Four thoughts on allegations Holmgren mailed it in
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Before sharing my perspective on Colin Cowherd's allegations that Mike Holmgren "mailed it in" during his final season as Seahawks head coach, I'll quote Cowherd from his Friday show:
Cowherd on Holmgren: "A source told me late, like Week 13 or Week 14 in the NFL season, a source that does not want to be identified on this network, that Mike Holmgren had essentially mailed it in. Very little energy, looking forward to retirement. Putting in 9-5 hours. Bill Belichick is going 5-9 p.m. There was very little cohesiveness. He was on his way out before Jim Mora took the job over. And it was sort of a un-energized last year in Seattle. Not that he mailed it in by your standards or my standards, but by NFL standards, 17 hours a day, Holmgren wasn't there emotionally."
The first thing to know is that Holmgren worked relatively short hours (by coaching standards) throughout his tenure in Seattle. Holmgren generally showed up for work between 9 and 9:30 each morning. I know this because I was usually in the media room at the old Seahawks headquarters -- with a clear view of Holmgren's parking spot -- most mornings during the season from 1998 through 2006. Many times I was there when Holmgren arrived and still there when he departed at 6:30 or 7 or 8 at night. Holmgren's strengths were as a teacher during practice and, most of the time, as a play-caller during games. He played to those strengths.
The second thing to know is that Holmgren was much more concerned about teaching his system than adjusting his system for the upcoming opponents. I thought this hurt the Seahawks during Holmgren's first few years with the team, before the talent level was sufficient to make that system work. Example: Sean Dawkins was not a great receiver, but he gave Seattle a 6-foot-4 target in the passing game. Holmgren refused to change his approach to take advantage of that height against an opponent with an undersized cornerback because Dawkins wasn't Jerry Rice or another great player, and unless you were a top player, Holmgren wasn't going to change his approach for you.
The third thing to remember is that some people in the Seahawks organization were naturally pointing to the post-Holmgren era as their chance to shape the franchise. This did not make them anti-Holmgren; this made them human. That complicated things when the team struggled. (I said all along leading into last season that the transition wouldn't be a hindrance as long as the team was playing reasonably well.) Relative newcomers to the organization probably had a skewed view of the relatively short hours Holmgren worked because they weren't around when the team went 13-3 with Holmgren working a very similar schedule.
The last thing to remember is that the 4-12 season definitely wore on Holmgren. It wore on everyone. By the end, he didn't have a whole lot left. It was probably the most draining year of his career from a football standpoint. I'm sure that affected his energy levels during the season. Throw in his lame-duck status and I'm sure he wasn't as effective as he'd been in the past. I would not necessarily call that mailing it in.