Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Holmgren Years: A Retrospective: 1999

So, by no particular schedule, I've decided to look back on the greatest era of Seahawks football. It is without doubt in my mind that these great years are coming to an end, and a slew of mediocre seasons are about to arrive. So, without further adieu, for the sentimentalists in us all, I'll offer my fans perspective on the seasons of Mike Holmgren. First up, 1999.

Hiring Mike Holmgren was at that point the highlight of my life as a Seahawks fan. He was a great coach, and everyone knew it. He took the down and out Packers, a wild gunslinger quarterback, and turned them into a superpower that went 3 years without ever losing a home game, went to two Super Bowls in a row, and were a miracle play from another deep playoff run(Owens! Owens! Owens!). The Seahawks had talent and everyone assumed, the playoff dry spell would end.

It didn't start well. On the first offensive play of the season, in front of a sold out crowd in the Kingdome against a Lions team that everyone left for dead after the sudden retirement of Barry Sanders, Holmgren tried a flea flicker, which resulted in a sack. The Lions were up 25-7 before anyone knew what happened and a late comeback attempt failed and they lost 28-20, Kitna was hurt, and Glenn Foley was to start the next week.

They really should've been 0-2, they were down 13-0 entering the fourth quarter(should've been 20-0 if Curtis Enis hadn't fumbled going in for a touchdown), couldn't protect the quarterback and looked dead. Suddenly Holmgren switched to the shotgun and two big plays later the Seahawks won 14-13 and didn't look back for two months.

Holmgren showed off his ability to work with crap(in this case Jon Kitna) and still win. The Seahawks went through a stretch of starting on fire, building a big lead, then sitting on the ball. His game plans dazzled teams despite the fact that his passing game was severely limited. Kitna's arm was weak and didn't have the required zip on his out routes. Aside from fade routes on the outside, the Seahawks largely worked the seam and the middle of the field. Passes any quarterback can throw(similar to Mike Martz's offense).

The defense did what they did best, force turnovers, 5 against Pittsburg, 4 against Buffalo and 7 against Green Bay, all blowout wins. They bent, but didn't break.

Of course, to anyone who knows football(not me at the age of 14), the Seahawks couldn't run and relied on turnovers on defense. All this spelled disaster come the cold weather months.

After an 8-2 start, the Seahawks were slaughtered by Tampa Bay, well, not slaughtered, despite five Jon Kitna interceptions, it was still a competitive game until a late Tampa Bay touchdown, and would have been close till the final minute had Joey Galloway not dropped a touchdown in the first quarter. The wheels came off, defenses figured out Kitna, whose confidence was shattered, and a tailspin ensued, including an absolutely awful, heart wrenching miserable loss at Denver. The Seahawks were down 30-20 late in the game, cut it down to 30-27, recovered an onside kick, drove down the field and Sean Dawkins dropped a wide open touchdown pass that would've won the game. The pain didn't stop there, the Seahawks tied the game, won the toss(I think), and drove into Denver territory where Jon Kitna missed a WIDE OPEN Joey Galloway down the seam by about six inches. The next play consisted of a sack, fumble, and a touchdown. Game over. That was utterly crushing.

They recovered to beat Kansas City soundly in what was probably their best game of the season to go 9-6 and only needed a win against the disappointing Jets to win the division. They lost 19-9 thanks to some ill timed Jon Kitna passes and needed the Raiders to come back from 17 down twice to win the division in what was one of the wildest games I've ever seen, ever.

The playoff loss to Miami was only memorable for being Marino's last stand and the last game in the thunderous Kingdome. The Seahawks had a 17-13 lead and the Dolphins at their own 10 yard line facing a 3rd and 17. Of course the Seahawks played a soft cover 3 or 4, don't remember which, with a 20 yard cushion and the Dolphins picked it up, drove down, and won the game. Heart wrenching, but as in 2004, probably a merciful end to the season. I remember walking out of the Kingdome that day, thankful at least, to have finally experienced a playoff game.

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