Opening remarks by Tod Leiweke: “My name is Tod Leiweke and I’m the CEO of the Seattle Seahawks. Today is a proud day for this organization. But before we get to today, we do have to look back. I’m the first guy to acknowledge that 2008 was a very long and difficult year. That wasn’t just the economy, that was a 4-12 record, and I’m now prepared to officially shut the book on 2008 and never to talk about it again.
“For our organization, 2009 brings a lot of change, but more importantly, a lot of optimism about the future, and we think for good reason. I always start at the very top: Paul Allen, who is a terrific owner, and I submit, the best owner in all of the NFL.
“Our great fans: we’ve now sold out 52 consecutive games at Qwest Field and I hereby proclaim that we will sell out every game we play next year. We think we have the best fans in the NFL. We not only believe that, we hear that from other teams who come and play at our stadium.
“Part of our optimism is our great facilities. That stadium is terrific. It’s viewed by many around the league as the best. The other facility is this one [VMAC]. We think this is absolutely the best training facility in all of the NFL and maybe in all of sports.
“Another reason for optimism is our capable leadership, and Tim [Ruskell] and his team are focused. There’s been a lot of activity. You’ll hear about that, but Tim and his team get to strategize and select a top-5 pick.
“But at the core of our optimism and the great feelings that reside in this building is the guy to my right, and that’s Jimmy Mora. There’s lots that’ll be said about him, but the heart of it for me is that this is a guy who is proud to wear the Seahawks logo on his shirt. He is a guy from this part of the world. We believe we’re going to get it right, we’re going to regain our winning ways. The excitement in this building is real. You’re going to feel it every game next year. Welcome. I’ll let Tim say a few words now.”
Opening remarks by Tim Ruskell: “Thank you, Tod.
“Today, we pass the torch from Mike Holmgren to Jim Mora with high expectations and the belief that Jim’s going to carry on the legacy that Mike established in his last ten years as our head coach. We believe Jim Mora’s the perfect fit to do just that, to do that job.
“He’s one of us,’ to quote a local TV commercial. Jim grew up here. He played high school football here at Interlake, and with the University of Washington, the Huskies. He met his lovely wife Shannon there, and they are ingrained in this community. They love this community. They call this home. We’re happy about that, and we think that’s important.
“Jim’s got a long string of success in the National Football League, both as a position coach and as a coordinator, and then as a head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, where our paths first crossed, and where we had that wonderful season in 2004 when we ended up in the NFC Championship game.
“With Jim Mora, we’re getting a smart, passionate, committed coach to winning and building a successful franchise, and maintaining that over a long period of time. He and I have a great relationship. We’re going to use that relationship to get everybody in this building and this community focused on the task at hand, and that is to bring home an NFL Championship to Seattle and the Northwest. Nothing’s going to stop us from doing that. We will commit to that every day.
“Everybody knows Jim’s past history, in terms of, his dad was a coach here, so the connection to the community and his belief in the 12th Man and what that means—we just think that’s an extra added bonus. So, without delay, I would like to introduce the next head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, Jim Mora.”
Opening remarks by Coach Mora: “Thank you, Tim. Thank you all for coming today. I just want to tell you how excited, how honored, and how incredibly humbled I am to be the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. I want to thank Mr. Paul Allen, Tod Leiweke, and Tim Ruskell, for having the confidence and faith in me to give me this job. I want to acknowledge the most important person in my life: my wife Shannon, who’s sitting back there. This is a tough business. It takes a special lady to endure the ups and downs and the moods and the highs and lows that we encounter as a head football coach in this business, and I have the best that you could ever imagine. I wouldn’t be sitting here without her.
“Before I move any further or take any questions, I want to say something about the man that I’m following. Mike Holmgren, as we all know, is a great coach. He’s a legendary coach. He’s a coach that, someday, will be enshrined in Canton, in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But as great a coach as he is, he’s an even better person. You all know that because you’ve all been exposed to him. Over the past two years, I have had other opportunities to become a head football coach. But what’s important to me is not being a head football coach, but being a successful head football coach.
“The past two years have been an incredible opportunity for me personally to learn from one of the all-time greats: to sit in meetings with him and listen to how he talks to his staff, to sit in team meetings with him and listen to him address the team, to watch him in front of the media, to watch his grace as he dealt with the fans, and maybe most importantly, this year, to watch the incredible way he handled the rare adversity that he had in his career. So, I believe that the many lessons that I learned in the last few years working with Mike Holmgren, coupled with my experience in the league, the other people I’ve been around and my three years as a head coach, will only make me a better head coach going forward. I’m very excited about that opportunity.”
On whether he feels additional pressure knowing he’s following such a legendary coach: “No, because as you said, there’s always pressure in this business. Those are incredibly big shoes to fill, but I’m going to be me. I have to be me. I think people that fail in this business when they follow someone that has been legendary, [who] is great, sometimes do it because they try to be that person. While I’ve learned great lessons from Mike that I’ll apply as I move forward, I think the important thing is that I’m myself, and I’m true to my core values, my beliefs, my passion, and that’s what I intend to do.”
On what it’s been like this past year waiting in the wings: “Well, I’ve tried to remain focused on the task at hand. That’s a lesson that my dad taught me early in my career. He said, ‘Jim, what you need to do is you need to do the best job that you can at the job that you are doing.’ That doesn’t mean you’re not preparing for the next step, because I had ambitions, I’ve always had ambitions to be a head football coach. But I think that you’re cheating the organization, you’re cheating your fellow coaches, you’re cheating the players that you’re coaching, and you’re ultimately cheating the fans that are so passionate about your team, if you don’t focus on the task at hand. So what I’ve tried to do, to the best of my ability, is only focus on being an assistant coach to Mike Holmgren, at the same time, trying to absorb all the great lessons that I could.”
On the Seahawks personnel, and the quarterback position in particular: “It’s been a tremendous advantage to me to have been here the last two years to evaluate our personnel. As I’ve been able to go through the last couple weeks as we’ve been putting together a staff, it’s afforded me the ability to see if I can match a personality of a coach with the personalities of the players I know are in a particular room. Had I not been here the past two years, I wouldn’t have that knowledge of our players. That’s very important as we move forward, because I don’t think it’s important or necessary to come in and wipe the slate clean, get all new coaches, come in and say, ‘This guy can’t play, that guy can’t play,’—instant evaluation. So the last two years have afforded me the chance to sit and watch these guys and make sure that we are putting the right coaches with the right players to draw the best out of our players that we can draw out of them to become the best team that we can be.
“Certainly, Matt Hasselbeck is the point man. He’s our point guard, he’s the trigger man. He’s our quarterback. I’m very excited about that. Matt is a special player, he’s a special man, and he gives us a ton of flexibility. The most important thing for us right now is that Matt get and stay healthy. He’s working towards that goal. Matt is extremely excited. He’s expressed to me that he’s extremely excited about the direction that we’re going in offensively. I think we’re going to give Matt a chance to really finish out the twilight years of his career—whether those be five or another ten—with great style, great class, and great success.”
On how he envisions the direction of the offense: “It’s important that we don’t make drastic changes. That was one of the reasons that we hired Greg Knapp as our offensive coordinator. This is an offense that has had success. It has played well. There’s not necessarily going to be a dramatic change in what we do offensively, so much as there’ll be a change in emphasis. I believe that you have to have balance. I believe that you have to be able to run the football. What we’ll do offensively is, we will analyze our players, critique our players, evaluate our players, and we’ll see what they do best, and where maybe they aren’t as good as they could be. We’ll try to take our playmakers and put them in position to make plays. We won’t be constrained by titles of the offense that fans, media and outside influences put on us. We’re going to develop a scheme that fits our players and move forward in that way.”
On how different the offense will be under the direction of Coach Knapp: “Greg Knapp has had tremendous success running the football. I know you’re aware that in his eight years as an offensive coordinator, he’s been involved with running games that have finished in the top ten every year. Actually, this year, they finished tenth, which was the lowest he’s ever ranked. He’s usually in the top six. So, we certainly will be a team that runs the football. What we have here is we have a team that has a tremendous quarterback, a smart quarterback, an experienced quarterback, a quarterback that knows this system, a quarterback that can make adjustments on the fly, a quarterback that you feel comfortable putting the game in his hands on Sunday and letting him make the decisions as you go, to have success in the game. We’ll couple those two things. We’ll couple a tremendous run game with a smart, experienced, talented quarterback, and come up with the best packages we can come up with.”
On how he will approach the defense: “Defensively, what’s always important is the fundamentals. We’re going to develop a scheme that is fundamentally sound based on technique and effort. We’re going to be a defense that plays with ‘relentless effort.’ That’s a word you’re going to hear me say a lot: relentless effort. We’re going to be fundamentally sound. We’re going to match our scheme to our players and be extremely demanding of them. We’re going to have a defense that, if somebody flew a chopper in here today and said, ‘Hey, load up the defense! Get on board. Here’s a football,’ and we airlifted into any country in the world and they plopped us down, and they brought any opponent—high school, college, Arena League, World Football League, the old USFL, a collection of you guys, it wouldn’t matter—and dropped them in on the other side and said, ‘Go play football,’ we’d be able to play football because of the fundamentals that are ingrained in our players.
“At the same time, I believe in attacking and being aggressive, and playing with a bit of a stinger. That’s what we’re going to do. Attacking doesn’t always mean blitzing. It doesn’t always mean sending extra guys. It’s a style, it’s an attitude, it’s an emphasis, it’s a passion. And it is also, at times, bringing extra people to affect the quarterback. What’s incredibly important on defense is that you can rush the passer with four people and affect the pass with four people so you can play some zones, or you can double the Larry Fitzgeralds of the world that are causing so [many] problems for people in the league right now. So we got to be able to rush with four, but at the same time, you got to be able to affect the passer with pressures. I love to sit in a room with other coaches, analyze a protection scheme, and figure out ways that we can affect it, and we can affect the quarterback, and we can attack it, and we can penetrate, and we can get up the field. Our defense is going to play on their toes. They’re going to play in your face. They’re going to play with energy. They’re going to play with passion. They’re going to play with relentless effort. They’re going to be situationally-smart. They’re going to make you proud. They’re going to make our fans proud.”
On his experience in Atlanta: “I had a tremendous three years in Atlanta, and I very much enjoyed being the head football coach there. We did experience a lot of success. Every situation you get yourself into, whether it be positive or negative, there’s an opportunity to learn. As I reflected on that the last couple years, I thought to myself how lucky I was to make the decision not to move immediately into a head coaching position when I was released in Atlanta, because I think all the lessons that I learned have now had a chance to absorb into me. I’ve had the chance to reflect on the many, many lessons that I learned as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Had I moved directly into another head coaching position, I don’t believe that would’ve been the case. I think I would’ve had to hit the ground and go, and I wouldn’t have had the chance to self-reflect and self-evaluate, and figure out the things that I did well, and figure out the things that I needed to do better. So, these past two years have just been a tremendous opportunity for me to sit, as I’m working with the secondary, and say, ‘How can you be better? What are the lessons you learned? How can you apply those going forward in your next opportunity as a head coach?’”
On what lessons he learned from his head coaching stint in Atlanta: “Specifically? Well, there’s many lessons. I learned lessons every day. This reflects a little bit on Mike Holmgren as well: one of the things that I really admired about Mike Holmgren as a football coach, besides the Xs and Os, was the way that he could be a caring and compassionate head football coach with the players, and yet still remain very much a figure of authority. That’s something that I learned. In watching Mike Holmgren—and this may not be particular to your question, but these are lessons that I learned over the last two years—[I learned about] patience. Patience in making a tough decision, considering all angles, patience in answering a tough question, whether it be to the media, to the general manager, to the owner, evaluating what your answer is and how it’s going to affect your team going forward. I watched Mike and I learned…Mike’s a man with a tremendous, tremendous passion for excellence and winning. A tremendous passion, as you all know. And I watched him balance that tremendous passion for winning and excellence with outstanding self-control when things didn’t go exactly as planned. Those are all areas that I believe that I will be better in, having gone through my first three years—my three years in Atlanta as a head coach—and moving forward this year.”
On how he plans on evolving from solely being a “players’ coach”: “That’s a great question. It’s a question that I’ve asked myself many, many times over the last two years. You get a label as a ‘players’ coach’ because you’re caring and compassionate towards your players. I believe one of the most important elements of being a successful head coach is that your players trust you. They trust your judgment. They trust that you have their best intentions in mind in every decision you make, along with the intentions of the organization, and I believe it’s important that they feel that they can count on you. You make a decision on the roster, for instance, and you make a decision in the game whether to go for it or when to call a time out, a defense you’re putting them in that I call, a game plan that you’re creating—[it’s important that] they have a trust in you, that they know that you’re doing it for the right reasons. So I don’t think you ever want to lose that. That personal aspect of the game is something that I very much enjoy, getting to know the players.
“I’ll tell you this: I’ve never gone out socially with a player. I’ve never had a player over to my house unless it was for an event. I don’t have players calling me at home. Although, I do think it’s important that if a player has an issue, a problem, whether it be a football problem or a personal problem, that they feel comfortable calling me and expressing it to me, and expressing that trust in me that, ‘Hey, I can talk to Jim and he can help me through this.’ So, I’ll never lose that. I’ll never lose that. But, great lesson learned: you have to have some separation. There must be some separation between the player and the head coach. That is something that I will do much better this time around, and I don’t think I did it poorly. I think sometimes people jump on it and make it something it’s not, but it’s something I’m very conscious of.”
On what the drawbacks are to getting too close to the players: “It can cloud your decision-making. It can create situations in the locker room where people think maybe there’s favoritism being played. Now, I’m also a firm believer in this: you don’t have to treat everybody the same. You can’t treat everybody the same. You’ve got 53 different personalities on your active roster, along with your practice squad and your injured reserve list, and when you go to training camp, all those young guys are coming in. you can’t treat everybody the same, but you certainly can treat them fairly, and that’s what I strive to do. That’s what I’ve always strived to do: treat them fairly. They’re not all the same. They’re different. They demand different levels of attention. Some guys, you got to climb on them. Some guys, you need to nurture along. Some guys, you got to throw an arm around them and say, ‘Hey, how are you doing, man? Can I help you?’
“When I was in Atlanta, Roddy White—who’s a Pro Bowl receiver this year, finally made it to the Pro Bowl…in his fourth year—he was struggling. He was struggling on the football field. He was struggling emotionally. He had some things going on in his life that were causing him some grief and some chaos and he didn’t really feel like he had anywhere to turn. So Roddy and I started meeting on Tuesdays, which is the players’ day off, and it’s a big game plan day for the coaches, so it’s a very important day in our planning for the next game, but Roddy and I started getting together on Tuesdays, unbeknownst to anybody in the organization. We’d go into our indoor practice facility, and I’d have a couple of footballs, and we’d throw the football around. Roddy at that time was having trouble catching the ball. That’s the basic thing receivers do, and he was having trouble catching the football. I just saw that as an opportunity to not only throw the ball around with him a little bit and give him some tough throws and make him feel confident in his hands, but also maybe a chance to reach him, to say, ‘Hey, Roddy, how can I help you? How can I help you with the things that are going on in your life that can make you a better man and ultimately make you a better football player?’ So that’s what I did. It’s the personal touch that I don’t ever want to lose. I don’t ever want to lose that, but what I understand now, better than ever, is the importance of some separation. It’s important that you remain a figure of authority. Mike Holmgren is great at that.”
On what happened to the defense from 2007 to 2008 and why it didn’t perform to expectations: “Well, defense is a function of all eleven. It’s a function of team. If you’re not hitting on all cylinders, it’s tough. When people evaluate defenses, it’s typical that they attribute success or failure in the run game to the front seven, and success or failure in the pass game to the back four. It’s not quite that simple. It’s a function of team. I will say that in 2008, some of our best players didn’t have their best years. Whether that’s because we didn’t coach them hard enough with enough detail, with enough vigor, with enough passion, with enough exactness, or they didn’t prepare well enough in the offseason, or injuries were involved, or a combination of all those things, it’s something that we will get corrected going forward.”
On how he will bide his time between the three branches of the team: “I will be very, very involved with the defense. I believe as a head coach, it’s important that you have a hand in all aspects, all three phases of the football team. I will be in every special teams meeting. I will be on the field for every special teams practice, blowing the whistle to start a drill, blowing the whistle when we’re working our kickoff coverage stuff, be involved in the drills and the coaching on special teams. I will spend time in offensive meetings, in game plan meetings, in group-install meetings, in individual meetings. But I’ll spend most of my time with the defense.
“I intend to be very, very involved with the defense. It’s my passion. It’s what I love to do. It’s something I believe I’m pretty good at. I’ve hired a tremendous defensive staff. We’ve added some outstanding coaches who have a very similar philosophy to me in terms of how you become a great defensive football team, so I’m extremely excited to get in there and start grinding it out with those guys. In terms of who will call the defenses on Sundays, whether I’m calling it, or Gus [Casey Bradley] is calling it, or Dan [Quinn] is calling it, or our secondary coach is calling it, we’ll all be on the same page. We’ll come to a point on Sunday where the game could almost call itself. We’ll create an atmosphere where Lofa Tatupu could go out in the huddle and, without me telling him anything in that ear piece, understand what we want…He’ll be so aware of the situation and what needs to be called in a particular situation that he could almost call the game by himself. I’m convinced that with the coaches that we’ve added on defense, we can get to that point.”
On whether he knows who will call defensive plays: “I think everything’s fluid at this point. I think everything’s fluid. You get in here and you work with the coaches that you’ve hired, and you get a feel for everybody. I’ll say this to you: whether it be an offensive call, a special teams decision we’re making, or a defensive call, whether it comes out of my mouth or somebody else’s, every decision comes through my headset.”
On what convinced him to hire Casey “Gus” Bradley: “I got a call about two weeks ago from a man that I have great respect for: Monte Kiffin. I worked with Monte in New Orleans, and I’ve stayed close to Monte. Monte is a legend in this game as a football coach. Monte calls me JL. Have you ever heard Monte talk? He’s kind of like, [does impression]. That’s enough Monte. He said, ‘Hey JL. Listen to me. I have got a guy here in Tampa that is one of, if not the finest, football coaches I have ever worked with. He’s an A+. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime coach. You need to talk to him. His name’s Gus Bradley. He was the defensive coordinator for x-number of years in college. I hired him to be our quality control coach, knowing that Joe Barry was going to go to the Detroit Lions and I wanted to make him the linebacker coach, and JL, this guy is special. You have to bring him in, you have to talk to him.’ Well, when a man like Monte Kiffin, who’s had the success that he’s had in this league, and someone that I’m familiar with and have great respect for personally and professionally, says that to you, you say, ‘I think I better bring this guy in and talk to him. So I brought Gus in last Wednesday. I picked him up at the hotel at 8am, and I dropped him off at 11pm, which meant I spent 15 consecutive hours with Gus, because I felt that that was an incredibly important decision to make: who was going to be our defensive coordinator, who I was going to put in the room with that group of men so that they can reach the level of play that they need to reach for us to bring a Super Bowl to the city of Seattle. Through the course of the day, I realized, ‘Boy, Monte is dead-on. This guy is special.’
“He’s grounded in fundamentals. He’s got great energy, he’s got a passion for the game. He has tremendous knowledge of the game and yet, he has conviction about what he wants to do, coupled with the flexibility to be open to new ideas. We had breakfast together, we had lunch together, we had dinner together, we even went in and got a workout together, we watched film, we talked about personnel, we talked about our families, we talked about what was important to him other than football, we got him up on the board and we talked Xs and Os. I mean, it was thorough. And we hadn’t made a decision! I was convinced that this guy was certainly going to be a coordinator in the National Football League and someday, a head football coach. And the next day, I brought in Dan Quinn, who I had worked with in San Francisco. The thing about Dan Quinn is, in the back of my mind, I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say, ‘You know, this is the guy that I think I want to be the defensive coordinator.’
“Dan’s a great story. Our relationship is a great story. I was the defensive coordinator in San Francisco and we had lost Joe Barry—Joe Barry had been our quality control coach…Steve kind of put me in charge of hiring the defensive staff, and we lost Joe to Tampa—so we were looking for a new quality control coach. Steve said, ‘Jim, I’m busy with other things. You interview, you decide, you tell me who you want and we’ll hire the guy.’ Over the course of about a month, I talked to five or six people and nothing felt quite right. I kept getting these phone calls from this guy named Dan Quinn at this school called Hofstra back in New York. I wasn’t familiar with Dan Quinn, and I wasn’t familiar with Hofstra. All I knew [was] that this guy was relentless. He just wouldn’t let it go. So I said at the end of the day, ‘Steve, let’s bring Dan Quinn in. This guy might have something. He just won’t let it go.’ So I flew him in, and I picked him up at the Hilton right by the facility there on Centennial Way, and he got in the car, and he shaved his head and he had the goatee going; he looked like a ball coach. Ten minutes into meeting Dan, I knew there was something special there. He had a special personality. He had a real tremendous work ethic, he had a conviction about what it takes to be a great coach, and how to get the best out of your players. It didn’t take long before I hired him. It was probably before lunch when I went into Steve and I said, ‘Hey, we got to have this guy.’ So, when Dwaine Board left to come here as the defensive line coach, Dan stepped in as the defensive line coach and did a tremendous job. And then when I moved to Atlanta, they wouldn’t let me take him with me.
“Subsequently, Dennis was released and Dan moved to New York, where he got a chance to work with Nick Saban, who’s a tremendous defensive mind, and Dom Capers, another tremendous defensive mind. And then this year—or the last two years—with Eric Mangini, who I have great respect for as a defensive coach. So when I had a chance to bring Dan in, I said, ‘This might be the guy,’ but at the end of the day, we realized that the best thing for us as an organization was to have both of these guys. I went into Tim and I said, ‘Hey, we got to get both these guys now! Do what you got to do, but we got to get both of these guys, okay?’ and I had great conviction about that. He said, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s get them both. What do we got to do?’ and I said, ‘Well, you know, I have a relationship with Dan that goes back years, and I think that he has a loyalty to me, and he wants to be in a great situation.’ He was sold on this organization, he was sold on this city, he was sold on the players we have here, he was sold on the fact that we can get back to the Super Bowl, he was sold on the fact that he could make a tremendous difference here. He was a little taken aback when I asked him to be the assistant head coach/defensive line coach. But he was convinced that this was the best situation for him, and at the end of the day, he decided to come here. It was amazing for us to be able to get those two coaches on our staff.”
On whether he’ll continue his habit of running up Tiger Mountain every Friday morning now that he’s the head coach, and whether he’ll take Ruskell and Leiweke with him: “Tim? No. [Ruskell: I’ll be eating breakfast.] I’ve taken Tod. Tod and I have biked together quite a bit. Now, Tod hasn’t tackled the cable line yet though—[Tod: Not going to happen!] [Mora laughs.] It is going to happen! [Tod: You talk about separation between him and the players, you see it firsthand on the cable line up at Tiger Mountain. Jim beats all those guys up there, and he would beat me too.] It’s something I’ll continue to do. It’s 20 minutes away. I love being outside. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. I love everything about this place. Like Tim said, I’m a hometown boy. I’m going to take advantage of all that it has to offer when time allows. One of the things I love about Tiger Mountain is, I can get up at 5:30 in the morning, put a headlamp on, grab my best friend Mark Patteson and head up there and just get away from it all and grind and chase him. I’ve never beat Mark up there—I’ll tell you that. It’s a good way to get away. Then I come back to work and it’s still early, or I go back home and my kids are just getting up. I haven’t missed those events in my life that are so important. It’s a great outlet. So yeah, I’ll be up there Friday morning at 5:45 if anyone wants to come!”
On the changes made to the coaching staff: “We have retained 12 coaches. We retained Mike Solari to coach the offensive line. We retained Bill Lazor to coach the quarterbacks. We retained Kasey Dunn to coach the running backs. We retained Mike DeBord—who was the assistant offensive line coach last season—and made him the tight ends coach. And we’ve retained Chris Beake on offense…On defense, we’ve retained Zerick Rollins to coach the linebackers. We retained Larry Marmie to work with the secondary…Larry will continue to work with the secondary. Larry is very, very valuable in that role. He has a tremendous wealth of knowledge. He’s been a head coach, he’s been a coordinator. He’s a guy that the players have a tremendous amount of respect for. Every week in the defensive room, he gives them his ‘Larry-ism’ and it’s something that the players look forward to every week. It’s kind of ‘Larry’s Words of Wisdom’ to the players. It’s really fun and it’s really compelling and it’s really applicable…We retained Mike Phair to work as quality control, and specifically work with the defensive line. And we retained Tom Headlee. Special teams, we retained Bruce DeHaven and we retained both our strength and conditioning coaches, Mike Clark and Darren Krein.
“We hired four new coaches. We hired Greg Knapp to be our offensive coordinator. We hired Gus Bradley, to be our defensive coordinator. We hired Dan Quinn to be our assistant head coach/defensive line coach, and last night we hired Robert Prince to be our wide receiver coach. We still have one spot to go and that’s defensive backs. We’re in discussions with some coaches there…
“Two coaches retired: Jim Lind and John Jamison.
“Then we decided not to retain four coaches: Gil Hasekll, who, when I spoke to Gil last week on Monday and told him the direction we’re going in, he was appreciative. He felt like he wanted—after nine years as a coordinator here—he wanted a chance to call plays. He wanted a chance to be in charge of what happened on the field directly on Sundays. Gil and I had a great discussion and he’s pursuing those opportunities. We did not retain John Marshall. John has been a very good friend of mine for over 12 years now, so that was difficult because I not only respect him as a coach, but I care about him as a friend. John wants to work in the league, and he’ll get a job in the league and he’ll do well. We did not retain Dwaine Board, another guy I’ve known for ten, 12 years. As a matter of fact, Dwaine played for my dad for a year, so that was another difficult decision. We did not retain Gilby [Keith Gilbertson], although in talking to Gilby, Gilby is excited about other opportunities. Gilby wants to be a guy that is a big-picture guy, that maybe has a chance to call plays, not necessarily as a position coach.
“All those moves were made with one specific goal in mind and that was to put together the very best staff we could put together. It gives our players to chance to learn the most football they can learn, so they go out and perform on Sunday to the standard we expect them to perform to, and win football games.”
On whether there was a criteria he looked for in new coaching candidates to make sure they would mesh well with the existing coaches: “I don’t know if there’s any one thing. It’s a feeling you get. When you get to know people, and like I said, I know our players, you get a feel. You get a feel for what’s going to work. My experience in the business is, I’ve been in the league for 25 years and I have been involved in football since the day I was born. Football has paid for every meal I have ever eaten, every stitch of clothes I’ve ever put on my body, every movie I’ve ever gone to, every tank of gas I have ever filled my car with—football has paid for that. It’s a passion of mine. It’s what I do, it’s what I am. There are two things that are most important in my life and that is my family and my profession. I believe I have a pretty good feel at this point in my life for what’s going to work and what’s not going to work and putting together a staff and matching them with the players on our roster. I think we’ve done a really nice job collectively as an organization of doing that.”
On improving the offense for next season: “We need to do a number of things as a football team. We need to take back the NFC West; our goal will always be—our goal will never change from being the Super Bowl Champions. Every single year, that will be our goal. We’re not going to rebuild, we’re going to not reload, we’re not going to say, ‘Hey, this is going to be a bad year, we can see it before it starts.’ Every single year is about winning the world championship. What gets me jacked up is the thought of bringing that dang Lombardi trophy back to Seattle from wherever the Super Bowl is, sitting it—can I put it in the seat next to me? [Ruskell: Absolutely.]—putting it in the seat next to me…Paul [Allen] might want it…and then grabbing that thing and starting the parade at the Space Needle and ending up down at Qwest with 75,000 people celebrating something that Seattle has been thirsting for years and years and years. In order to do that, there’s a path. There’s some things that we’ve got to accomplish. Number one: we got to take back the West.
“We have to take back the dang NFC West. The NFC West champions are playing for the NFC Championship this Sunday and that is great and I hope they win and I hope they go and win the Super Bowl. It gives us another challenge to go out there to go get, and it motivates us and inspires us, and it’ll be a goal that we got to go get. We need to re-establish dominance at Qwest. Our stadium, our fans, the 12th Man, are unquestionably the finest in all of professional sports. Ask anybody. They come to the games with the amount of passion, intensity, excitement and support that you don’t get everywhere. When we went to Arizona that last game of the regular season, the place was not full before kickoff and one series in, they were booing. That’s not an indictment on Arizona fans, because they are great fans and they love their team. But our crowd is different. What our crowd realizes is that they can affect our opponent. They’ve created an atmosphere in that stadium that is suffocating. When people come into our stadium, all around them, is just this compressing feeling and what we’re going to do is put a team on the field in front of our opponent that gives them that same feeling, where they’re suffocating, where they’re like, ‘Get me off the field, get me to the bench! I don’t want to be on the bench, get me to the locker room! Get my butt on the bus, on the plane, so I can get out of here! I’m not safe here!’ Our fans provide that and our football team is going to provide that. Our football team is going to match the passion, the energy, the intensity, the excitement of our fans. When we can do that as a football team, then we’ll have something extremely special.”
On why the intensity seemed to go away in 2008: “It didn’t go away with the crowd, that’s for sure. There are so many things that happen during a football season. We all know that we suffered a tremendous amount of injuries on the offense side of the football. I’ve never been involved with anything like it. I’ve never gone into the season with your top five receivers down, and then you lose your sixth in the first half of the first game. That doesn’t happen. Our Pro Bowl quarterback, our leader—like I said, our pivot man, our point guard—he went down. At the end of the season we had been playing with an offensive line that had not started the season together. So there was a number of things that happened. I don’t know if you want to say we lost our mojo, I don’t know, and I care, but I’m not necessarily concerned. What I’m concerned about is how we’re going to be going forward.
“This is a team that will learn—and has known—how to win the close games. We have to be a team that’s prepared to play our best when our best is required: in the closing minutes of a game, when the game is on the line. We have to know how to react defensively. We have to be able to get the tough stop. We have to offensively be able to convert the third down that allows us to take a knee and celebrate with a victory. We have to be a special teams group that understands every situation in the game and, in particular, the ones down the line, and how we can handle it and execute when it is at its toughest, at its most important and most critical time. We will do that. We’ll do it because we will emphasize it, we will practice it, we will create situations in practice where our players are under pressure, where there’s tension, where there’s intensity, where there’s uncertainty, and we’ll force them to perform in those situations in practice, so when they get to the game, there’s a comfort level. They know what to do. They know what play we’re going to call. They know what play we’re going to call on third and 20 to get the first down. They know what our A-run is that we’re going to get three yards on to ice the game. They’re going to know what defense we’re going to call on third and three when we got to get a stop to get our offense back on the field. That’s how we’ll win the close games.
“Another thing we must do as a football team is we got to win on the road. We’ve got to win on the road. The fact of the matter is we have to go east. We’re tucked up here in what I refer to as ‘God’s Country.’ And you know what? That’s great! We don’t need any more people, it’s perfect as it is. But the fact of matter is, every time we travel, we have to go east, whether it’s one time zone, two time zones, or three time zones and that is tough on the players. It’s tough on them physically, it’s tough on them mentally. But that doesn’t matter. It can’t be an excuse and it won’t be an excuse, so we have to find a way to win on the road. One of the things were doing is talking to some of the world renowned track and field coaches that take athletes across time zones and expect them to perform at their peak efficiency. We’re saying, ‘What kind of things do you do as a coach with these world class athletes to get them ready to perform one weekend in Munich, Germany and the next weekend in Australia?’ We’re trying to find ways that we can incorporate their practices into what we do. But In order to win on the road, you have to do some critical things. We have to be able to run the football on the road. When you run the football on the road, you take the crowd out of the game. It’s a deflating feeling, and they sit up there, they’re sitting on their hands and there isn’t anything to cheer about. ‘Oh, there’s another first down on the run. There’s another first down on the run.’ It’s a deflating feeling for your opponent. You’ve got to be able to run the football to win on the road. It sucks the life out of your opponents when you do that. You have to be able to run the football when they’re loading up the box and they’re putting eight men up there and nine men up there in a four-minute situation, where they know you’re committed to running the football. You got to be able to run the football. Along with trying to figure out the best schedule for our players to get them performing at their peak performance on the road, we’re going to be a team that can go into a stadium and silence the crowd and make it quiet.”
On changes to the routine when playing a game on the east coast: “As a staff, led by Mike, we tried to address those issues the best that we could. I’m never going to be a coach that blames injuries for poor production or losses. I don’t think that is the right message to send to players. I think it’s an easy out. I don’t think it’s the right message to send to your fans. But I will say this: we started with an extremely unique situation. We knew we were going to Buffalo, which is a really tough place to play—they have a great crowd, they have a tremendous defense—and we knew it would be tough, especially with the situation we had offensively at the receiver position. We just didn’t get off to the start that we hoped that we would. For some reason, it was difficult for us, from that point on, to have success on the road. That’s something we are looking very, very hard at, and we’re going to find a way, somehow, someway, to rectify that.”
On whether he believes that the Seahawks have the right personnel on the defensive line: “I believe that we have some really fine young football players, and we have an outstanding football player in Pat Kerney. I believe it’s critical that Darryl Tapp and Lawrence Jackson and Baraka Atkins and Brandon Miller develop into players that can go out on the field and be productive. I believe with Dan Quinn coaching those guys, and knowing the type of players that they are, and how important it is for them to be great players, and be productive players, and play on great defenses, and play for winning teams—I believe they will do everything in their power to become great players. I think [if you] couple their intelligence, their hunger, with what Dan Quinn brings to the table, I believe you’ll see an increase in our outside pass rush. I believe Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant—while not the prototypical pass rushing defensive linemen, they’re tackles—are guys that have those same qualities as the three young guys that I mentioned. I think, once again, coupled with Dan Quinn’s coaching and their desire to be great players, there is some promise there.
“I also believe that it is the responsibility of a coach to try to—as you evaluate your players—figure out how to put them in the right position to have success, to come up with pass rush plans, to educate them on protection schemes, so when they’re out on the field and you’re on the sidelines, and they have to make decisions, they can make decisions because they’re well-educated in what it means when the backs offset: where’s the center going to slide? What pass rush games can we win to affect the quarterback? When the back is in a dotted position behind the quarterback, and the threat of run is there, how does that affect how I rush the passer? If I know they’re sliding the center to me, and I know that’s creating two one-on-ones over here, what do I need to do to occupy that center so he can’t go back and help? That’s part of being a good football coach: educating your players in those things. We’ve got young players that want to learn those things, and we’ve got young players that will be taught those things by one the finest defensive line coaches in the league.”
On whether this big-picture approach to the defensive line is new to the Seahawks: “It absolutely is. Well, I don’t know that it’s a new approach, but it’s our approach. It’s not a unique approach. I think that the good pass rush teams do that. Not everybody can have the premier, premier pass rusher. They’re hard to get. You have to finish poorly a lot of years in a row in order for that to happen, and that’s not the case here, nor will it be the case. You have to develop that to a certain extent. Yeah, it is a little bit of a big-picture approach. I believe very strongly that it’s important that players have a complete understanding of their position, but I think it’s important that they also have a complete understanding of our scheme and how their position fits in our scheme, and how things are working around them. It’s not enough to just memorize your assignment. You have to understand how your assignment affects the guy next to you, the guy in front of you, the guy behind you, the opponent you’re facing. That’s what we’re working towards.”
On how his approach as a position coach will be different now that he’s the head coach: “Being a position coach is different and it’s fun. I’ll tell you what: there were a lot of reasons—as I’ve mentioned already—that I turned down some other opportunities [in order] to stay here, and one of those is the fact that I really enjoy coaching a position. I enjoyed it a little bit more in 2007 than 2008, but I really enjoyed coaching a position. There’s a bond that you develop in that room when there’s eight, ten, 12, however many players sitting in there with the coaches. You have a chance on every single play to just direct your attention to a certain part of the team—in my case, the secondary. As the head coach, I believe it’s important to be a little bit more global. I believe that you have to coach the football team. I think it’s important that the offensive linemen know me and know my style as well as the defensive backs. So I have to have a presence with those guys. I have to have a presence with the running backs. They have to understand that I understand what they’re supposed to be doing and I’m going to hold them accountable for that. So, you take a little bit more of a global view. It would be very unnatural for me to stand on the football field with my arms crossed and a piece of paper in my hand and not show the emotion and the passion that I have. I wouldn’t be able to do that. But I have to monitor it. I have to decide when it’s right and when it’s wrong, and who I need to be with at particular times. But one thing I’ll never do: I’ll never lose my excitement for the game, my passion for the game, the enthusiasm I have when I’m out on the football field…Professionally, there’s nothing I like better than being in a meeting room with the players, and on the football field coaching the players. It just fills me up.”
On whether he feels like he’s ‘living the dream’ today: “It’s been a hectic two weeks. My goal when I came here—my goal specifically last year, when we made the decision that I would succeed Mike at some point—was to not look too far into the future, to not start thinking about how I was going to be as a head coach. Now, it’s only natural, as a person, that those things come up at times. And like I said, I felt like, ‘I am going to get this opportunity, and there are some things I need to reflect on, and I need to learn, and I need to make sure that I do better. There are some things that I’ve done very well, and I need to make sure that I can confirm those things.’ But I didn’t look down the line any further than what was natural. The last two weeks have been hectic. They’ve been very hectic. I’ll tell you this: I haven’t moved into the office. I’ve been in there a couple times, and there’s this big black chair sitting there, and I have not put my butt in it, nor will I, until this press conference is over. I have too [much] respect for the chair and the man that used to sit in it to go up there and sit in that chair before I’ve had a chance to address you and our fans and be formally announced. I haven’t parked my car in spot number one yet. [Laughs.] It’s got my name on it, finally, but I haven’t parked my car there. So, you know, I’ve really just been focused the last two years on doing the best job I could at what I was doing. And now, as we put together the staff, I think, with only one guy to go, I might have a chance—I might have a chance—to take a little breath. I know my four kids and my wife hope I have a chance, because I’ve been a little bit of an absent father, and I don’t like that.”