- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2001

Mike Holmgren is a great example of being careful what you ask for because you might get it. The NFL's most successful coach during his seven seasons in Green Bay, Holmgren was itchy for the bigger challenge of running an organization. With Ron Wolf ensconced as the Packers' general manager, Holmgren had to look elsewhere.
So in January 1999, Holmgren took over as coach/GM of the Seattle Seahawks, who hadn't had a winning season since 1990. Holmgren remedied that right away, going 9-7 and winning the AFC West. But the Seahawks backed into the division title, losing five of their final six games, and were immediately bounced from the playoffs by visiting Miami.
That slide continued into last season as Seattle went 6-10, giving Holmgren his first losing record and prompting him to let quarterback Jon Kitna go and trade with Green Bay for the unproven Matt Hasselbeck. Previously Brett Favre's caddy, Hasselbeck is 1-3 as a starter he missed the victories over Jacksonville and Denver with a groin pull heading into Sunday's game at Washington.
Last week's loss to Miami left Holmgren 10-19 in his last 29 games. Those 19 losses are as many as Holmgren suffered during his final four seasons in Green Bay while winning 55 games, two NFC titles and a Super Bowl.
"Green Bay is as good a job as there is, but ever since I was a little bugger, I have pushed myself, and the next logical step was to run an organization," Holmgren said. "It's challenging. It's invigorating. You have the final say. It eliminates a lot of finger pointing. If I had known that Ron was going to leave (Wolf retired after last season, leaving the job to coach Mike Sherman, Holmgren's former assistant), it would have been a tougher decision. But I can't look back. I love it here. Seattle is a wonderful city. We'll have a brand-new stadium next year. Our team is turning around. Our [salary] cap is in order. We're one year behind the timetable in Green Bay."
Except that the Packers followed their 9-7 season in Holmgren's debut season of 1992 by winning playoff games in 1993 and 1994. At 3-3 in the third year of Holmgren's program, Seattle trails defending division champion Oakland by two games and surprising San Diego by a game and a half in the AFC West. Hasselbeck ranks 29th among the NFL's 31 starting quarterbacks with a 63.4 rating. The Seahawks have the 26th-ranked offense and are 22nd in scoring. During the 27-3 loss in the home opener to Philadelphia, the fans rode Hasselbeck so hard that Holmgren lashed out at them with obscenities afterwards.
"I got cranked up," Holmgren said. "[The fans] can say all they want about me. I thought it was unfair to get on one of our young players that early."
The fans expected that a quarterback hand-picked by Holmgren would quickly remind them of the passers he had worked with as San Francisco's offensive coordinator (Joe Montana and Steve Young) and in
Green Bay (Favre). Those quarterbacks have won six Super Bowls and are the top three passers in the all-time ratings.
"Some people might say it's pressure, but I look at it as a responsibility," said the 26-year-old Hasselbeck, who had thrown 29 NFL passes before this season. "A lot is riding on the fact that I can play, and I'm not going to let those guys down."
But after backup Trent Dilfer played well while Hasselbeck was hurt, Holmgren put his own kind of pressure on the young quarterback.
"I put it on Matt last week [that] unless he played better, I was going to make the change, and he responded beautifully [16-for-28, 230 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions]," Holmgren said. "Matt has the physical tools to be very successful. His teammates respond to him. He's very competitive. He studies properly. He wants it badly."
Halfback Shaun Alexander, last year's top pick, has responded well to the starting role thrust upon him when veteran Ricky Watters was hurt, averaging 106 yards a game. And the four veterans tackles John Randle and Chad Eaton, linebacker Levon Kirkland and safety Marcus Robertson imported to improve a run defense that was the NFL's worst last year have been pivotal in raising Seattle to fifth in that category.
The problem is that by the time the young offense matures six of the 11 starters are in their first or second years as regulars the defense, which has six starters in their 30s, might be over the hill. But Holmgren said that's a worry for another day.


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