Holmgren has a plan
On a chilly Sunday afternoon in Oakland, Seattle’s new attitude hung in the air like the smell of Al Davis’ hair gel.
The Seahawks had just lost their second straight game to the Oakland Raiders, 30-21 at The Net. A team that has seen its share of collapses over the past few seasons was watching its stranglehold on the AFC West slipping away.
Still, the Seahawks seemed remarkably calm in their visitor’s locker room abode, a departure from the past few seasons. And as with all good teams, it starts with your field general.
In this case, that’s Mike Holmgren, the team’s new coach and GM.
“I think there’s a little bit of a tendency for guys that have been here a long time to think, ‘Here we go again,'” Holmgren said. “I won’t tolerate that. I want to nip that in the bud right away.”
Some portrayed the Seahawks’ new chief as being too ambitious when he left an adoring audience in Green Bay last spring for the comfort of the Kingdome. In the aftermath, Packers players spoke of Holmgren as a control freak rather than the man who led Green Bay to its first Super Bowl victory in nearly 30 years.
Rain City got a glimpse of Holmgren’s heavy hand earlier this fall when he played hardball with prodigal holdout Joey Galloway.
Galloway, who had a year left on his contract, wanted an extension this season before the team declared him its franchise player, a move that would likely have kept him from breaking the bank.
Holmgren offered him a contract that would make him the second-highest paid receiver in the league behind only Antonio Freeman. When Galloway balked, Holmgren yanked the offer off the table.
It was a move that could have caused division, but there was no sign of it Sunday. It’s clear that the Seahawks believe in their leader.
Holmgren’s the Man With the Plan.
“I didn’t hear any of the negative talk, but coach should be putting a stop to it if he heard it,” said an adamant Ricky Watters, the same running back that essentially fumbled the game away to Eyepatch Kids. “This isn’t the same old Seahawks. We’re 8-4, and we’re winning the division. We just have to find a way to break out of this.”
For a guy who’s supposed to be a control-freak, Holmgren was calm on Sunday. The guy was almost sickeningly cheery when the media wolves looked ready to pounce in his postgame press briefing.
Put me in his shoes and I’m throwing things around the locker room during my postgame speech. After all, Oakland made Jon Kitna play like the second coming of Steve Walsh, and the defense looked incapable of stopping a Pop Warner team.
Holmgren wasn’t giving in to that.
“Kitna did some good things, but his inexperience showed on the two interceptions he threw,” he said. “But there were some real positive things he did in this game that we can build on. The Raiders are a real good football team; they’ve just been unlucky.
“I’m real proud of my guys for hanging in there on the road.”
That doesn’t sound like a coach hitting the panic button. If you’ve played sports, you know that players feed off the vibes the coach sends out.
And let’s face it, Seattle had a good chance to win Sunday in one of the most hostile stadiums in the NFL. Struggles or not, that’s like a victory in itself.
So the Seahawks slouch toward San Diego for Sunday’s game with the Chargers, but you can’t see it in their eyes. This team believes it will win the division, present circumstances notwithstanding.
“This is no time to panic,” Kitna said. “If someone told me we’d be 8-4 after Week 13 I’d have been surprised. We just have to get back on track, and we’ll be fine.”
Watters, who has been called selfish at various times during his career, spoke of – gasp! – taking responsibility for the team’s two-game losing streak.
“Nobody feels worse about this loss than me,” he said. “This team believes in me, and I cost us the game. They expect me to make plays, and I didn’t do that. The thing is, how do we handle it? Do we go in the tank now? No. I’ll try to do better next week, and Kitna’s a fighter.”
With attitudes like that, you get the feeling these Seahawks won’t be slumping for long. It all starts at the top, and from this corner Mike Holmgren looks like the free agent pickup of the year.
Jeremy Littau is the Nevada Appeal Sports Editor.