really improve 15 rating points this season? The answer is no – the receivers just held on and that allowed the offense to function at a high peak, sustaining drives and putting points on the board.

AP: The team understanding the importance of execution. Practicing to make it perfect and knowing that the greatest game plan in the world doesn’t mean squat if you don’t execute. Not enough is said in the league about execution. There’s a reason we can use the same plays in the red zone to score every time. We aren’t tricking anyone; we’re just good at what we do.

SE: People may laugh about this, but the development of Jerramy Stevens as a reliable target in the passing game. His ability to stretch the middle-seam and draw attention inside allowed Hasselbeck to have room to throw downfield and pulled the linebackers deeper allowing the offensive line to have good angles when blocking for Alexander.

NJ: As with any offense, the key to success is the line, and the Seahawks offensive line was superlative this year.

RX: Successful passing attacks are set up by a good running game, which the Seahawks have. Successful running attacks are set up by a good passing game, which the Seahawks have. Both are changed from good to great with the addition of a great offensive line, which the Seahawks have.

S: Shaun Alexander clearly learned the importance of one yard – regardless of where you are on the field. And that made all the difference in the world. (Another key would be the play of RT Sean Locklear, who has been rag-dolling kids since he got the start in the pre-season.)

H: An experienced group staying mostly healthy all year.


Q. Assuming that the position of running back does not become an enormous need in free agency, what do the Seahawks need to address in the 2006 draft?

DF: Two positions, at least. There is still a glaring need for a dedicated pass-rusher, despite the Seahawks’ high sack totals in 2005. These sacks happen predominantly as a feast-or-famine prospect, based on blitz or no blitz. Seattle needs someone who can instigate pressure with just the front four, because their scheme calls for linebackers in coverage more often than some.

I think the Seahawks should also address the defensive backfield in the draft. Could be at safety (depending on the Hamlin recovery situation) or corner. The Mighty Mite cornerback thing needs support on passing downs with a taller DB who can provide vertical coverage. Otherwise, it’s too easy for opponents to jump-ball Seattle to death (see Giants, New York).

A: You have to continue to look at the secondary as a need, more linebacker and safety depth and we still must keep our eyes peeled for a premiere pass rush specialist.

R: We have the ability to really pick just about the best player available. It will depend on what happens in free agency. I could definitely see us getting a safety (if Hamlin is gone) or a DE (if the right one shows up). But we don't have a desperate need.

FG: I’d still like to see a crusher from the edge, but that won’t be available picking at the bottom of the board. We really need to snatch a playmaking cornerback, and/or a dangerous return guy.

AP: OL, maybe TE, and FB. Secondary depth always helps. Maybe a LB or DL to help with the run. We might need a couple WR, and a back up RB. Maybe a late round QB to add to the roster.

SE: Cornerback. I’m still not sold on Marcus Trufant as a true number one cornerback. Andre Dyson, when healthy, played better and is better at making plays on the ball when it’s in the air. Herndon is an average corner who is better as a nickel guy. Trufant is in the last year of his contract (I believe) and thus the Hawks need to look for help in their secondary. If Alexander does indeed leave then the Hawks will need to address that position early.

NJ: Nothing in particular. They will be in the enviable position of being able to draft BPA in each of the seven rounds.

RX: (Broken Record) Defensive End, we need a pass rushing specialist. Lower needs would be running back, Offensive Guard, and safety.

S: Hmm… There was an article in the Sporting News this past week regarding the mystery of Seattle’s league leading sack total – and though I regularly despise the defeatist opinions of Dan Pompei, I’d have to agree. We still need an athletic DE. (Failing that, a replacement for under-performing OLB Jamie Sharper would be nice).

H: Kick returner.


Q. List your biggest disappointments this season.

DF: Not a great many from the Seahawks, but if there‘s one aspect of the NFL season that stood out in a negative way for me, it was the increasingly filmy line between reporting and editorializing at the national level. Opinion seems to be trumping fact more and more, prognosticators and experts who used to do their homework are sinking to message-board publication level, and facts are rarely checked, if at all. One pregame show in particular used to be mandatory Sunday Morning viewing for me, and now I don’t last ten minutes before tiring of the squawks of fourth-grade girls.

I’d like to say that this phenomenon doesn’t happen at the local level, but the way in which the Ken Hamlin incident was reported by just about everyone in Washington State not named Mike Sando was an ugly wake-up call.

A: Special Teams, Marcus Trufant and the loss of Ken Hamlin.

R: Our secondary and special teams. Both have been horrid. I had high hopes for both.

FG: I love him, but Marcus Trufant really did not impress me this season. One interception?? We need more than that from a first-round pick. I still wonder if they should move him back to the right side, he looked way more comfortable over there.

AP: Injuries, pass rush from the right end, and Doug Farrar still being the spitting image of Howard Lincoln. (Editor’s note – Seahawks.NET now has an opening for a new “Xs and Os Guy”. Please send your resumes to ByeByeAbsolut@seahawks.net.)

SE: Hard to find one, but if you want me to nit-pick I would say the pass-defense. The corners were dinged up most of the season, but the pass-rush was the best it has been in years. They really need to be better against the pass next season. The return game has also been a big disappointment for me. I thought Jimmy Williams would vastly improve our punt returns, but he has made things adventurous at times and not a good adventurous.

NJ: You’re kidding, right?

RX: The tragic saga of Ken Hamlin and his subsequent questionable status to ever play football again.

S: Ken ‘The Hammer’ Hamlin was having a Pro Bowl season this year. He was making sound decisions along with his vicious ‘obliterate the enemy’ mentality. I noticed an exceptional rise in his field awareness. To not have him a contributing part of this thing until the end… is a disappointment on the level of our most grievous losses ever. It hurts me he’s not out there.

H: Too many fans complaining about media respect, not enough fans just enjoying the season.


Q. Will Bob Casullo keep his job? He was hired to turn around the special teams, and yet this team still struggles considerably. The omen was set when the opening kick of the season was fumbled away…

DF: Let’s see. He signed off on the release of punters Chris Kluwe (who performed at a near-Pro Bowl level with the Vikings) and Donnie Jones (who finished third in the NFL in net average with the Dolphins) and the guy he wanted, Leo Araguz, isn’t even in the NFL anymore. Penalties on the return units have affected drives far too often, and punt returns have been a horror movie all year.

The scary part? He’s done a better job than his predecessor, Mark Michaels, and that may save his bacon for next year. Plus, his head coach doesn’t seem to care a bit about special teams unless a penalty bombs his offense.

A: I don’t think so. We all expected so much more out of Bob and his special teams. The lack of progression from last year was disturbing when you consider just how inept last year’s squad was. The loss of Alex Bannister hurt but you have to make each player accountable for their performance. I guess Bob’s booming voice was all bark with no bite.

R: The way our special teams have played, I can't imagine him staying. We have been so undisciplined on the coverage/return teams that someone has to go.

FG: Tough call, but we need a complete “Home Makeover: Special Teams Edition”. Our return game is in dire need of an overhaul. Our longest punt return this season was 24 yards. I’m still on the fence, however – is it the coaching and scheme, or the players? Maybe he deserves another shot.

AP: I doubt it. We are worse than last year. One thing we miss is having a guy like Pete Rodriguez who really helps our kicker.

SE: I don’t blame Casullo totally for the special teams’ failings. It’s his first year with the team. Next year, if they continue to struggle, I will be calling for his head. The kickoff returns have improved with Josh Scobey and the coverage units, while they have had a few breakdowns, have been much better in my opinion.

NJ: I don’t know. I will say that the fumble doesn’t bother me half as much as the constant holding calls on returns.

RX: Yes, he will keep his job, mostly because there have been improvements this year over years past. Certainly there are still some big issues with special teams, but as long as a Coach makes improvements, he should keep his job.

S: Will he keep his job… Unless our season gets ended on a clear Special Teams gaffe – yes, he will.

H: Firing the last 3 guys didn’t help; why would firing Casullo help anything?


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