Mike Holmgren's Last Stand

Matt WinthropContributor IMarch 7, 2008

Does Mike Holmgren have a chance to go out on top with next year’s Seahawks? Can the team who was, in the minds of Hawks fans, robbed of a championship just 3 years ago get back to the big game and win?

The short answer is yes, they can, but only if they fix three glaring shortcomings.

First and foremost, the offensive line has got to improve dramatically. The signing of Mike Wahle to play left guard next to the all-world left tackle Walter Jones will help, but they still need the young trio of Sean Locklear, Rob Sims, and Chris Spencer to start fulfilling their potential (and then some). Coach Holmgren and team President Tim Ruskell have re-signed Locklear and are content to let Sims and Spencer round out the line, so they are obviously convinced that they can do the job. That being said, drafting a solid rookie to push those guys has got to be high on the priority list. 

Of course, there’s also the other part of the running game, the part that gets most of the attention (and the blame of course)—the running backs themselves. T. J. Duckett will help, especially on those short yardage situations that so vexed the team last year. And the Hawks will probably take a shot at one of the many talented backs in the draft this year. Those are good starts, but there are still some key questions that need to be answered this off-season.

Is Shaun Alexander done? Was he as bad as he looked last year or was it more the injuries combined with the fact that his finesse running-style looks especially bad when there are no holes to run through? My guess is the latter—if the holes start reappearing, so will the big games from Alexander. After all, it’s not as if any of the Seahawks found any room to run last year. Mo Morris, no slouch by any means, also largely struggled. He was able to average a slightly higher clip per rush than Alexander because he hits holes much quicker, but even he had problems most of the time due to lack of push from the big boys up front. One definite plus is Leonard Weaver—he’ll get the ball more next year, no doubt, as he continues to develop into a fine fullback.

Lastly, there’s nothing the passing game needs more (besides an improved running game) than a big-target, reliable tight end. Marcus Pollard did next to nothing last year in his bid to replace the talented but troubled Jerramy Stevens. The receiving corps is solid and deep, but just imagine how helpful it would be to Matt Hasselbeck to have a big guy with soft hands that can find the open space on the field. Signing Jeb Putzier is probably not going to solve this problem. Fortunately, tight end is a deep position in the draft and it is likely Holmgren is planning on spending a first, second, or third round pick to address this issue. Mark my words—if USC’s Fred Davis is still available when the Hawks pick at No. 25, you can bet he’ll be coming north to Seattle. Other than Davis, there are a number of other guys worth a look. Heck, if the Giants can find a guy named Boss from Western Oregon University, the Hawks can find a guy in the later rounds that could end up being a star.

Well, that’s about it—those are the holes standing in the way of the Hawks being an elite team next year. While three areas of concern may not sound like much on paper, fans know they are BIG areas of concern.

The good news is that these holes are all on the offense and improvement in any one of the areas will automatically benefit the other two. Plus, Hasselbeck is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and he is in the prime of his career. The further good news is that the defense is, for all intents and purposes, set. Don’t mess with the D—they are a shut-down unit that promises to be even better next year.

Long story short—if Seattle could just run the ball effectively and get solid production from the tight end (i.e. diversify the offense), just think how good Hasselbeck and the offense could be. Sure, they’ve got some big challenges, but they are not insurmountable. After all, it’s never smart to count out a Mike Holmgren team, especially when one considers the added motivation, for both him and his players, that comes from knowing that this is his swan-song. That could just be the factor to push them over the top.

I, for one, can’t wait to see the big guy give it one last try… Is it September yet?