Watch out league, the football genius is back.
You know, that portly fellow who revived a nation of cheeseheads. The spectacled offensive guru who turned a little-known Southern Miss grad into a three-time MVP and legend on the frozen tundra. The man who proved that the West Coast Offense wasn’t just for Californians anymore. The guy who beat Parcells in his last Super Bowl appearance.
You remember him. You remember Mike Holmgren, right?
No? Well, he probably wouldn’t mind if you didn’t notice his past four mediocre seasons in Seattle. After all, he hasn’t done much since being hailed as the Holy Trinity (head coach, general manager, and overall football savior) for the bedraggled Seahawks in 1999. Sure, he made the playoffs his first year in Sea-town, but that was with Dennis Erickson’s players. Since re-making the team in his image, the results have been no better than they were under Erickson. And Seahawks’ owner Paul Allen didn’t save the team from moving to Los Angeles in order to facilitate Ericksonian results.
Holmgren and the Hawks almost came to the breaking point last year. The Seattle press buzzards swarmed after the Seahawks’ 1-5 start. The coach descended into media hell. Spurred on by the prognosticators, the fans called for Holmgren’s head, and ended up getting one of them when he was forced to relinquish his GM duties after the season. But the Seahawks’ 91-point, three-win performance in the last three games of the season allowed him to keep the coaching headset on, at least for 2003. It was universally accepted that he needed to guide Seattle to the postseason in order to keep his job. The press entered the new year frothing at the prospect of another failed coach’s media crucifixion.
But on the fifth year he rose again.
The man who was once the most respected name in the coaching profession is enjoying a resurrection few could have anticipated in 2003. Yes, the season is just three games old. And yes, assuring the Seahawks of a playoff berth at 3-0 would be foolish. But after the Hawks’ 24-23 comeback win over the Rams on Sunday, there is reason for optimism in the Pacific Northwest.
The defense, guided by Holmgren disciple Ray Rhodes, has more swagger than pre-Bo-humbled Brian Bosworth. Rookie safety Ken Hamlin has people talking about hits the way no Seahawk has since Kenny Easley. Randall Godfrey and Norman Hand are providing more run-stopping backbone than the Seahawks’ defense has had since Cortez Kennedy was fresh out of Miami.
Then there’s the offense, which for the first time under Holmgren has some true West Coast efficiency to it. Mr. Preseason, quarterback Matt Hasslebeck, has figured out how to operate in the regular games. Wideout Koren Robinson is making Holmgren look like a better GM than pundits gave him credit for. What’s more, as the Seahawks’ rally from 13 down against St. Louis proved, the offense has some clutch performances in it, a key component the Seahawks offensive units have almost always lacked.
The final factor that has Holmgren’s Hawks thinking playoffs? The schedule, which is the second-easiest in the league. With games still to come against Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit and Arizona, Seattle could have seven wins without much effort. Barring a collapse, they should finish with at least 10. And with the way the Mike Martz and Dennis Erickson have the Rams and 49ers underachieving thus far, that could be enough to win the NFC West.
Win the West and fans across the country may soon remember the man once dubbed “football genius.”
“Ooooohhhhh, that’s Mike Holmgren? The guy who won the Super Bowl?”