Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards took a chance on Solari as a coordinator, but Solari said after his firing that he would be perfectly happy being a line coach again, which was the position he held with the Chiefs from 1997 through 2005. During his time in that position, the Chiefs were known as one of the best blocking teams in the league. 2007 was a nightmare for Kansas City's offensive line, as Shields' retirement left the cupboard very bare. The Chiefs finished 31st in Football Outsiders' Adjusted Line Yards statistic in 2007, and 29th in Adjusted Sack Rate. It was a line of has-beens and no-names, and it was one of the few in the league worse than Seattle's.
Laveroni, who inherited one of the league's best lines in 2004 after Tom Lovat retired, could not scheme his way out of the loss of Steve Hutchinson before the 2006 season and the various injury and age concerns which followed. While the Seahawks have re-loaded to a point with talented youngsters like Sean Locklear, Chris Spencer and Rob Sims, confusion and tentativeness have been the norm. Seattle finished 29th in Adjusted Line Yards and 19th in Adjusted Sack Rate, and it was the second straight season in which a sub-par run game could not pass "go".
Head coach Mike Holmgren never specifically called Laveroni out in public, but excerpts from his last two press conferences provided some hints that a change was coming. In the season-ender before he announced his intention to return for a 10th straight season with Seattle, Holmgren had this to say about what most disappointed him in 2007, the year in which he practically had to abandon the ground game to get to the playoffs. The divisional loss to Green Bay saw the Seahawks gain 28 yards on the ground, the lowest total of the Holmgren era.
I really thought we were going to be capable of running the ball better than we did this season," the coach said. "As hard as we tried, and as much as we tried to tinker, and as much as we changed the lineup just a little bit, I was not happy with how we did that. That is a major off-season fix. Now what does that mean? You’re talking about scheme, you’re talking about players, the whole deal. You’ve got to be able to run the ball, in this league, better than we ran it, in my opinion. That was a disappointment to me. I thought, coming into this season, that we would be okay there."
Holmgren was also in a position where he had to start a physically overmatched veteran like Chris Gray because Spencer's development had regressed at center, and Gray was needed to keep track of the protection calls.
"In the guard position, in the offensive line, Chris Gray, if you remember, we were going to have a real competition at the position," Holmgren recalled in the press conference announcing his return. "In fact, I talked to Chris (Gray) about coming in and being the backup guard and center. Give us some depth and let the young guys battle it out in there. As it happens, in training camp, I don’t remember exactly, but I think Chop (Floyd Womack) got hurt. Guys get hurt. Then all of a sudden Chris Gray is in there again and he had a good season.
"Now we’re going into next year with probably the same type of thing and I’ll talk to Chris. ‘I want you to come back, but this will probably be your role.’ You have (Rob) Sims and Chris (Spencer). They’re young. You have Walt (Walter Jones). You have (Sean) Locklear who’s relatively young. We have to sign him, make sure he signs. We have to kind of add some pieces to the offensive line but I thought we did a very good job of pass protection, really, during the season. We just could not run it the way we needed to run it. The line didn’t concern me too much. It really didn’t. We just didn’t run it the way we could run it.”
Holmgren knew that Laveroni's time was through with Seattle, and he wanted new blood. He made assistant Keith Gilbertson, who had assisted Laveroni since 2005, the new receivers coach instead of promoting him to Laveroni's position. There was never a question in Holmgren's mind that the Seahawks would look outside of the organization for their next line coach.
“I think Keith is a good coach," he said. "I had him in a little different role this last year anyway. You guys saw him as an assistant and helping with the offensive line, but off the field, he was doing something quite different for me. I want him to continue doing that and take advantage of that sort of creativity in the offensive meeting room. I thought it was pretty natural if he would accept. He had some reservations because he hadn’t coached the wide receivers, but that was the same argument I heard from those other guys. It didn’t hold any water with me so he’s going to do that.”
Stay tuned for more on what this hire means for the future of the Seahawks' offensive line.