Yeah, Mike Holmgren is coming back for one last hurrah. But his final attempt to win a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks is going to have to be made with an almost entirely new offensive coaching staff.
While Holmgren was deciding whether to return for the final year of his contract, his coaches were busy checking out their own opportunities. And then once he decided to come back, he and president Tim Ruskell made some moves of their own.
The result: Four guys gone, one reassigned.
Before Holmgren had even decided whether to return, he had lost two coaches. Nolan Cromwell, Holmgren's longtime receivers coach, went to Texas A&M to be offensive coordinator, and Gary Reynolds, Holmgren's quality control guy, went with Cromwell. Both assistants had to know that even if Holmgren came back, change is in the air in Seattle, where Jim Mora is expected to be named Holmgren's successor at this time next year and no one is assured of returning.
Jim Zorn found that out Friday when he gave the Seahawks a chance to keep him. After seven years as the team's quarterbacks coach, having turned Matt Hasselbeck into one of the NFL's top QBs, Zorn reportedly just wanted his contract to be extended beyond 2008. But for some reason, Ruskell refused to do it, and Zorn was forced to take the security of becoming the offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins.
Some had speculated that Zorn would be in line to take over as the Seahawks' offensive coordinator, replacing Gil Haskell when Mora becomes coach in 2009. But Ruskell wasn't even willing to retain Zorn as the QB coach. It is becoming obvious that Ruskell wants to allow Mora to put his own stamp on the coaching staff in 2009.
The Seahawks already have begun to make moves designed to fix a running game that has regressed over the past two seasons. Just two days after Holmgren announced his return, the Seahawks fired line coach Bill Laveroni, reassigned assistant line coach Keith Gilbertson to receivers coach—a move that surely won't last beyond 2008—and hired Mike Solari to fix the line.
Solari, a 19-year NFL coaching veteran, spent 11 seasons as line coach of the Chiefs, making Kansas City one of the league's most consistent running teams and helping turn Brian Waters into a Pro Bowl guard.
Hiring Solari was a move for the present and future, but the Seahawks also need a new quarterbacks coach for 2008. Moreover, Ruskell and Mora probably will want a new offensive coordinator in 2009. They would be stupid to drastically alter the offense because Hasselbeck knows it so well. And odds are they won't do anything that dumb because Mora—a defensive coach by trade—has always been affiliated with the West Coast offense.
One guy Ruskell and Mora could be looking at is Greg Knapp. When Mora left the San Francisco 49ers to coach the Atlanta Falcons, Mora took Knapp with him to be his offensive coordinator. Knapp, who spent nine years in the 49ers' offense, is currently the OC of the Oakland Raiders; but, considering the turmoil surrounding that team, it wouldn't be surprising to see Knapp become available. Ruskell could bring him in as Seattle's QB coach in 2008 and make him the OC in 2009.
Whether it's Knapp or someone else, odds are Haskell will be out as Ruskell and Mora seek to be more aggressive on offense.
It's hard to say, though, what might happen on defense. That unit was the strength of the 2007 Seahawks, thanks in part to Mora's presence as secondary coach, and appears to be an ascending unit with great linebackers and an excellent secondary (assuming cornerback Marcus Trufant is re-signed).
Mora surely will have his hands on the defense, and he might not make many changes. Larry Marmie is already in place to fill Mora's role as secondary coach, and Mora might be OK with keeping defensive coordinator John Marshall and line coach Dwaine Board. Marshall was the 49ers' DC in 1997 and 1998, when Mora was San Francisco's secondary coach. Mora then replaced Marshall as DC in 1999. Board and Mora were on the same staff in San Francisco for six years (1997-2002).
But those defensive decisions are for 2009. For now, the defense remains intact—with the exception of the departure of consultant Ray Rhodes. But the offense already has undergone a major overhaul as Holmgren makes a final attempt to win the Super Bowl.