’08 Preview: Seattle sees another division title
So, what kind of retirement gift do you get for the coach who seemingly has everything?
Mike Holmgren is entering his 10th – and final – season as coach of the Seattle Seahawks. His tenure has produced unprecedented success for a franchise that had captured only one division title, won three playoff games and posted winning records just eight times in its first 23 seasons.
Under Holmgren, it has been five division titles, four postseason victories, seven winning records and the Seahawks’ only appearance in the Super Bowl.
2008 TEAM PREVIEWS
Secondary coach Jim Mora Jr. has already been named Holmgren’s successor for the 2009 season. But the focus this season – from club president Tim Ruskell, to defensive coordinator John Marshall, to middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, to Mora – remains on what the players and other coaches can do to send Holmgren on his way in style.
But the Seahawks are a team in transition, and not just because this will be Holmgren’s swan song. The defense has become the strength of this team, and most of the question marks revolve around an offense that has fallen on less-productive times since its near-precision performance in the Seahawks’ run to the Super Bowl in 2005.
Seattle hasn’t just won four consecutive NFC West titles, it has dominated the division. None of the other three teams has even been able to post a winning record during this stretch. A repeat performance, at the very least, would be a fitting farewell for Holmgren.
Holmgren’s hybrid is the closest thing left in the league to the old West Coast offense that served the San Francisco 49ers so well under Bill Walsh and helped Holmgren return the Green Bay Packers to prominence before coming to Seattle.
Holmgren and offensive coordinator Gil Haskell still prefer a 60-40 pass/run ratio, but they also expect the Seahawks to run the ball with more authority and consistency because of the offseason changes that have been made.
The Seahawks use speed, quickness and pursuit to offset the fact that they are an undersized defense, and defensive coordinator Marshall amplifies these attributes with an aggressive scheme.
When playing at home – on the fast surface at Qwest Field and in front of the noise machine that is their “12th Man” – the Seahawks are capable of throttling opponents. But when forced to play on the road, especially in adverse conditions, their speed and quickness can be negated.
Outside linebacker Leroy Hill: The Seahawks’ other linebacker has been a starter since midway through his rookie season, but has also been playing in the Pro Bowl shadows of Julian Peterson and Tatupu.
The coaches need to find ways to better utilize Hill’s ability to blitz, which begins with keeping him on the field in the nickel and dime defenses.
The Seahawks have captured four consecutive NFC West titles and, at last check, the road to the division championship still runs through Qwest Field. With that comes an automatic playoff berth and a likely home game in the first round.
The Seahawks have used that formula to advance to the second round the past two seasons. While the offense might need some time to develop because of the new faces at key positions, the defense will be improved from last year. That should be enough for the Seahawks to win another NFC West title.
SN prediction: 11-5, first in NFC West.
Clare Farnsworth covers the Seahawks for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Sporting News.