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Mailbag: Allen, Holmgren and 'Swingers'

12/18/2009

Jim from Anchorage writes: Mike, so the Redskins' GM abruptly resigns mid-season and immediately the organization hires his replacement. Not that I think the Seahawks should model any part of their organization after Daniel Snyder's mess of an operation, but doesn't this say something about the Mike Holmgren-as-GM situation? Seems like if they really wanted to, they could have brought him back already.

Mike Sando: Absolutely. If the Seahawks knew they wanted Holmgren as their general manager, they could just hire him now. Quite a few people I've spoken with in the league, including some with strong ties to Holmgren, are surprised the team hasn't just brought back Holmgren and forgotten about the process. Their arguments are compelling because it's tough to imagine any candidate being more credible, accomplished or a better fit in Seattle than the man who led this franchise to some of its finest moments.

If I'm Seahawks owner Paul Allen, however, why can't I have things both ways? Why can't I conduct a thorough search, find out whether another candidate makes more sense and then consider whether Holmgren might be the best choice after all? The Seahawks have not ruled out Holmgren, in my view, so much as they have ruled out hiring him right this minute. Holmgren naturally also wants things both ways, but Allen is the one operating from a position of strength here. Even qualified job applicants do not get to make the rules.

The process puts Holmgren in a tough position. The Browns are reportedly pressing him to lead their organization, but Holmgren would naturally rather stay in Seattle. He has said so publicly this season. Like the Seahawks, Holmgren should not rush into his decision. As a coach, he would not automatically go for a 2-point conversion when an extra point would tie the game. As a coach, he would not automatically throw deep passes early in a game without setting up those plays with handoffs from similar formations.

Instead, Holmgren has been "making goo-goo eyes" at the organization all offseason, throwing deep passes early in a game he might be leading.

Watching Holmgren squirm a little amid reports that he wants his future settled by Christmas recalls the classic movie scene from Swingers featuring Jon Favreau's character "Mikey" leaving multiple messages for a woman who had provided her phone number hours earlier. Even though friends had advised Mikey to play it cool by waiting two or three days before calling back, Favreau's character couldn't hide his eagerness to make a move. Anyone familiar with the tortured scene knows what happens next. Mikey leaves message after message before the woman finally picks up and tells him never to call again -- all before the first date.

"I didn't want you to think I was weird or desperate," Mikey says during one message. "We should just hang out and see where it goes cuz it's nice and, y'know, no expectations, OK?"

The dialogue could easily and hilariously be adapted to fit the Seahawks' GM search. Holmgren presumably isn't leaving messages on Paul Allen's voicemail, but he wants to speed the process and that is understandable. It's just that this is one situation he probably cannot control. The Seahawks, from all appearances, will take their time.


Jeremiah from Pelham, N.Y., writes: What do you think about the 49ers implementing more elements of a West Coast-style offense? Alex Smith did struggle in it as a rookie, but he has developed. Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis are playmakers who can get yards after the catch. Defenses worry most about Frank Gore, so forcing them to respect the pass could allow Gore to run the ball later in the game, while tiring the defenders out. Smith also seems to be a pretty mobile quarterback. As he plays more, he should develop better instincts to protect the ball and avoid sacks. The only reason I see not to is the O-line, though it has been surprisingly good this year.

Mike Sando: Smith was going to struggle as a rookie no matter the system. That's life as a rookie quarterback. Mike McCarthy was indeed the coordinator then. I think most schemes will succeed with the right players. The 49ers have proven any scheme will fail without the right players. They have more of the right players at this time. They should probably let those players develop within the offense, tweaking formations and personnel to exploit what those players do best. Another scheme change would be counterproductive.


John from Flint, Mich., writes: Sando, I'm not even a 49ers fan, but you have got to give them credit for the win over Arizona. It wasn't just Arizona giving the game away. It got taken away. The 49ers aren't the Colts, but they were clearly better on Monday. And we have no idea if the Cardinals will shrug this off until next week. Give credit where it's due.

Mike Sando: That is a fair point and I did give them credit in some of the coverage beginning Wednesday. The responsibility I felt immediately after the game was to figure out what Arizona's performance meant in the scheme of things. I have a pretty good feel for the Cardinals and felt as though they were shrugging off the performance, and that the performance wasn't necessarily one with long-term ramifications. That was my primary angle coming out of the game that night. As good as the 49ers played on defense, committing seven turnovers was pretty ridiculous and a bit of an aberration.