Searching for the Black Box – Mike Holmgren

Searching for the Black Box – Mike Holmgren

In his verrrrrrry estimable Seahawks.NET debut, Todd Webb "examines the wreckage" of the Seahawks' 2004 season. First up? The matter of head coach Mike Holmgren.

Head Examination …

New information announced today into the ongoing investigation of the crash of Hawk Flight 2004. FAA investigators announced today they have encountered a shattered visage …

Mike Holmgren came to Seattle in 1999 -- carried aloft the shoulders of the Seahawk faithful and preceded by the waving banners of Super Bowl titles to come. These days however, his reputation amongst the Hawk nation resembles “Bleeding Kansas” during the American Civil War. As Holmgren has now completed year 6 of his 5-year plan, more and more Seahawk fans have begun to join the Rebel Cause. Since Holmgren has 2 years left on his $32 million, 8-year contract … AND since Allen’s all but said Holmy’s coming back … Hawk fans whom are embittered are going to be forced to down another dose.

The question as I see it here is --- do the Rebels TRULY have cause to fire on Ft. Sumter??

The Darwinian Offense …

Those who access their BatComputers will remember back to training camp this year, when Holmgren said that he felt Matt Hasselbeck had learned the offense now … and that he was going to add a few “wrinkles” to the offense. Well, the offense struggled mightily and I found myself saying a lot of: “Gee, I wonder why Hasselbeck just threw an IN and Robinson ran an OUT?” … or “Why did Hasselbeck just throw it LONG … and Stevens broke the route off SHORT?” This leads me to conclude that confusion was reigning supreme as Hasselbeck and the receivers did not appear to be on the same page.

Passing Numbers With Wrinkles (Hasselbeck’s first 6 starts) …

Comp%
3rd Down%
Yards
TD
INT
113-211(54%)
26-84(31%)
1399
7
8

Avg. 233Yds/Game 1.16 TD/Game 1.33 INT/Game

Passing Numbers Without Wrinkles (Hasselbeck’s last 8 starts) …

Comp%
3rd Down%
Yards
TD
INT
166/266(62%)
43-97(44%)
1962
15
7

Avg. 245.25 Yds/Game 1.875 TD/Game .875 INT/Game


Alexander’s Numbers With Wrinkles (Alexander’s first 6 starts) …

Yds Rushing Avg. TD
524 4.46 6

Avg. 87.33 Yds/Game 4.46 Yds/Carry Avg 1 TD/Game

Alexander’s Numbers Without Wrinkles (Alexander’s last 9 starts) …

Yds Rushing Avg. TD
1092 4.87 9

Avg. 121.33 Yds/Game 4.87 Yds/Carry Avg 1 TD/Game

Based upon the numbers, it’s clear that Mike Holmgren decided to scrap teaching his youngsters integral calculus … and go back to finger painting. If Holmgren had stuck with the finger painting rate, those numbers (using those averages) would have projected to …

Hasselbeck … 3679 Yds Passing … 28 TD … 13 INT

Alexander … 1820 Yds Rushing … 4.87 Yds/Carry … 15 TD

I don’t fault Holmgren for recognizing that his offense MUST evolve – -- the veloco-raptors patrolling today’s defenses prey on hapless elderly offenses. However, I wonder along with many of the Hawk faithful if he isn’t acting a lot like Stanley Milgram --- trying to create a pre-biotic soup out of materials that scientists now KNOW just weren’t present on early Earth.

West Coast IN-Offensive …

If you study teams that successfully run the West Coast Offense (WCO) … you will find that the breakdown of offense (Pass to Run) is about 60% pass … 40% run. The WCO succeeds by spreading the ball around to MANY receivers (giving the QB several options) … which then opens up the offense for a successful running attack. Looking at the 2004 Hawks offense … there’s no question that Alexander the Great’s conquests constituted 40% of the Hawks offense. However, as even the most casual fan will note that the Seahawks TRUE passing threats are Darrell Jackson … AND … well, er, we’ve got Darrell Jackson. It’s hard for Legolas to fight the Urik-Hai hordes with only 1 reliable arrow. That naturally begs the question … just WHO filled his quiver?

Concrete Thinker? …

It’s a fairly known fact that Mike Holmgren scripts his first 25 plays or so. That obviously is done with greater meticulous precision than a watchmaker making repairs. The question though is … exactly WHAT happens after there’s no more script? Can he turn on the improv afterburners like a Robin Williams standup concert … or does he call for a juggler for the next 30 minutes? Here’s an intriguing breakdown of the last 3 acts …

2002 Seahawks Offense (Offensive Points Scored)

1st Half
Seahawks 183 Pts (1 Shutout)
Opponents 174 Pts (2 Shutouts)

2nd Half
Seahawks 158 Pts (3 Shutouts)
Opponents 181 Pts (2 Shutouts)

2003 Seahawks Offense (Offensive Points Scored)

1st Half
Seahawks 253 (1 Shutout)
Opponents 155 (2 Shutouts)

2nd Half
Seahawks 135 (2 Shutouts)
Opponents 186 (41 Cleveland, 2 Shutouts)

2004 Seahawks Offense (Offensive Points Scored)

1st Half
Seahawks 215
Opponents 202

2nd Half
Seahawks 156 (2 Shutouts)
Opponents 171 (2 Shutouts)

Regarding this season, Mike Holmgren admitted that perhaps he might have been able to make a difference with his play calling especially late in games. Well, the numbers there agree w/ya. According to the theme – it appears that opposing coaches are doing a much better job of adapting to the Hawks D than vice versa.


Let’s Do The Time Warp Again … Let’s Do The Time Warp Again …

Hmmm … so the case for pilot error seems to be mounting. Let’s go a little further back into the Holmgren’s flight career …

Packers - Holmgren Era …

Offense(Ranking)
Defense(Ranking)
Year
Record
Pass TD
Rush TD
Pass TD
Rush TD
1992
9-7
10
25
9
15
1993
9-7
12
3
8
3
1994
9-7
2
17
13
7
1995
11-5
1
23
21
2
1996
13-3
1
20
4
5
1997
13-3
1
22
2
22
1998
11-5
4
26
19
2


After Holmgren …

Offense(Ranking)
Defense(Ranking)
Year
Record
Pass TD
Rush TD
Pass TD
Rush TD
1999
8-8
23
13
13
25
2000
9-7
14
19
29
4
2001
12-4
2
16
5
14
2002
12-4
1
18
24
12
2003
10-6
1
5
12
6
2004
10-6
3
26
32
14

Here’s some quick observances after looking at earlier flight data …

1) Brett Favre has had virtually THE SAME offensive success WITH Holmgren at the helm … as WITHOUT. (In all fairness though … Mike Sherman undoubtedly picked up quite a few tricks from his teacher.)

2) The 1996 and 1997 Packers succeeded not just because of strong OFFENSE(’96 team was #1 in pts scored with 456) , but also because of strong DEFENSE (’96 team was #1 in pts allowed with 210) as well. Specifically, strong PASS defense being the key. Fritz Shumur joined the Packers in 1994 as their defensive coordinator. Two years later … the Packers went to the Super Bowl.

3) The Hawk defense ranked 10th in the NFL in points allowed (310) in Dennis Erickson’s last year (1998.) Mike Holmgren took the Hawk offense and in his FIRST year (Shurmur’s ONLY year) … watched the defense IMPROVE to 8th in pts allowed (298.) The 1999 Defense ranked 8th in pass TD allowed and 10th in Rush TD allowed (up from 22nd the year before.)

4) Fritz Shumur died just before the 2000 season – Steve Sidwell was hired. The defense fell to 17th in pass TD allowed and 28th in Rush TD allowed. The Hawks record? --- plummeted to 6-10.

Preach It Brutha …

Seahawks fans, broadcasters, and national experts alike have all been trying to get into the head of Mike Holmgren … trying to understand exactly what makes him tick and why he does what he does. Well, perhaps the most misunderstood (and IMO the MOST significant) driving force in Holmgren’s life – is his Christian faith.

[Skeptic from back double-take: “What’s this guy doing, throwing a reverse flea flicker here or something???”]

No amigos … merely pointing out a crucial point. That is, that a person’s Worldview is the lens through which they process EVERYTHING they see and experience in life. Since it shapes every decision and action a person makes … understanding cultural concepts is incredibly significant in understanding WHERE Mike Holmgren is coming from. Permit me 5 minutes from the Sunday School classroom if you will (my purpose is not to PREACH … merely to EDUCATE) … Hang with me here.

[Skeptic from the back]: “All right --- You’ve got your 5 minutes preacher – !!” (starts stopwatch)

The term “Christian” is a Greek term and literally means: “Little Christs.” It follows then, that true followers and adherents of the Christian faith are those who seek to emulate his characteristics in their lives. Perhaps one of the most valued and highlighted traits of Christ – is his MERCY, and you will find many passages that demonstrate Christ to be merciful and loving throughout scripture. Jesus befriended and accepted society’s outcasts … and taught that no one was beyond redemption. Indeed – MANY Christians are incredibly merciful, loving, understanding, and caring people. They believe (as Jesus did) … in loving the unlovable and giving those who deserve no mercy unlimited chances …

[Skeptic annoyedly pointing at his watch]

OK then, but is that a totally BALANCED perspective? In addition to being merciful, scripture also demonstrates in many places Jesus’ preoccupation with JUSTICE and RIGHTEOUSNESS. There are many passages in the New Testament which speak about his coming judgment in which he will right all wrongs. One of the most remarkable things Scripture reveals about Jesus’ personality … is that he was an amazingly BALANCED individual. So then if that’s the case … his followers should also seek to attain that same balance.

Though the mercy/judgment BALANCE is the ultimate goal … a great many Christians [inadvertantly because of personality, ethnicity, family background, etc] tend to fall on ONE SIDE of the teeter-totter … or the OTHER …

White Hat vs. Black Hat …

If someone were sauntering towards the “Mercy” end of the teeter-totter … how would we know … and what might we see? We might see …

1) Comments such as Coach/Former GM Mike Holmgren made in his press conference at the end of the season regarding the firing of Mark Michaels …

Holmgren: “I had to let (special teams coach) Mark (Michaels) go yesterday, and so we're looking for a special teams coach. And I'll say this, in my meeting with Mark yesterday; first of all, I agonize over that. I care about my guys and I will try and do whatever I can within reason to keep everyone together. But they also know they're accountable for how their players play. Special teams, it's really a tough job. So that wasn't very much fun yesterday. But we're going to look for a special teams coach and try and improve that area this next year. Part of the problem, and this was not Mark's fault, because of our injury situation his core special teams players all of a sudden became starters. And we had some depth to allow us to do that, but not on special teams. It allowed us to have Koutouvides, Kacyvenski, Tracy White, those guys played defense, but there wasn't a lot left in the tank for the special teams thing. But things like onside kicks and blocked punts and things like that; I think we must do a better job of those types of things. Those are very specialty things and, quite frankly, they cost us a couple of ball games this year.”

2) The coach/former GM puts up with toddler-type shenanigans from his supposed #1 WR. (Pssst. Perhaps it’s time to think about more than sending him to his room – it isn’t working.)

3) The coach/former GM says to his Pro-Bowl Prima Donna EVERY YEAR: “No problem Walter … you don’t have to follow the same rules everyone does. You don’t have to bust your butt in training camp like those other poor slobs.” (Try that one with your kids and see how that works for ya.)

AHHHHH, but what about the sons Holmgren adopted? NO fumbling my football there Ahman Green! Are you questioning me, Pete Kendall?! Sam Adams and Phillip Daniels out …. Lamar King and Brandon Mitchell in. Soooo … 30’ leashes for Holmgren’s CHOSEN sons – “my guys.” 3’ leashes for his ADOPTED ones. Regardless of the rationale for it … favoritism is a veritable H-BOMB on team chemistry.

FAA’s Preliminary Report …

Though the resume’ shows a long history with QB’s who have more rings than your local Zales Jewelers … there are enough dings now to make many fans start scratching this one across the glass. Indeed, the preponderance of evidence demonstrates a pattern of both inconsistency and rigidity. It suggests difficulties adapting BOTH to changing situations … and in being able to think outside the box.

Fans are finding themselves asking questions such as … how many unexpected plays have they seen in the last 6 years … how many years in a row must this team’s left tackle be franchised … and just how many chances DOES a player get who repeatedly violates team rules?

Mostly, the evidence clearly shows how a man’s greatest adversary … is often himself --- a lesson more and more Coach/GM’s are starting to learn. One man simply CAN’T be both pilot and flight controller. It leads to a LOT of plane crashes.

All that said … let’s turn down the burner on the fry pan and admit that we probably haven’t seen anyone walking on water lately (Editor's note: Yes, but...Belichick tries it without the water wings in about a week.)

The Seahawks organization’s greatest overall need right now … is change. If this team is to truly win … then every single, solitary member of this organization must honestly ask himself not only: “Do I truly WANT to win?” … but also: “Am I truly willing to do whatever it takes TO win?” What separates those who succeed from those who fail … is the ability and willingness to: A) acknowledge that fact … B) ask: “how can I best maximize my own strengths?” … and C) how can I best empower the people around me?

Success starts at the top … and good teams are merely reflections of effective, winning leadership. A body functions best when every tissue of every organ does its part. A brain sure can’t last long if all it’s in synch with … is itself. The greatest thing a leader can often do … is to point to the man in the mirror and say: ”You’ve got to change.” One thing’s certain --- 2005 will go a long ways towards determining just how effective a head pilot this man really is.

Todd Webb writes for Seahawks.NET whenever he can be torn away from his beloved Seattle Mariners. Feel free to send any comments, questions or "Bavasi for President" handbills to apologetic_thinker@yahoo.com.

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