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Originally published Monday, January 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM


Steve Kelley

Plenty of reasons for Holmgren to return

Quietly, almost wistfully, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren addressed the media in a bare, cramped interview room following Seattle's 42-20...

Seattle Times staff columnist

Quietly, almost wistfully, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren addressed the media in a bare, cramped interview room following Seattle's 42-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Saturday.

Holmgren seemed more disappointed at the sudden end of the season than he was about the lopsided loss.

He genuinely likes his team. The players listen. They work hard in practice and play hard on weekends.

Unlike his earlier years here, Holmgren didn't go to bed at nights this season worrying if he would get an early-morning phone call informing him that one of his players was in the slammer or, worse, in the hospital.

These Hawks were grown-ups. They were professional. They were a pleasure to coach.

And because the core of this talented team will be returning next season, Holmgren's decision about his future becomes that much more difficult.

Every year about this time, the tortured soul-searching begins for Holmgren. Does he stay? Or does he go? Does he stay with this labor he loves? Or does he leave to see what else is out there?

Linebacker Julian Peterson mentioned, after the shellacking by the Packers, that Holmgren suffered from gall-bladder problems this season and that the stress of his job exacerbated his illness.

Certainly Holmgren will weigh all health issues against the pleasures of coaching this grown-up group when he decides his future.

As is his custom, Holmgren said after the weekend finale that he needs time to decompress, time with his wife, Kathy, away from football, so he can make the decision with a clear head.

I'm rooting for his return, although it's no sure thing.

Matt Hasselbeck is in his prime, and quarterback-maven Holmgren enjoys sculpting, coaching, cajoling smart, talented quarterbacks.


I don't think he's ready to end his relationship with Hasselbeck.

Holmgren also believes his team, which has been to the playoffs five straight seasons and won four consecutive NFC West titles, still has years left on its playoff run.

The combination of Hasselbeck in his prime, the continued weakness of the West and the profound home-field advantage of Qwest Field makes the immediate future bright and should keep Holmgren's competitive fire stoked.

This tricky offseason, the Seahawks need to be tweaked, not rebuilt.

As bad as Saturday's loss was, Holmgren could stroll away today and his place in NFL history would be assured.

He has coached some of the best quarterbacks ever — Joe Montana, Steve Young, Brett Favre, Hasselbeck — and made them better. He has gone to three Super Bowls and won one.

He is almost assured of making the Hall of Fame. He doesn't need one more season in Seattle to pad his résumé.

If he returns, it will be because he loves what he does and he likes the people he's doing it with, nothing more complicated than that.

But he knows his team needs more help.

The Hawks, who made many good moves last offseason, also made some glaring personnel errors.

They thought they could get away with ancient Marcus Pollard playing tight end. They couldn't.

They thought they could squeeze another season out of 15-year veteran right guard Chris Gray. They couldn't.

They didn't believe losing long snapper J.P. Darche would be a big deal. It was.

And they misread the depth to which the running game would plunge.

Still, the Seahawks won 11 games without a running game. They won a division title with an offensive line that never found its stride. They won with a gimpy wide-receiver corps. And they won without playing well on the road.

Next season is full of promise if the needs are addressed:

• The Hawks find another running back.

They have to hope against hope that Shaun Alexander will agree to a pay cut and accept a diminished role in the offense. They have to give Leonard Weaver (who was grossly underused on Saturday) more touches and find a running back in the draft, which will be deep at that position.

• The offensive line also needs a tuneup.

Center Chris Spencer, a first-round draft pick in 2005, has been a large disappointment. Maybe Ray Willis, a fourth-round pick that year, can return from injuries and replace Gray at guard.

Of course the answer to all of the Seahawks' offensive prayers is Pittsburgh's Alan Faneca, generally considered the best guard in the game. It will, however, be difficult, maybe impossible, to fit Faneca under Seattle's salary cap.

• The Seahawks have to make difficult decisions on their unrestricted free agents.

They should franchise Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Trufant, who has become one of the best in the game, and re-sign kicker Josh Brown.

Receiver D.J. Hackett and right tackle Sean Locklear also are free agents. Locklear would be a difficult loss, because tackles practically are as hard to find as quarterbacks. But Hackett should go. He makes big plays, but he has spent too much of his career off the field and in the training room.

Seattle's offensive coaches are enamored with the potential of receiver Courtney Taylor and the growth of receiver Ben Obomanu. Hackett will be easily replaced.

This offseason is one of the most important in franchise history. And one of the most dangerous. Mishandle it, and the playoff run could die a slow miserable death next winter.

But with the proper tweaks, the West still can belong to Seattle.

Holmgren should stick around to help it happen.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation. | 206-464-2176

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