Bumbling Seahawks remind Holmgren of overmatched high school team
RENTON, Wash. -- A passing game that has gone from Space Age to Stone Age. A star quarterback out indefinitely with a bad back.
It reminds me of when I first started coaching at Sacred Heart High School, you know? We were kind of overmatched all the time, playing against better players for a while.
-- Mike Holmgren
Bickering on the sidelines. A center snapping the ball at the sound of an audible. Questions over whether it's time to play the kids, since his Seahawks haven't won in a month.
Mike Holmgren hasn't had a team this bad since he was teaching high school in San Francisco three decades ago.
"It reminds me of when I first started coaching at Sacred Heart High School, you know? We were kind of overmatched all the time, playing against better players for a while," Holmgren said Monday, a day after his last-place team skidded to 1-5 with a 20-10 loss at Tampa Bay without injured quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
Hasselbeck may not play this week at San Francisco, either. He hasn't passed strength tests for his knee, the doctor's prerequisite for his return.
Yes, this is how bad it's gotten for the four-time defending NFC West champions, just six games into Holmgren's 10th and final season as their coach: A veteran team with six Pro Bowl players, Super Bowl aspirations and a 17-year coach who is tied for 10th all-time in wins reminds him of a squad of teenagers still learning how to put on jockstraps.
"They gave you everything they had. And you loved them for it. But it was going to be tough each week," Holmgren said of those days when he was a coach and high school history teacher.
"That's a little bit of an exaggeration, but that's the last time, it really is the last time [he's faced this]. I can't think in professional football. It's different."
Hasselbeck's bulging disk is pressing on a nerve that runs down to his hyperextended right knee, weakening the joint.
"That's going to be on a week-to-week, almost day-to-day basis on what the progress is with his rehab," Holmgren said. "The last medical report is that he is feeling better each day.
"We said last week there is a possibility he will play against San Francisco, and I will say that. There is a possibility he will play this week."
Holmgren added that if Hasselbeck can't play again, as seems likely, he isn't sure whether backup Seneca Wallace or third-stringer Charlie Frye would start against the 49ers, who won 33-30 in overtime at Seattle in Week 2. Wallace made his first start in two years on Sunday night against the Buccaneers and completed 12 of 23 passes, the same numbers Frye had while looking overwhelmed in a loss to Green Bay the week before.
Wallace had just 73 yards passing, Seattle's lowest total for a game since September 2001. Holmgren barely hid his unhappiness with the veteran backup's play in his return from a calf injury.
The Seahawks had just one first down and 44 total yards at halftime, when they trailed 17-0 and the game was essentially over. The passing offense is last in the NFL with just 126.8 yards per game. Those old teams at Sacred Heart may have done better than that.
Part of the reason is Seattle has started nine different wide receivers, thanks to an epidemic of injuries at that position.
There was one good bit of injury news: Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu is recovering well from the concussion he sustained Sunday night. He is expected to start at San Francisco.
Not that that's going to make Holmgren feel any better about his offense. The man who has remained tied with Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs with 171 victories for a month now looked and sounded offended by that part of the team.
While discussing its rankings, the maestro of the precise West Coast offense learned under Bill Walsh with the 49ers and turned into a cottage industry that's spawned quarterbacks Brett Favre and Hasselbeck plus head-coaching proteges Steve Mariucci and Andy Reid just leaned back in his chair. He folded his arms across his chest and flashed a look of disbelief.
"The offensive situation is very unusual right now. I'm not quite used to it. And we have to try to figure out the best way to improve this thing -- and do it quickly," he said.
"We were 31st [now 32nd] in passing offense. I can't remember any time when we've been much less than 10, and [we're] usually in the top five. And with the same system.
"It's just different now."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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