Now that the Seattle phase of Mike Holmgren’s football career has drawn to a conclusion, I say we do both the former Seahawks coach and his forever loyal fans a favor.
Leave the man alone. Let him ride off into the sunset.
Well, OK, let him consult a National Weather Service map in an attempt to identify a possible location for a sunset – Florida, perhaps? – and then trust that Mike and Kathy’s excellent adventure will deliver them to their destination.
In the meantime, a moratorium should be called on peppering Holmgren with questions that, no matter how charming and well-intentioned his response, produce the same answers.
Why? (It’s time.)
What now? (Take it easy.)
What then? (He’ll see.)
Of course, when Holmgren finally settles into temporary retirement, and grows restless, and begins taking phone calls from NFL teams seeking his wisdom and guidance, Seattle still will be asking: Did the most successful coach in Seahawks history really have to go once he determined he had second thoughts about going?
Permit me to answer that one with a single word worthy of an exclamation point:
Enough with the dissections and analysis and the futile probing into yesterday’s news. Holmgren is turning the page, and once we’re through with the most heart-wrenching goodbye since Ingrid Bergman left Humphrey Bogart at the Casablanca airport, everybody else should turn the page, too.
Today will mark Holmgren’s final Seahawks press conference, which was to follow his final team meeting Monday, which followed his final game Sunday, which followed his final practice last week, which followed his final home game Dec. 21, which followed his final practice before his final home game, all of which followed – digging way back into the archives here – his final season opener, which followed his final training camp.
The interminable pace of the parting hasn’t been helped by the Seahawks themselves, who were expected to send their beloved coach off with a sixth consecutive trip to the playoffs.
Instead, they went 4-12, worth third place in a substandard division.
Holmgren leaves with a regular-season record of 86-74 and five division titles, one of which, in 2005, vaulted the Seahawks into their first Super Bowl. He gave the Seahawks his acumen and insight for 10 years. In return, owner Paul Allen gave him $52 million.
It was a fair trade that fans will remember as a bargain, but Holmgren didn’t choose to work in Seattle because he was on a mission to improve the quality of anybody’s life. His football teams generally won, he made a fortune, and now he’s contemplating doing something else, or doing nothing at all.
I wish him well, but when his departure finds us spending more time thinking about his family than our own, I suspect we’ve all gone over the top.
“I’ve been in the league for 26 years now, and I’ve never seen a head coach have his ending like this. This long and this emotional,” Holmgren’s close friend, offensive coordinator Gil Haskell, told the Seattle Times on Sunday. “Most guys have great careers and all of a sudden they’re out and the only time you think if them is on Christmas Day.”
There’s no harm in celebrating Holmgren’s ability to combine his talents as teacher and counselor with an essential decency – a warmth – that allowed the public to see him as a friend. Except when the kinship is inflated to a level that’s perceived as mystical, it sure makes things tough on his successor.
Jim Mora hasn’t lost a game yet for the Seahawks, but he’s already guilty of Original Sin: He isn’t Mike Holmgren. Unless the team returns to the Super Bowl under his watch, the distance between Mora and that giant star he’s challenged to follow will be measured in Lite Years.
The transition is reminiscent of the Mariners’ predicament in 2003, when Arizona bench coach Bob Melvin was hired to replace Lou Piniella.
Inheriting a roster whose players were mostly past their prime, Melvin won 93 games his first season, and was seen as a disappointment.
When the Mariners fell to 63-99 his second season, he was seen as a disaster – the anti-Lou – an impostor who didn’t command a room like Piniella, or curse like Piniella, or intimidate young pitchers like Piniella.
Since failing to fill the giant footsteps left by Piniella, the NL’s 2007 manager of the year has shown himself to be more than capable with the Diamondbacks. He might’ve been the right man for the job in Seattle, except the job he took demanded he take over Piniella’s office at Safeco Field.
Unlike Melvin, a managerial rookie in 2003, Mora has a better grasp of what awaits him during his second stint as an NFL head coach. In his first, he took Atlanta to the NFC Championship Game before the Falcons fell apart amid the turmoil surrounding quarterback Michael Vick and his dogfighting activities.
In deference to Holmgren, and perhaps in accordance with front-office orders, Mora was the league’s most anonymous assistant coach this season. His time is almost at hand. The sooner he’s introduced with the title awarded in absentia to him last winter, the better.
And that long shadow left by Holmgren? The sense that any Seahawks coach worthy of the Steve Largent Award can never be replaced, so why even try?
Seahawks fans need to be reminded of their local roots.
Seattle is where The Wave was invented.