Colin Cowherd, host of the The Herd on ESPN Radio, accused former Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren of "mailing it in" during the Seahawks abysmal 2008 campaign.
Here is what Cowherd had to say:
"A source told me late, like week thirteen or week fourteen in the NFL season...that Mike Holmgren had essentially mailed it in. [Holmgren had] Very little energy, looking forward to retirement, was putting in nine-to-five hours...
"[Holmgren] was on his way out before Jim Mora took the job over, and it was just sort of an unenergenized last year in Seattle. Not that he mailed it in by your standards or my standards, but by NFL standards, seventeen hours a day, Holmgren wasn't there emotionally."
Cowherd continued on his show to attribute part of the Seahawks 4-12 season to Holmgren's lack of work ethic, which in my opinion, is quite misguided.
I have two main points of contention with Cowherd's statements. First, I don't believe that you can attribute the Seahawks 2008 shortcomings solely to Mike Holmgren. Second, even if Holmgren did "mail it in" at the end of last year, the repercussions were not as terrifying as Cowherd would have you believe.
How Much Was Mike Holmgren to Blame for the Seattle Seahawks 4-12 Record in 2008?
Not as much as most NFL fans think.
The bottom line is that the Seattle Seahawks suffered more injuries in their 2008 campaign than most teams endure in multiple years.
Here are some quick stats to show you how badly injuries decimated the Seattle Seahawks offense in 2008
- All five of the Seattle Seahawks starting offensive linemen finished the 2008 season the Injured Reserve
- Pro Bowl QB Matt Hasselbeck struggled with back injuries all year, playing in only seven games and throwing twice as many interceptions as touchdowns
- Not one position on the Seahawks offense featured the same starter all 16 weeks. In fact, only three offensive players started 12 or more weeks…
- Entering the Seattle Seahawks' bye week in week four, the Seahawks were without the following wide receivers: Deion Branch, Bobby Engram, Nate Burleson, Ben Obamanu, Logan Payne, and Seneca Wallace. Six. Yes, six! (most teams only carry six wide receivers on their active roster)
- Due to these injuries at wide receiver, the Seahawks signed/acquired/promoted/hired off the street/forced on to the field at gunpoint the following high-school all star team of receivers: Billy McMullen, Koren Robinson, Keary Colbert (you’re seeing where this is going)
Take away a team’s Pro Bowl Quarterback and they’re hurt, but they can continue.
Strip away a team’s offensive line and they are probably out of contention (most people still somehow undervalue the importance of the offensive line).
Rob a spread-offense of any potential target who played professional football prior to 2008 and you may as well start digging a grave.
Do all three of these in the same season and guess what you get? A 4-12 record.
I watched most of the Seahawks games in 2008, and to tell the truth, they were simply overmatched on the offensive side of the ball to do anything.
When your offense isn’t productive, it doesn’t spend time on the field. When your offense doesn’t spend time on the field, your defense doesn’t get a break. When your defense doesn't get a break, it becomes overworked and underperforms.
When your offense is habitually unproductive and your defense is regularly overworked, what do you get? A 4-12 record.
While coaching certainly affects winning and losing, it can only do so much with a group of CFL has-beens.
For excellent analysis of the Seattle offense time-management problems last year see the Rob Staton article here.
Even if Mike Holmgren did “Mail It In”… So What?
Note: I am neither acknowledging Cowherd's statements as true nor endorsing Holmgren's behavior if Cowherd's statements were in fact true.
Let's assume that Cowherd is right. Let's assume that Holmgren was only working nine-to-five in the final weeks of the 2008 season and that he was looking forward to retirement. Here is question I pose to Colin Cowherd: So what?
So what, Colin Cowherd? So what if, as you say, Mike Holmgren started to "mail it in" around week 13 or 14 last year?
Let’s take a look at the Seattle Seahawks at that time.
Entering week 13, the Seattle Seahawks were 2-9. Matt Hasselbeck returned from a back injury in week 11 only to lead the Seahawks to two straight losses, all while being forced to throw the ball to guys like Courtney Taylor and Koren Robinson.
Morale was low, blood pressures were high, and everyone was their own Jim Mora when the playoffs were mentioned.
Looking up at a 7-4 Arizona Cardinals team, who the Seahawks lost to only in week 10, the Seahawks had accepted the fact that, for the first time in a long time, they would not go to the playoffs.
So let’s say you’re right, Colin Cowherd. Let’s say Mike Holmgren looks at his injury decimated, non-driven, offensively challenged team and decides to slack off at the end of the year.
You know what I say to that? I wish it had happened!
Instead of fading into oblivion at the end of last season, as Colin Cowherd believes Mike Holmgren would have accepted, the Seattle Seahawks went 2-1 in their final three games.
The ‘Hawks beat a miserable Rams team in week 15, crippled the Fighting Brett Favres' playoff chances in week 16, and (for some reason) in the course of these two victories knocked themselves out of contention in the fight for the No. 2 draft pick (let’s be honest—Detroit had No. 1 locked).
Had it been as you say, Colin, and Mike Holmgren simply mailed it in, I would have gladly accepted two more losses at the end of last year, a 2-14 record, and jumping up another notch in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Instead, the Seahawks played admirably at the end of 2008, somehow winning two games with a mix-and-match offense, and letting Mike Holmgren leave Seattle with as much dignity as anyone could in his situation.
A victory over the New York Jets in Mike Holmgren’s final game at Qwest Field was a fitting end to his time in Seattle.
I like the conspiracy theories, Colin, but the Seahawks struggles in 2008 were far deeper than a lack of effort by the coaching staff.
I don’t care if Mike Holmgren mailed it in, e-mailed it, sent it FedEx, or hand-delivered it, I’m just glad that we had him for the Seahawks most successful run in franchise history.