Short of winning the Super Bowl, whatever success the Seahawks
enjoy under new boss Mike Holmgren this season will be shadowed
by the question, What if...?
What if Fritz Shurmur, one of the most innovative defensive
coordinators of his time, had not developed liver cancer and been
forced to take a leave of absence in May? What fiendish torments
might he have drawn up to stymie Seattle opponents? Shurmur has
been undergoing chemotherapy at home in Green Bay. "He's very
weak; it's tough right now," Holmgren, the Seahawks' executive
vice president of football operations, general manager and coach,
said early in training camp. After resigning as the Packers'
coach last January, Holmgren had brought Shurmur with him to
With a maniacal, gap-toothed grin that for years has haunted
offensive coordinators, Shurmur had relished the chance to work
with Seattle's star-studded defense. Linemen Michael Sinclair,
Cortez Kennedy and Sam Adams; linebackers Chad Brown and Darrin
Smith; and defensive backs Shawn Springs and Darryl Williams have
been to the Pro Bowl or are on the cusp of going. So how did this
defense, which scored a league-record 10 touchdowns last season,
rank 27th in the NFL? "Maybe it was because after we'd score a
touchdown, we'd have to go right back on the field," Springs says
jokingly. "We were tired."
The Seahawks defense did, in fact, spend more time on the field
than any other defense in the league. So while they ranked second
in sacks and takeaways, they were also 29th in first downs
allowed. An offense that converted a league-low 28% of its
third-down opportunities was partly to blame for the extended
duty, but inconsistent play and injuries along the defensive line
also plagued Seattle. No wonder Holmgren used his first-round
draft pick on a defensive lineman, end Lamar King of Saginaw
Valley (Mich.) State, who is expected to see action off the
Coaching, or lack thereof, might also have contributed to the
spotty defensive play. Brown, who signed with Seattle as a free
agent in February 1997, had to bite his lip for the past two
seasons to conceal his frustration with Dennis Erickson's
laissez-faire approach to details and discipline. "I came from a
winning organization," says Brown, a former Steelers standout,
"so I found the way things were done here--or weren't
done--surprising, to say the least."
Goodbye, laissez-faire. Hello, Holmgren, who never met a detail
he didn't want to micromanage. Nowadays Seattle players must keep
their jerseys tucked in while on the practice field. They are not
allowed to wear tank tops to the training table at dinner. Before
the team's first scrimmage, Holmgren instituted a warmup regimen,
because, he says, when the players are left to their own devices
everyone starts tossing a football around and, before you know
it, "you've got 56 footballs in the air." And that's how people
Is Holmgren coming on a little strong with all the rules? Yes.
Do the Seahawks welcome his occasionally heavy hand?
"Absolutely," says guard Brian Habib, who endured a similar
experience four years ago in Denver. "It was Mike Shanahan's
first year, and he put in a ton of new rules--a lot of them the
same ones we're getting here. They both learned from the same
guy [Bill Walsh], and they've both won Super Bowls."
The absence of Shurmur left Holmgren with an unusually young
defensive staff. To remedy that, he coaxed out of retirement old
friends Dick Roach and Bob Zeman, both 62, who will, in part, act
as sounding boards for Holmgren. Linebackers coach Jim Lind, 51,
became the de facto defensive coordinator. Just because Shurmur
isn't around, don't expect vanilla schemes. Before having his
cancer diagnosed, he drew up the defenses he intended to install
in camp. Lind, a disciple of Shurmur's at Green Bay, will carry
them out. The Mad Scientist's legacy thrives.
Just ask Brown, whose head was spinning after a week of training
camp. "I've got about 10 different jobs right now," he said.
Because of his versatility--Brown has the strength to play
inside and the speed to play outside--he moves around more than
most players. It hasn't helped that he's working under his sixth
linebackers coach in five years. "I'd love to play just one
position and be really good at it," he said.
Remember how Shurmur used Packers strong safety LeRoy Butler to
visit mayhem on opposing offenses, blitzing him from every
conceivable angle? Think he might have had some fun with Brown?
But Shurmur or no Shurmur, this is the year Seattle finally
begins to play to the measure of its considerable talent.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH Gainful pursuit The Seahawks' many individual standouts, such as Adams, haven't yet added up to a cohesive defensive unit.
COLOR PHOTO: RICH FRISHMAN
Sept. 12 DETROIT
19 at Chicago
26 at Pittsburgh
Oct. 3 OAKLAND
10 Open date
17 at San Diego
Nov. 1 at Green Bay (Mon.)
21 at Kansas City
28 TAMPA BAY
Dec. 5 at Oakland
12 SAN DIEGO
19 at Denver
26 KANSAS CITY
Jan. 2 at N.Y. Jets
1998 Record 8-8 (3rd in AFC West)
NFL rank (rush/pass/total): offense 22/24/23; defense 21/27/27
1999 Schedule strength NFL rank: 15 Opponents' 1998 winning
percentage: .500 Games against playoff teams: 5
RETURNS, BUT NO RETURN
Last year the Seahawks set an NFL single-season record with 13
return touchdowns--that is, touchdowns not scored by either a rush
or a pass. But unlike the other three teams that have scored more
than 10 such touchdowns in one year, Seattle failed to produce a
winning record last season.
Int. Punt Kickoff Fumble Blocked Total
return return return return punt return returns
Team TDs TDs TDs TDs TDs TDs W-L
1998 Seahawks 8 2 1 2 0 13* 8-8
1992 Chiefs 6 2 0 2 1 11 10-6
1961 Chargers 9* 1 0 0 1 11 12-2
1952 Rams 4 2 0 5* 0 11 9-3
PLAYER TO WATCH
The talented Seahawks will go as far as their unproven,
third-year quarterback Jon Kitna will take them. That's fine
with Mike Holmgren, who likes what he has seen of the Tacoma,
Wash., native. After spending the first 11 games of last season
as third-string quarterback for then coach Dennis Erickson,
Kitna started Seattle's final five games, winning three. In his
second pro start, a 20-18 victory over the Oilers last November,
Kitna completed 24 of 39 passes for 298 yards and two
touchdowns, winning AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
While Kitna's arm isn't as live as Brett Favre's, Holmgren calls
Kitna a natural. "Intelligence, courage, maneuverability,
leadership--in all those areas he gets A-pluses," says the new
PROJECTED LINEUP WITH 1998 STATISTICS
Coach: Mike Holmgren
First season with Seahawks (75-37 in NFL)
Offensive Backs PVR*
QB Jon Kitna 66
172 att. 98 comp. 57.0% 1,177 yds. 7 TDs 8 int. 72.3 rtg.
RB Ricky Watters 21
319 att. 1,239 yds. 3.9 avg. 52 rec. 373 yds. 7.2 avg. 9 TDs
RB Ahman Green 169
35 att. 209 yds. 6.0 avg. 3 rec. 2 yds. 0.7 avg. 1 TD
FB Mack Strong 281
15 att. 47 yds. 3.1 avg. 8 rec. 48 yds. 6.0 avg. 2 TDs
Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen
WR Joey Galloway 14 65 rec. 1,047 yds. 10 TDs
WR Sean Dawkins 112 53 rec. 823 yds. 1 TD
WR Mike Pritchard 127 58 rec. 742 yds. 3 TDs
TE Christian Fauria 183 37 rec. 377 yds. 2 TDs
K Todd Peterson 154 41/41 XPs 19/24 FGs 98 pts.
PR Joey Galloway 14 25 ret. 10.0 avg. 2 TDs
KR Ahman Green 169 27 ret. 23.0 avg. 0 TDs
LT Walter Jones 6'5" 300 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LG Pete Kendall 6'5" 292 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
C Kevin Glover 6'2" 282 lbs. 8 games 8 starts
RG Brian Habib 6'7" 299 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RT Howard Ballard 6'6" 325 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LE Michael Sinclair 55 tackles 16 1/2 sacks
LT Sam Adams 31 tackles 2 sacks
RT Cortez Kennedy 43 tackles 2 sacks
RE Phillip Daniels 48 tackles 6 1/2 sacks
OLB Darrin Smith 80 tackles 5 sacks
MLB DeShone Myles 37 tackles 0 int.
OLB Chad Brown 149 tackles 8 1/2 sacks
CB Shawn Springs 75 tackles 7 int.
SS Darryl Williams 97 tackles 3 int.
FS Jay Bellamy 98 tackles 3 int.
CB Willie Williams 66 tackles 2 int.
P Jeff Feagles 81 punts 44.1 avg.
New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college
year) *PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 122)