It took one to two hours into this Friday routine to realize; this wasn’t a typical day at all. No, after the combination of Heineken, Cuervo, and whatever my “friend” had sold me to snort had dissipated I realized today’s significance. Today marked my first and only true love and passion’s, welcoming into legitimacy. Today was the day that every TV show, every radio station, every reporter that I enjoyed would finally be speaking to and about my obsession. Finally, my boys, The Mighty Seahawks of Seattle, had arrived and would be forever feared and respected. That day was January 8, 1999, the day Mike Holmgren…Super Bowl Champion Mike Holmgren had nested in Seattle to coach.
Sure, the rumor had been bandied about for weeks. I even remember watching the Wild-Card Weekend match-up the week prior between the 49ers and Packers…knowing that the loser would be coaching my team. I remember being overjoyed when T.O. caught that last-second TD pass, as I wanted Holmgren over Mooch…for obvious reasons (on a side note I also remember how creepy T.O’s reactionary tears were). But being a Seattle sports fan teaches you many things, one of which is, “don’t celebrate until it's official”.
The next 7-8 months were a blur. I couldn’t help but daydream about the repeated Lombardis Mr. Holmgren would surely will my team into earning. I fantasized about no longer being the sole Seahawk fan in my office environment. I yearned for a time where I wouldn’t receive sympathetic blank nods when I interjected my Seahawks’ chances for the upcoming season amongst other fans. Then came the first sign…the sign all Seattle sports fans are waiting for…a “problem”. One Joey Galloway.
Joey Galloway had not arrived in camp due to a contract issue. Apparently, according to Joey, the prior regime of Mueller and Erickson had promised him an extension before the last year of his contract. From my point of view, it only seemed right. Joey Galloway was a bona fide star…ready to carry the torch passed to him by Largent and Blades. He was the fastest man in the game, who would surely reach “Rice-esque” status in Holmgren’s’ dynamic WCO. What was our savior doing? Why was he being so stubborn on this? Why was his ego getting in the way of this offense’s ability to be a juggernaut? Little did I realize this would be one of many signs signaling Holmy was a great coach who had let his ego get in the way of success.
Despite the absence of what I now realize was just another in a long line of “The” Ohio State University Prima Donnas, my Seahawks had surged to atop the AFC…labeled a serious contender. They had even pulled off the unthinkable, defeating the hated Chiefs in Arrowhead, without the benefit of a Herculean effort from Mudbone. Then the Buccaneers came to town, and handed the Hawks and Holmgren a thrashing that would prove pivotal to those players, Holmgren, and us fans. That day, in my opinion, is the day Mike Holmgren finally succumbed to his ego and handed over complete control. I don’t know why or how but I know that’s the moment it changed.
From that point on, it was evident that Mike Holmgren was a man who cared more about his image, doing it his way, and receiving 100% of the credit for any foray this franchise would have into legitimacy or elitehood, than actually embodying the ordinary coach he was in Green Bay. The first evidence was the players so abruptly shown the door.
According to the rare and skilled individuals who can quantify such things, during that time the Seahawks were in the midst of a “cap-crisis”. A crisis which demanded immediate attention and predicated several personnel decisions. From my point of view, this also allowed Holmgren to rid himself of any players that were more outspoken in nature; diminishing or prohibiting his desire to be the lone face, voice, and soul of the franchise. It was the latter that triggered Holmgren to cut the vocal leaders of each side of the ball in Pete Kendall and Sam Adams. The one that particularly hurt this writer and is the best to substantiate my theory is Adams.
At that time the Seahawks, as do most teams, needed defensive interior help. Sam Adams was the ideal person to fulfill that need. Sam was a Seahawk-raised and nurtured draft pick. He was also a person who quickly took to the city of Seattle. His attachment to the city was evident in the exemplary community/charitable work he spearheaded (and still does in Seattle) and his vocal support and campaigning during the Seahawks stadium initiative. He wanted to stay here; he fulfilled a need of ours at the time, yet he was shown the door.
Pete Kendall was a talented offensive lineman, who’s thinking man nature sealed his fate. Ahman Green was an uber-talented running back, who had a fumbling problem…yes, but was shown the door for being an offensive “diamond in the rough” unearthed by a prior regime. Etc., etc….
Another symptom of Mike’s ego overtaking him was the team’s play over the next three seasons. It wasn’t the fact the team was young and for lack of a better word, bad. It was how they conducted themselves on Sundays. The team looked, in my opinion, lifeless and joyless. I saw little to no playfulness from his team. I didn’t see the young Seahawks team high-fiving after great plays, I didn’t see any college emotion from a team which was a year or two removed from a campus, I didn’t see a team having fun playing the game they loved. The team conducted themselves as if they were young graduates of a rehabilitative boot camp, and not like the 1996 Green Bay Packers. Of course, in my opinion, any of the aforementioned monkeyshines could potentially create a star or a good story about a player on the field, and dampen the notoriety of the man patrolling the sidelines.
Then we have the revolving door of defensive coordinators. After the unfortunate passing of Fritz Shurmur, this position on the staff rivaled only the Seattle Mariners LOF in terms of fickleness. Matters weren’t helped by Holmgren’s insistence that only second-tier, retread names would be considered for the oft-open position. “I don’t want a DC that will be interviewed or considered for a Head Coaching job every off-season,” I remember him uttering once around the time of the Steve Sidwell era. And why would he? If anyone was going to do a story about a coach in Seattle…it had better be about “The Walrus”. He’d make sure of it.
At some point, Mike was able to relinquish his ego’s chokehold over his thought process. In fact, there’s only one remaining sign of this once egomaniac’s madness. He’s a talented and dynamic athlete from a “small” Big 12 school who’s had his talent shamefully underutilized to date. But, I’ll take that over the numerous signs I’m used to seeing.
You may come away assuming that this writer in someway has a disdain for the “Stubborn Swede”…but that wouldn’t be true. He’s a great coach who has coached himself into NFL and Seattle sports lore, for which I’ll be forever grateful. I’m glad he’s our coach today and am excited for the future.
He’s a great and skilled emperor. We shouldn’t hold it against him that he used to rule without clothes.
Weekly, I’ll be picking a message board post, board member, politician, animal; anything I feel deserves acknowledgment. More so than the rest of the article, this will be lighthearted and pure fluff. Sadly, I cannot do that this week, as one of my all-time NFL favorites has passed away.
This week’s sniff goes to Craig “Ironhead” Heyward.
We all have players that for reasons outside of talent burrow into our psyche. I’m not sure why, but watching him play always made me remember why I enjoyed the game. Ironhead wasn’t the best RB of his time, in his prime he wasn’t even in the top 30, but he was literally larger than life. He was a running back in a guard’s body, smiling after every bone-jarring hit, making him an advertiser's dream. His prowess and legend far outstretched his on-field performance for all the right reasons, which is rare nowadays.
Here’s to the man who was Jerome Bettis before Jerome was.
This is Ryan Davis’ debut column for Seahawks.NET. Known very well to friend and foe as “pehawk” in our fan forums, Ryan will be providing a fresh voice on the Seahawks, Seattle sports in general, and life in a nutshell. Feel free to send your thoughts, recriminations and mule sniffs to Ryan here.