As the Tim Ruskell era came to an end in Seattle, two things happened: Mike Holmgren’s name began to make frequent and logical appearances in headlines, and the Seahawks front office essentially admitted that the process by which it analyzes personnel was flawed.
Holmgren, unarguably the greatest coach in team history (apologies to Chuck Knox), finds himself with a perhaps unexpected slate of options after spending a year away from football. It was originally expected that Holmgren’s coaching days were over, but while he’s hinted at the potential to coach elsewhere, it’s likely that he’ll want near complete control of personnel, whether he’s the coach of the team he’s fielding or not.
The notion has been met with seemingly unanimous support from the Seattle community, which feels starved of success after being spoiled by the Seahawks that Holmgren constructed, at least in part.
But perhaps a return isn’t best for this franchise.
Holmgren controlled personnel for his first five years as head coach, with mixed results. Apart from his first draft, from which the best player selected was Charlie Rogers, a kick returner, among disappointments like Lamar King and Brock Huard, Holmgren didn’t draft terribly.
While Shaun Alexander, Steve Hutchinson, and Darrell Jackson make up a respectable enough class over five years, draftees like Koren Robinson and Jerammy Stevens showed flashes of ability on occasion, and Chris McIntosh is perhaps the most poorly represented of all, as he’d become a pretty good offensive lineman by the time a neck injury ended his career.
However, Holmgren the general manager had the luxury of a future hall-of-famer as his coach. Holmgren himself deserves a lot of credit for developing young players, especially those who may not have had elite physical ability. He probably wouldn’t have that luxury these days.
Part of Holmgren’s identity as a coach is that he’s somewhat unwilling to adapt to personnel, or league trends. Apart from Andy Reid, Holmgren may be the most devout West Coast Offense traditionalist, something that has only had moderate success in recent years.
It seems inevitable that with a new general manager, present coach Jim Mora will be out the door without a quick turnaround. He wasn’t a Holmgren guy, and most new general manager regimes start by hiring new coaches.
It has been reported that if Holmgren were hired, John Gruden would eventually become the team’s coach. Gruden has a Super Bowl victory on his resume, and had pretty serious success in Oakland before leaving the team, only to beat them in the Super Bowl the following year. However, Gruden has done a very poor job of developing talent.
Gruden had most of his success with veteran quarterbacks. Rich Gannon and Brad Johnson were hardly stars in the league, but each had several years of experience in some form of West Coast Offense before succeeding under Gruden.
By contrast, when he had a young quarterback to develop, Chris Simms, he continually brought in veterans to play ahead of Simms, rather than letting Simms take his lumps as a starter. Simms eventually struggled considerably before rupturing his spleen.
Actually, Gruden’s players, almost across the board, have failed to develop. He won his Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s players, and played against a team who he’d failed to coach to elite success.
The future coach of this team, even if it remains as Jim Mora is maybe more predicated on the guy coaching than the guy making decisions on players, and Holmgren’s tree of coaches may be dried up of talent.
With that, until the decision is made, I’ll be profiling “Holmgren Alternatives” weekly.