Editor's note: Clark Judge and Pete Prisco are travelling to every NFL training camp and filing daily reports and analysis. Next camp report from Judge: Broncos
KIRKLAND, Wash. -- So the Farewell Tour has begun, with Seattle's Mike Holmgren taking his last lap at the Seahawks' training camp.
He looks good. He seems relaxed. He's definitely energized. And he swears he has no second thoughts about moving on to life without football.
But that's where the certainty ends, folks.
|One man vs. One fan|
206-ISH: "We now have a talented, abeit, crowded backfield, but it gives us insurance in case of injury. I think Julius Jones will dominate in a zone blocking scheme."
I don't know if Holmgren wants to coach again, but people I trust tell me he does. I don't know how long he stays away from football, either, or if he would give up coaching to run a front office -- but I'd bet a week's salary he shows up somewhere on the NFL radar, with San Francisco the logical choice.
What I really don't know is how Holmgren operates as a lame duck, with the team's next head coach -- secondary coach Jim Mora -- standing across the line of scrimmage from him at each practice.
Holmgren and Tim Ruskell, Seattle's general manager and president of football operations, assure me it's no big deal, but I covered a team in 1986 where it was supposed to be no big deal, either.
Only it was.
That was the San Diego Chargers, and the move backfired so badly that by mid-season the head coach, Don Coryell, was gone. Mora was on that staff, so he knows better than most the land mines that are out there.
Then a young defensive assistant, Mora had an up-close-and-personal look at how not to run a football team. My guess is that that experience makes a difference in how he handles what could be an awkward position this season.
When I ran into him at the annual NFL scouting combine, he kept telling me he was the secondary coach and nothing but the secondary coach, and he would gladly answer any and all questions -- so long as they pertained to his defensive backs.
He said the same thing here this weekend, insisting he won't be a distraction to Holmgren, and ask anyone who suffered through the San Diego experience: That's a good thing.
|Out of Nowhere Man|
|Cornerback Kevin Hobbs. When Charlie Frye lofted a bomb for Trent Shelton at Saturday's scrimmage, the ball was right on target -- but fell incomplete. That's because cornerback Hobbs batted it down, and keep your eyes on this guy. He's not going to start, but he should be the team's fourth cornerback. So what? So he's part of a secondary that is so deep assistant Jim Mora said he could see keeping nine defensive backs. Hobbs would be among them, and good for him. A walk-on at Auburn, Hobbs was originally signed by the Seahawks in 2006, cut, then re-signed a year later. And while he played in six games in 2007, he made almost no impact. That should change in 2008. "One of the things that was holding him up was that he didn't finish plays," said Mora. "But he seems to have matured past that to the point where now he's more aggressive. He's developed a real confidence in himself, and he's fun to watch." So watch him.|
|Who is your Out of Nowhere Man?|
But it's not Mora I wonder about; it's Holmgren. This is not another retiree waiting to pick up his gold watch en route to the first tee. This is Mike Friggin' Holmgren, a guy who took the Green Bay Packers to two Super Bowls, created Brett Favre, has a street named after him and put the Seahawks back on the map -- taking them to four straight division titles and five straight playoff appearances, including their first Super Bowl.
You don't tell Holmgren when to leave; he tells you. And, yeah, that sorta happened here. Except the club sorta told him it wouldn't talk about an extension, too.
So Holmgren announced he was leaving, the club announced Mora would succeed him and now we fasten our seat belts in case the ride is bumpy.
It shouldn't be.
"I don't think it'll be tough," Holmgren said. "Jim and I have a real good relationship, and he certainly understands the situation and what his role is. My thing is: As long as the players understand they're accountable to me the way they've always been then next year is next year; this year is this year. And this group of players indicates to me they get the point.
"As long as Jim continues to handle it the way he's handling it now I don't see a problem with it. Everyone's role on the staff is very defined. I've been doing this for a long time, and if I think for a second that people are drifting when I'm talking they're going to have to answer to me. They know that."
That hasn't happened, and I can't see it happening. Of course, I didn't foresee the 1986 Chargers losing seven of their first eight, either, but that told me how tough it is to coach when the team's hand-picked successor is waiting to take over.
Except that was a different time, a different place, with different people. After spending time with Holmgren, Mora and the Seahawks' players I'm convinced this last go-around for the head coach should be everything San Diego was not.
And I'm not alone.
"No. 1, I don't think anybody's thinking about next year," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "And, No. 2, if anybody knows Mike Holmgren he is a very, very powerful personality, person and coach. He runs the show. When's around he's in charge. There's never any doubt about that and never any question.
"When I was in Green Bay I got to witness that. They had some big personalities there, like Reggie White and Brett Favre. Ron Wolf was the GM. But there was never any question who was in charge. I think it's very similar now."
At Saturday's scrimmage, it was easy to pick out Holmgren. Standing on the field near the offensive huddle, he was the most visible coach. And if you couldn't find him there all you had to do was wait until he took a microphone and addressed the thousands who attended, thanking them for their support.
Positives: Jones is playing behind a strong offensive line in an explosive offense. He has no one of Marion Barber's talent level to impede his production. With the Seahawks lacking playmakers at wide receiver, Jones could be on the field for every down. When given carries in his career, Jones has produced. He plays in a weak division, where St. Louis (No. 25), San Francisco (No. 27) and Arizona (No. 29) were all in the bottom eight in run defense in 2007.
Negatives: Jones played in an explosive offense last year with a stout offensive line and failed to execute. He will lose touchdowns to Duckett and lose reps to Morris. Last year, the Seahawks went to a heavy passing attack, and coach Mike Holmgren won't be afraid to open up the offense again this year if the receivers hold up. Is Jones at 27 really an upgrade over an over-the-hill Shaun Alexander?
Outlook: If you draft Jones to be your starting Fantasy running back you could be disappointed. Don't reach for Jones as a No. 2 option. Let him fall to you as your No. 3 running back and then let him start for a couple of weeks. When the matchup is right -- six games against the Rams, Cardinals and 49ers -- he will shine. And if he plays better than that, then you have a steal with a fourth or fifth round pick. Count on Jones for about 1,200 rushing yards and five touchdowns and 25 catches for 200 yards and a score.
-- Jamey Eisenberg
RB: Julius Jones (43rd overall)
QB: Matt Hasselbeck (63rd overall)
WR: Bobby Engram (84th overall)
TE: John Carlson (196th overall)
|2008 Fantasy Draft Prep|
He might be going, going, but he's not gone -- and in Seattle he's still numero uno, with Holmgren careful not to go out by being someone or something he isn't. "One of the reasons I said I was not coming back was to avoid distractions," he said. "I can't very well tell the team that, and then allow it to distract me. That's not fair. So I just want to do what I do."
What he does is win. Holmgren has done it for years -- in fact, he's the winningest active head coach in the NFL -- and there's no reason to believe that won't happen again.
Of course, that will depend on a few key variables, and let's start with running the ball. If the Seahawks are going to make Holmgren's farewell party one to remember they must produce something better than the league's 20th-best rushing game and average more than 3.8 yards a pop.
Holmgren thinks they will.
One reason is the addition of free-agent running backs Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett. Another is the addition of veteran guard Mike Wahle, who solidifies a position that hasn't been stable since Steve Hutchinson left.
But let's not forget about Mike Solari, and my guess is you haven't heard of him. No sweat. Solari is an outstanding assistant who coached the offensive line in Kansas City when Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson trampled defenses and when the Chiefs annually sent linemen to the Pro Bowl, and he's an assistant who can -- and should -- make a difference.
"You want more balance," Holmgren said. "So we have new line coaches, new running backs and new offensive linemen. I'm encouraged by it. I know we'll run the ball better than we did last year."
What he doesn't know, of course, is how all this shakes out. Holmgren vows to "really enjoy this year," but he knows as well as you that lasts only until some stupid play or a bad call costs him a game.
Then it's back to the same ol', same ol' -- only it's not, and that's OK by Mike Holmgren.
"I thought long and hard on how I was going to approach this thing," Holmgren said. "Once you make a decision like we made then I'm at peace with it. I really am. Having said that, I told the team and the coaches that it's business as usual.
"Now, at the end I'll reflect a little bit, and I'm sure it will be emotional for me. But now? I'm not going to be different; I'm not going to approach it a different way; I'm not going to treat anyone differently. I expect people to listen to me. The players get it, and they're all working real hard."
So is Holmgren, who just turned 60. He lost more than 20 pounds. He seems more involved with his players and coaches. And he honest-to-goodness seems comfortable with his decision to leave.
But Joe Gibbs returned. So did Bill Parcells and Dick Vermeil. Can that ... will that ... happen to Holmgren?
"You know what? I don't know," he said. "I know that right now I am doing the right thing for right now, and then I'm going to take some time off. During that time I really have to find out how I react to that. Am I going to be all over the place or is it going to be fun? Am I going to like it?
"Maybe I like going to my cabin or going to the beach or reading or riding my motorcycle. I'm just going to kind of see, and maybe learn some stuff about myself I haven't thought about for awhile. I'm not going to lock in anything, but I am going to take some time.
"Now, can I see myself walking away from the game? I don't know. I'm a teacher at heart. So that's the question of the day."