The Tape: Mike Holmgren Losing with Tim Ruskell's Team

Has the game passed Holmgren by or has Seattle just moved on? Consider: When you look at Seattle's offense, its original eleven, the spare parts called in to hold it together, how many Seahawks actually fit Holmgren's scheme?

Locklear maybe at right tackle, but he's not the power left tackle Holmgren builds his ground game on. Mike Wahle was a Holmgren guy as is his replacement, Floyd Womack. Womack and Wahle move well in space and know how to get a hat on the right defender. Each is more assignment correct than powerful and that seems to agree with Holmgren. Chris Spencer has aggravated Holmgren to no end. Spencer is toolsy and raw. The opposite of gritty, vigilant field General Robbie Tobeck. Rob Sims has twice Chris Gray's talent and half his knowledge. Spencer and Sims have endured persistent criticism by Holmgren. It's not too surprising then that Holmgren is sweet on Spencer's replacement, Steve Vallos, a try hard guy that's often in the right place - much that it matters. Julius Jones is stylistically a Holmgren guy. The split between the two seems personal. Leonard Weaver is a player of immense talent playing for a coach that wishes he was Mack Strong. Not that kind of talent, Mike. John Carlson is a Holmgren guy. Carlson isn't just good, Holmgren is intent on running the offense through him. His team leading targets is not simply his skill at getting open; Holmgren builds plays around Carlson. Courtney Taylor's infrequent snaps are televised wind sprints. TJ Duckett isn't a Holmgren guy and if not for short yardage I'm not sure he'd see a snap. Holmgren is rewarding Morris with touches, but it's clear he still doesn't see Morris as a feature back. Among receivers, Engram is the Holmgren guy and Mike was only too happy to build a passing attack around him in 2007. Deion Branch doesn't seem like a Holmgren guy, but I'm not sure why. Maybe Holmgren think he's too small. The slight, speedy Branch makes Darrell Jackson look outright beefy.

Part of why Seattle's offense is so dysfunctional is the diaspora of Holmgren guys and their subsequent replacement with Ruskell guys. One is choosing the employees and the other the work. It's not working for anyone.

That's especially true about the offensive line. I don't think Holmgren could have envisioned a worse bunch of sucks to design plays around. Of course, that bunch of sucks is probably 3/5ths Seattle's line of the future. One would hope they take their suck cleats off before becoming part of whatever offense Ruskell is convinced is best. The Ruskell guys are kind: Willis and Wrotto are big and bruising and bumbling. Wrotto doesn't quit blocks, but man does he ever miss blocks. Willis: ditto. Since starting the replacements, Seattle has looked best running right. I'm not certain the rude data provided by play-by-play would back that, but the line flexes better that way, the lanes look cleaner and the blocks more dominant. Seattle has also looked sloppiest running right. There are more free defenders, penalties, linemen standing in zones and ardent triple teams while another defender runs free. That's the Yin and Yang of Seattle's new look line, and while its failures seem to impugn both Mike Holmgren and Tim Ruskell, I think it's fair to say that relationship has gone terminal. It's a power struggle won with the defeated male still skulking in the shadows. Both deserve a clean break and future reconsideration, because both are better than this.

Notes:

Baraka Atkins Saw More Snaps than Lawrence Jackson: And didn't do a thing with them. There's still much to love. Atkins needs to fill out a little, because he's agile and a threat when he gets the first surge, but liable to get blown off the line and weakest backpedaling.

Locklear Really Didn't Play Well: But also wasn't where the action was. Call it a push.

Wallace is Fiery but Rarely Hot: Wallace blew his lid, the offense played better and surely that cannot be coincidental. Like most story lines, that it isn't falsifiable gives it legs. A more interesting question is: Was Wallace justified in excoriating his offense? He isn't the first quarterback faced with a nickel blitz, but most can find the hot route rather than reel or rollout into oblivion.

On this play:

3-8-SL 49 (7:24) (Shotgun) S.Wallace pass incomplete deep middle to J.Carlson (R.Bartell) [J.Craft].

Wallace couldn't find Engram uncovered in the left slot. Engram identified it, looking back as soon as Jason Craft blitzed. Engram was barely covered by Chris Draft and a well placed pass would have led to the first and more. Wallace kept his eyes right and attempted a one read, ill-advised toss towards Carlson. The pressure came because of confusion between Womack and Weaver. Womack, specifically, looked unsure of whom to block and so let Craft streak past him. Still, DB blitzes are often unpredictable and hard to block, but the tradeoff is open receivers and mismatches.

On this play:

2-8-SEA 9 (2:25) S.Wallace pass short middle to J.Carlson to SEA 36 for 27 yards (O.Atogwe) [W.Witherspoon].

The Rams blitzed nickelback Craft and ROLB Will Witherspoon. I want to give Wallace more credit here, but everything about this seems like a designed play. Seattle set with two tight ends right: Outside Willis, Will Heller and outside him, John Carlson. At the snap, Heller ran straight at Pisa Tinoisamoa, picking him and creating the bubble for Carlson to curl into. Wallace read Carlson from the snap and I'm not sure it was heroics or great timing, but instead just lucky coincidence that Wallace passed before being clobbered. Carlson caught the ball and cut into the spot vacated by Craft and Witherspoon, untouched for an additional twenty. That's pretty much how you counter a DB blitz.

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