Seahawks News & Notes - 1/17/08

Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said he is going to Arizona with his wife, Kathy, late this week and over the weekend to flesh out his decision about whether or not to retire. Holmgren, however, threw a new wrinkle into the mix. If he does decide to return to the team, he may want to talk to the Seahawks about a contract extension.

Holmgren has one year remaining on his contract but has said all season that he is taking his career one year at a time, and that he and his wife like to sit down after the season and discuss their lives together.
But Holmgren also said he is tired of the retirement speculation each season and that he wants to make a firm decision one way or the other -- even if that means coaching for several more seasons.

"To go through this (retirement speculation) year in and year out, it'd be silly," Holmgren said. "I don't want to do that. If it's not one of the first two (options, quitting or coming back) then it'd be something that would be larger and longer. You're asking me my opinion. There are other opinions involved in this thing. I think I'm going in thinking about all the options that we have."

Holmgren said he and his wife will each take a list to the desert and go on long walks to contemplate their future together. Holmgren said he initially planned to have this discussion in Hawaii after the Super Bowl, but in fairness to the organization and his coaches, he needed to push the timeline forward.

He said he will likely come back next week, meet with team president Tim Ruskell and move forward from there. He said he has sought advice in the past from the likes of Joe Gibbs, Tony Dungy and Dick Vermeil about the retirement issue. He also said that he still has an itch to run a team one day, saying he thinks he learned from the mistakes of the past and that he could be a good general manager the second time around. He acknowledged, however, that that is not going to happen in Seattle.

"That ship has sailed," Holmgren said.

All four of Holmgren's daughters have relocated and now live in Seattle. But with them now grown, Holmgren said this decision is between himself and his wife.

"You must think about it seriously, and do whatever you decide to do for the right reasons," Holmgren said. "Don't con anybody. Don't fool yourself. That's why you talk about it. I trust her a lot. She knows me better than anybody. I feel good. But there's a lot that goes into a decision like this."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The day after the Seahawks were eliminated from the playoffs by the Green Bay Packers, linebacker Julian Peterson said that coach Mike Holmgren had gallbladder problems. Two days later, Holmgren denied it. "Oh, that noted physician, Dr. Peterson," Holmgren joked. "God bless his heart, I don't know where he got that."
--DE Patrick Kerney has pulled out of the Pro Bowl, due to an undsclosed injury. He will be replaced by Philadelphia's Trent Cole. Kerney was an NFC starter.
--CB Marcus Trufant is headed to his first Pro Bowl, which, given tradition, could be an expensive weekend. Veterans said they tend to charge all their hotel amenities to the rooms of the first-time players.
--LBs Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson, both Pro Bowlers, said they are paying for their defensive linemen who did not make it to the Pro Bowl to come to Hawaii during that week.
--In the 17 years that he has played, Packers QB Brett Favre said he never played in a worse snowstorm than the one coming down during the Seahawks-Packers playoff game.
--The Seahawks are so far on schedule to have their new practice facility opened for the start of training camp. It is located about 10 miles south of their old facility.
--Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said that when he was in San Francisco, he was offered jobs in Arizona and with the New York Jets. He asked his high school daughters what they thought he should do and one said, "You know, that NFC East is a tough division." He didn't take either job because he wanted his twin girls to graduate from the high school where they started.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Absolutely he is capable of, maybe not getting the 1,800 yards or whatever he had in that great season in 2005, but being a very productive back. I believe he can. But, it's going to take a lot of improvement in all areas of our running game. That is a point of emphasis in the offseason." -- Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, when asked if Shaun Alexander can get back to being a productive back.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Starting flanker Deion Branch tore the ACL in his left knee and will require surgery to repair the damage. He is out for at least nine months and could be affected by the injury for up to a year. It means he will miss all of training camp. The Seahawks gave up a 2007 first-round pick to New England for Branch and signed him to a $39 million contract.
Running back Shaun Alexander will require surgery to repair a cracked bone in his left wrist. And All-Pro tackle Walter Jones will require surgery to repair sore shoulders that have bothered him all season.
Assistant head coach Jim Mora will interview in Washington for the Redskins' head-coaching vacancy, while receiver coach Nolan Cromwell and offensive quality control coach Gary Reynolds are heading to Texas A&M to join Mike Sherman's staff.

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Matt Hasselbeck. Backups -- Seneca Wallace, Charlie Frye.
At 32, Hasselbeck had the best season of his career, setting career highs in passing attempts, completions and yardage. He was able to shake off a string of injuries to play all 16 games. He seems to finally have a full grasp of what coach Mike Holmgren wants from him. He likely would have been even more productive if he had a consistent set of receivers at his disposal. Wallace signed a contract extension before the season but is a career backup. He is more dangerous as a receiver and runner, the reason the team acquired Frye, in case Wallace got injured doing other things in the offense. Frye, however, never impressed, even in practices.

RUNNING BACK: Starters -- RB Shaun Alexander, FB Leonard Weaver. Backups -- Maurice Morris, Josh Scobey, David Kirtman.
Alexander became the biggest point of contention this season because the 2005 MVP clearly has lost a step, though just how much his game has disintegrated was a mystery because of a disappointing performance by the offensive line. Whether Alexander, 30, returns next year remains to be seen. He will have surgery on a cracked bone in his left wrist, regardless. Weaver was forced into the starting lineup by a career-ending injury to long-time starter Mack Strong, and Weaver fared very well, gaining a better understanding of blocking in both the pass and the run. After the offense became more pass-centric, Morris actually split time with Alexander because he is a better blocker and receiver. Morris had a career high in yards gained, averaging 4.4 yards a carry.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Marcus Pollard. Backups -- Will Heller, Ben Joppru.
Before the season, Mike Holmgren said he expected Pollard to catch between 50 and 60 passes. Instead, Pollard managed only 28 and two touchdowns, hampered by a knee injury for part of the year. Heller was productive when he replaced Pollard, catching two touchdowns in one game and three overall, but Holmgren never got the full production out of the position that he would have liked, especially after ramping up the passing game. It is unlikely Pollard will be back. The team is likely to draft a tight end.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- FL Deion Branch, SE D.J. Hackett. Backups -- Bobby Engram, Nate Burleson, Ben Obomanu, Courtney Taylor, Logan Payne.
Thankfully it was the deepest unit on the team because it was besieged by injuries all season. Branch and Hackett played only 1 1/2 games together, one or the other injured nearly the entire season. In fact, Engram became the team's leading receiver, notching his first 1,000-yard season with 94 receptions, also a career high, and Burleson had the most touchdown receptions (9). Branch suffered an ACL tear in the final playoff game and will be out for nine months to a year, meaning that Engram will have to produce again or one of the other receivers will have to fill the void. Hackett is an unrestricted free agent but his durability -- he played in only six games -- is in question. The team loves the upside of Courtney Taylor.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Walter Jones, LG Rob Sims, C Chris Spencer, RG Chris Gray, RT Sean Locklear. Backups -- T Tom Ashworth, T/G Ray Willis, T/G Floyd Womack.
Even though the offensive line remained intact and relatively healthy all season, it was a trouble spot all season, unable to run block for Alexander on a consistent basis. It was an odd mix of veterans (Jones and Gray) and youth (Sims, Spencer, Locklear) that never could find a way to gel. Mike Holmgren intermittently benched Sims during games to allow Womack a chance to get some time, hoping to inspire Sims. It never really worked. Spencer struggled with line calls and Gray, at 37, was physically overmatched. Gray may be back but he will not be starting. Holmgren said improving the line is a point of emphasis in the offseason, either through free agency or the draft. Pittsburgh's Alan Faneca is a name often mentioned. Willis also could step in next season, and likely would have this season except he suffered a knee injury on special teams in the third week.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- DLE Patrick Kerney, DLT Rocky Bernard, DRT Brandon Mebane, DRE Darryl Tapp. Backups -- DT/E Ellis Wyms, DE Jason Babin, DT Craig Terrill, DT Howard Green, DT Chuck Darby, DT Marcus Tubbs.
Despite losing both Tubbs and Darby to season-ending knee injuries, the defensive line got big seasons out of rookie Brandon Mebane and veteran Rocky Bernard, Mebane in particular. Holmgren suggested he should be considered for rookie of the year given how stout he played after Darby was placed on injured reserve. The true talent along the line, however, lay in Kerney and Tapp, though Tapp was inconsistent. He had a franchise-record-tying four sacks in one game, then had only one sack in four of the next five games, finishing with seven. After a slow start, Kerney had a monster season, totaling 14.5 sacks, second in the NFL, and five forced fumbles. He was the runner-up in defensive player of the year voting. He was well worth the $39.5 million contract he signed as a free agent. Terrill also did a nice job as a reserve, earning himself a three-year contract extension. Though Tubbs is rehabbing, two knee injuries and microfracture surgery may have ended his career. Holmgren said he would like to add one more "big honker" along the line in the offseason.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- MLB Lofa Tatupu, OLB Julian Peterson, OLB Leroy Hill. Backups -- MLB Niko Koutouvides, OLB Will Herring, OLB Kevin Bentley, OLB Lance Laury.
By far the strength of the team, Tatupu and Peterson were both named to the Pro Bowl. Peterson had 10 sacks, but Tatupu was the rock in his third season and was named to his first All-Pro team. He had three interceptions against the Philadelphia Eagles, tying a team record. He also has more than 100 tackles in each of his first three seasons. If not overshadowed by the previous two, Hill likely could be a Pro Bowler, his combination of speed and power a strong complement to Tatupu and Peterson. He had 81 tackles, third on the team. Koutouvides is Tatupu's backup, but he also is the special teams captain, one of the best kick coverage players in the league. Bentley also is strong on special teams, and did a nice job filling in when Hill was out for a few games. Tatupu is not a free agent until after next season but the team likely will want to sign him to an extension before then.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Marcus Trufant, RCB Kelly Jennings, SS Deon Grant, FS Brian Russell. Backups -- Josh Wilson, Jordan Babineaux, Mike Green, Kevin Hobbs.
The team overhauled the secondary with the free-agent signings of Grant and Russell, a key reason the Seahawks were rarely beat on deep touchdown passes. Grant also was often brought up into the box and offered strong run support. Trufant emerged as one of the best cover corners in the league, totaling a career-high seven interceptions and making his first Pro Bowl. He is a free agent this season and is a good candidate for the franchise tag, which would net him about $9.5 million a season. Jennings did not have the interception totals, but he too was solid, garnering a career-high 12 passes defensed. Babineaux, who signed a contract extension before the season, often lived up to his nickname, "Big Play Babs," making key contributions at crucial times, including an interception returned for a touchdown in the team's first-round playoff game. Wilson was a disappointment, in part because he is so undersized at the position.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Josh Brown, P Ryan Plackemeier, LS Jeff Robinson, KR/PR Nate Burleson.
Under new coach Bruce DeHaven, the special teams were inconsistent, very strong some games, a circus in others. The Seahawks had three long snappers this season, Derek Rackley's weak velocity giving way to Boone Stutz's overwhelming velocity giving way to the 37-year-old Robinson, who was just right. Stutz's first snap went through the legs of Plackemeier and was recovered by the Saints for a touchdown, setting the tone for a blowout loss. Stutz was in part at fault for three straight missed attempts by Brown, though he still established career highs in points (127), field goals (28) and attempts (34). Brown was the team's franchise player last year, but hopes to sign a long-term deal this offseason. Plackemeier also was inconsistent, his average down to 40.0, but he had 30 punts inside the 20, which was fourth in the league, as he worked on his touch. Burleson became the first player in NFL history to have three punt or kickoff returns for touchdowns of over 90 yards. He was named an alternate on the Pro Bowl, behind Devin Hester.

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