Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Mariners front office makes me feel like a guy who just got out of a real terrible relationship with a jealous, vindictive girlfriend, is scarred, jaded, wondering if you can love again, and then you meet a great girl(or the new M's front office) and they keep surprising you by not being jealous, vindictive, insecure or nonsensical. Instead they trade a middling, but still a prospect with value, a below average utility guy, and no name right handed arms for a raw pitcher and a solid hitting defensive answer at short stop.

I keep waiting for them to screw this up, but it certainly appears a plan is in place. The complete and utter opposite of the Bill Bavasi era.

Griffey is good for one clutch late inning bases clearing double a month. Not sure that makes his .215 average ok though.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In regards to the lull

You can tell its a slow sports season, especially for someone who isn't a huge baseball fan like myself. Yeah, I follow the Mariners and the Yankees, keep up with the fantasy team, but my sun rises and sets with football, and this lull before training camp is utterly unbearable. Hence the lack of posts aside from the Holmgren thing.

When training camp gets going, I'll be posting damn near every day.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Holmgren Years: A Retrospective: 2008

Its always funny how whats built up to be the last hurrah is never what people expected. Everyone expected the Seahawks to make another deep playoff run. The running game would be improved, the defense would cure its home/road woes, and another division title banner would be raised.

None of that happened.

I hate using injuries as a reason for lack of success. But the real reason the Seahawks limped to a 4-12 finish was injuries. When even remotely healthy, that wasn't a 4-12 team. Were they as good as we thought they would be? No. If they had stayed healthy would they have won the division? Probably.

Its hard to win when your entire receiving corps is injured. And believe me when I say "entire", in week 2, we were bemoaning the fact that Logan Payne was injured. Logan Payne.

They brought in Billie Mcmullen, Courtney Taylor, Michael Bumpus, Keary Colbert and Koren Robinson. They all showed why they weren't on a team to begin with, dropped passes, fumbles and poorly run routes.

The defensive completed their collapse that started last season. Well, that isn't exactly fair, they were a defense built to play with the lead, when it came upon them to finish a game, they were often worn down, or in the wrong position thanks to that hapless scheme. Its not fair that they were expected to play perfectly for much of the season, but they could've played better. I've wasted too much of my time griping about John Marshall's scheme, and I have chosen not to let him haunt me anymore.

There were some silver linings. Even with a bad back Hasslebeck showed exactly how damn good he can be. When given receivers signed off the street the week before, he still put the ball right where it had to be. Often times the receivers failed to make the play, in the Niners game, that led to the Patrick Willis interception return. Hasslebeck missed most of the season, and with a lack of mobility and reps with the bum receivers, he didn't look good.

The team finally learned to run on third and short. T.J. Duckett found himself a role, pounding the ball in short yardage situations. Unfortunately, third and shorts were rare because they were contingent on the Seahawks gaining 9 yards on the first two downs.

Holmgren showed off his wizardry once again, pulling a bunch of guys off the street and somehow coaching them up to compete with the Redskins, Patriots, Dolphins and Cardinals. I can't overstate how injury riddled this offense was. By the end of the season the entire offensive line was backup or guys just signed weeks earlier.

A lot of fans will praise the play of Seneca Wallace. But playing well against teams selling out to stop the run and playing conservative defenses to not give up the big play, isn't the sign of a quality NFL starting quarterback.

The unquestionably best game of the season was Holmgren's last home game, in a snowstorm, against the Jets. The defense played by far their best game of the season. The offense did just enough to pull off an impressive win against the desperate Jets.

I suppose it was poetic justice that Holmgren's last season went like this. For years he had powerful, veteran teams that didn't require the great teacher, to actually teach. This year took him full circle, back to his first coaching gig with an overmatched team, with inexperienced players. That game against the Jets was the last magic act by the offensive wizard, outdueling his greatest pupil. With that victory, the greatest coach in Seahawks history rode off into the sunset.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

NBA offseason thoughts

There have been a couple big moves so far this offseason in the NBA, but they really aren't that big. They are big names, but the impact won't be big, at least not in a positive way.

Ron Artest brings a shutdown defender to the Lakers, already a good defensive squad(when they try). He allows Kobe to slack off even more on defense so that Kobe can save his energy for offense. However, I think this is a lateral move at best. Artest is not a disciplined offensive player and seems like a terrible fit for the triangle offense. He likes to take over at the end of the game, too much in fact, I don't think Kobe will tolerate it. The Lakers ditch the triangle at the end of games and defer to Kobe. You'd think that they would continue to bring in players to compliment Kobe. Instead they bring in a guy who holds the ball too long and embarks on wild forays into the lane. This won't end well.

Bringing in Shaq to defend Dwight Howard continues to send the Cavs on the complete opposite direction that they should be in. A slow, plodding, aging center who can't run the floor and can't defend the pick and roll(something Orlando loves to run) seems like a terrible idea.

The Magic don't need Vince Carter. The team is a finals caliber team when Jameer Nelson is healthy, a penetrating point guard, shooters and an athletic center to grab the rebound doesn't need a guy who takes games off and sole concern is scoring.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Fall of the Dawgs

My mother went to UW, and in my grade school years, nothing was bigger than Husky football. The first season I truly remember was the 1991 season. One of the most dominating teams in the history of college football. The Rose Bowl was a shellacking, the defense was invincable, and the offense could run the ball like no other. I remember missing the Apple Cup on tv because we had to pick my mother up from classes.

I remember we were in the car when the Billy Joe Hobert story broke. I remember I was at my friend Adam's house when their almost three year long win streak was broken by Arizona. His dad sat by the radio at the kitchen table in complete disbelief, pounding the table and swearing.

I remember the Snow Bowl that year where Bledsoe solidified his draft status. I remember the Rose Bowl, and Michigan getting revenge.

Once Lambright took over, the teams were still good, but you can't quantify what those sanctions did(to check out the whole story on the atrocity of the sanctions, read Derek Johnson's book on the Don James years, it makes me sick just to think about it), the loss of scholarships killed the depth for the entire decade of the 90's. Keith gilbertson left for Cal and the offense didn't recover until Scott Linehan came along and the Huskies adopted a power running, vertical passing offense.

The 1997 team had national title level talent, but the team was riddled by injuries, and the depth showed. One must wonder what would've happened had Shehee played and Huard stayed healthy the whole game, or even most of the season.

Lambright never got along with Barbara "title IX" Hedges, and she canned him the first chance she got. Despite leading them through cataclysmic sanctions and a coaching change, Lambright was replaced by a coach Hedges thought was "cute".

The problem many Husky fans have with Neuheisel isn’t actually the lying, it’s not the deceit, or the NCAA violations, or his participation in betting pools. The real issue is that he took the very essence of Husky football, and destroyed it. The powerful running game, the intimidating defenses, the hard hitting linebackers, all gone. Why? A) He didn’t recruit quality linemen, B) He only recruited skill position players(Kind of like Willingham) and C) Running the ball was an afterthought. When you don’t stress running the ball, you aren’t able to stop the run. Thanks to two coaches, Willingham and Neuheisel, the Huskies don’t have linemen and are incredibly soft. The principles that the program was built on for 30 years were stripped away.

Granted, Neuheisel won the 2000 Rose Bowl, but whisperings are that the seniors that led that charge turned a deaf ear to Neuheisel and put the season on their back. For reasons previously explained, when Neuheisel was fired, he left Gilbertson, an average coach, great football guy and mediocre recruiter with very little in the form of recruits. Willingham, took on the same approach as Neuheisel, neglecting line play and going after the flashy players.

Now, the Huskies posted an 0-12 record last season. Some people blame it all on Willingham. Some on Neuheisel. All it really comes down to, is a President that didn't care about football, and an AD that was more concerned with the little sports than the program that brought in all the money for the sports that never turn profits. Now, with programs getting cut all over the place, I'm sure the big wigs at UW point to the economy, and don't stop to think what would happen if they hadn't set out to destroy exactly what made them all the money in the first place.

Thankfully, things have changed, the President is football crazy and the AD knows where his priorities lie. A good coach has come in and things are looking up.

It just makes me want to throw up how things got this way in the first place.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Holmgren Years: A Retrospective: 2007

Alas, the last of the playoff teams. And it was much like the first playoff team of this decade. Dominating at home, awful on the road. The defense was shocking in its inconsistency and despite putting up some gaudy numbers, was an atrocity on the road. They couldn't run the ball either, causing Holmgren to abandon the power running game, spread things out, and pass the ball nearly every down. Hasslebeck was incredible this year, that cannot be emphasized enough. It was a fun year, high scoring, exciting games with a surprising ending.

The first game of the season marked the emergence of Patrick Kerney and a fast, aggressive defense. The problems in the secondary were solved by the new veteran safeties, and Marcus Trufant was emerging as a shutdown cornerback. The Seahawks beat up the Buccanears in a thoroughly enjoyable game.

The next week the Seahawks lost when they couldn't complete a handoff on what looked to be the game winning drive.

The Bengals game was memorable, because it was such a battle. The Bengals hadn't self destructed yet and Houshmanzadeh had a huge game. This was really an outstanding game that I wish I had on tape.

They slaughtered the 49ers the next week. The 2007 meetings against the Niners were all about revenge, outscoring them 47-3 in the two meetings.

And then, things started to change. The Steelers trounced them 21-0 and the winless Saints came into Qwest and kicked their teeth in. The Saints are a tremendously well coached team and this was the first time I realized that the WCO under Holmgren was getting a little dated. Here's what I wrote at the time...

"I'm tired of the WCO. I've never been too big of a fan due to the fact that its more finesse and is based entirely on rhythm and timing. When they are thrown off rhythm they are screwed. Also, its the same signals and same checkdowns that they were doing three and four years ago.

Example 1: Sometime in the second half Sunday the Seahawks had a 3rd and 9. They lined up in their standard three wide set with one receiver to hasslebeck's left side. The Saints showed blitz, just as they had much of the game. Hasslebeck reads this, and checks down using the same hand signal that he did four years ago, which means, as it did then, for quick hook routes on the outside. The Saints know this, Hasslebeck takes three steps, has to pump fake cause no one is open and takes a sack.

Example 2: Fourth quarter, its third or fourth down, the seahawks are in a spread set with Weaver as the lone back. The Saints show a blitz that will hit all the inside gaps. Hasslebeck reads this and checks down to the hand off to the fullback that goes to the right side. The Saints showed this blitz to get to the check down, when the play is snapped they fall back and into the hole and Weaver is stuffed for a short gain. I knew this play was coming, and I have never studied film on the Seahawks. This is getting too predictable. Just like on fourth and short against a 3-4 defense the Seahawks will run a stretch play with the tackle pulling, the tight end blocking down and the fullback clearing the hole. Luckily for them, they don't encounter that situation enough for the opponent to catch on, yet.

Soon enough, they were 4-4 and I was losing hope on the season. The offense was looking old fashioned and the defense, for all of its bells and whistles and big hits, was getting its ass handed to them in road games.

Somewhere in all this Holmgren decided to start chucking the ball all over the place, some easy opponents stepped up on the schedule and the defense got its act together.

Five wins followed, some closer than necessary, some delightful blowouts, including an absolute annihilation of the Cardinals to lock up the division. The Seahawks stomped on the Cardinals throat early, overwhelmed them on defense, and gently informed them that the division was ours for at least one more year.

The Seahawks lost two out of their last three games, a lame duck performance against the Panthers(a game so boring I fell asleep) and a wacky, awful defensive performance against the Falcons. Sandwiched in between was a dominating victory over the Ravens in the first regular season game I had attended since the Rams playoff game in 2004.

Nonetheless, there was another playoff birth in store, and the inspired, red hot, physical Redskins sauntered in. This game shouldn't have been close, the Seahawks left a lot of points out there and the Redskins held a one point lead into the fourth quarter. Finally Hasslebeck pulled his head out of his ass, and Trufant sealed the deal with a dramatic, frenzy inducing interception return that holds its place on the list of great Seahawks moments.

Next up were the Packers, who I didn't consider legit, unlike the Bears the previous year. I hadn't seen the Packers play very much but counted on the Seahawks playoff experience to beat the new kids in green and their weathered qb.

Sure enough, it was 14-0 Seahawks in a snowstorm before anyone knew what happened.

Thats when all my complaints about the Seahawks came to fruition. I thought Green Bay might panic, I thought this would cause the Packers to force things offensively and continue to play out of place defensively. Instead they showed toughness I didn't know they had.

The Packers had a great game plan, their stretch running plays out of tight sets kept Kerney and the aggressive Seahawks defense from getting upfield. They stuck a tackle and a tight end on Kerney. They took advantage of the insane size advantage Greg Jennings had on Kelly Jennings. They took advantage of the fact that the Seahawks receivers, for all of their speed and quickness, couldn't handle physical coverage. Hasslebeck couldn't find open receivers, and when he did(Marcus Pollard) they promptly dropped the ball.
This was a very good Packers team. They were more balanced, more hungry and more physical than the Seahawks. I watched Patrick Kerney get erased, I watched Rocky Bernard quit, and I watched Kelly Jennings prove exactly why everyone thought he was a waste of a first round pick in the first place. Amist a furious snowstorm in Green Bay, the last contender of the Holmgren Era was buried.