My finacee brought home Caligula from work today.
And yet I know I will see nothing more obscene today than this Hawks' loss.
The Hawks are a very talented team. You can survey this team from punter through fullback and find some of the best talent in football. They have a franchise quarterback, a franchise left tackle, the three best linebackers working in the 4-3 in the NFL, amazing depth on the defensive line and at wide receiver, plus the best special teams unit in the NFL.
Then why is this team mediocre?
That's a card I hesitate to play. It's cheap. It's also entirely true.
Mike Holmgren was once one of the best coaches in the NFL, he is no longer. It starts with his personnel decisions. Can any sighted individual contend that Maurice Morris is not better than Shaun Alexander in every stage of the game? And yet, I fully expect Alexander back chewing carries and pulverizing drives as soon as next week. I fully expect that the Hawks' young, talented offensive line will be scapegoated though Morris gained 6 yards per carry. Just as the Browns and, in fact, every opposing defense can expect a slow developing off tackle run on fourth and short.
That's the play-calling rub. Sub in Alexander, run it into a pile. Sub out Alexander throw it downfield, wash, rinse, repeat. After staking a double digit lead heading into halftime, Seattle passed nearly three times as much as they ran in the second half. That number would be even more lopsided if not for a couple of inexplicable runs on the Hawks fourth quarter comeback drive. With 2nd and 10 at the Browns' 15 and 18 seconds left, Holmgren called a draw. A DRAW! The Hawks had to scramble to even spike the ball. Seattle turned a potential win into a sure trip into overtime. In nearly twenty years of watching the NFL, I have seen few coaching decisions so singlehandedly undermine a team's chances of winning.
It's not just Holmgren, either. This team needs a full coaching overhaul, offense, defense, keep Mike Clark and Bruce DeHaven, but for Christ's sake fire John Marshall. Marshall's blitz packages, to begin with, are uninspired. The Hawks have a ton of versatility on the line. Both Darryl Tapp and Baraka Atkins are ends that are well above average (for a lineman) in coverage. Julian Peterson is one of the best ends in football when he lines up there. This team could be a zone blitzing force, instead every blitz package involves a billion stunts and an equal number of Seahawks getting in the way of each other. Marshall not only fails in his packages, but in his timing. He sends heavy blitzes on third and long, a situation in which the Hawks emphasis on pass rushing lineman could allow them to drop coverage. He doesn't send heavy blitzes in almost any unpredictable down and distance.
The fact is, this team, this roster, this collection of talent is being held back by two coaches on their way out of the league. The lone bright spot, the promise in a crushing loss, is the emergence of Maurice Morris. Morris isn't perfect. He's not Alexander circa 2005. He's a MOR one-cut rusher that should be paired with another back to maximize effectiveness. But he's an NFL caliber rusher.
Shaun Alexander is no longer an NFL caliber rusher. This team would benefit if Alexander never got another touch. No more dropped passes. No more drive crushing stutter steps. For NFL rushers, the floor rises quickly, you can be the league MVP in one season, and two years later not fit for the CFL. They are, to use a baseball analogy, the slow, slugging first basemen of the NFL. Fans don't need to support Alexander, nor do they need to boo him. They need only to never see him take the field again.
Game Ball: Trufant, who had another good game before the wheels came off. Sign this guy. Partial Game Ball: Morris, the fumble hurt, he's still not great in short yardage, but he's the best rusher we've got. If not for his play, the Hawks would have lost this one in regulation.