Holmgren staying put
Seahawks sources end speculation about coach leaving for ***** job
By CLARE FARNSWORTH
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
KIRKLAND -- When Mike Holmgren holds his season-ending news conference today, the Seahawks coach will discuss the things that went wrong in 2004 and his plans for how to get it right in 2005.
Things remain status quo despite media speculation in Seattle and San Francisco that Holmgren could be fired or decide to leave Seattle after six seasons.
A season that began with high expectations might have veered off course, but sources yesterday said club president Bob Whitsitt and Holmgren have decided to stay the course.
That was apparent at the team's headquarters yesterday, one day after the players cleared out their lockers and two days removed from their loss to the St. Louis Rams in the first round of the playoffs.
Holmgren met with Whitsitt yesterday, as well as his coaching staff. The only sure change there is not surprising, as special teams coach Mark Michaels will not be retained after his units ranked among the worst in the league in several key categories.
Whitsitt was not available, and Holmgren declined to discuss the situation as he left the building last night.
"I'll talk to you tomorrow," he said.
So that's good news for the coach?
"Hope so," he said with a smile.
The conjecture over Holmgren's status with the Seahawks grew last week when the San Francisco ***** fired Dennis Erickson, the coach who was terminated by the Seahawks in 1999 to open the way for Holmgren to be hired.
Holmgren is from San Francisco and was an assistant coach with the ***** from 1986-91, when the franchise won two Super Bowls. He has two years remaining on his contract with the Seahawks, and the ***** have not requested permission to speak with Holmgren about their vacancy.
Holmgren has said he would like to finish his career with the Seahawks, and that he and his wife, Kathy, have settled into an enjoyable lifestyle here.
He also believes the Seahawks are close to becoming a playoff-winning team, despite the stumbles that prevented this season from being all that it could have been.
"We took one more step this year over last year, believe it or not, when we won the division," Holmgren said after Saturday's game at Qwest Field, the last time he spoke publicly. "That was a goal. One of these years we're going to win a playoff game and take the next step.
"(Saturday) was a tough one, but it will happen if we can keep the team together."
With his situation settled, Holmgren, Whitsitt and general manager Bob Ferguson can channel their efforts into re-signing at least some, if not most, of the 16 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in March.
The obvious place to start is quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. He already could have been re-signed, but wasn't -- a situation that did not sit well with Holmgren or his handpicked passer.
"I really thought it would be done during the season," Hasselbeck said Sunday.
Now, he expects a deal to get done sooner rather than later.
"Mostly I say that just because I'm pretty reasonable," Hasselbeck said.
During the season, Hasselbeck would not admit that the uncertainty over his future was affecting his performance.
Sunday, he offered, "I've had this feeling before in other ways. Like, 'Are they going to want me back?' Or, 'Am I going to get traded?' It's one of those situations where I'm not losing sleep over it."
Hasselbeck is a realist. He knows there is not enough money, nor time, to retain everyone. There are just too many players, and too many who have earned bigger paydays with their next contract.
It's not just what Hasselbeck calls "The Big Three" -- Pro Bowl running back Shaun Alexander, All-Pro left tackle Walter Jones and himself. There is defensive end Chike Okeafor, who led the team in sacks for the second consecutive season; cornerback Ken Lucas, who had a career-high six interceptions to tie for the NFC lead; Itula Mili, who again proved to be the most dependable tight end on the roster; and four-fifths of the starting offensive line -- Jones, center Robbie Tobeck, right guard Chris Gray and Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack, who filled in admirably at right tackle for an injured Chris Terry in seven of the final eight games.
But the Seahawks also have obvious holes -- especially on defense -- that must be addressed in free agency and the NFL draft.
"Hopefully, we can keep the right guys and get the new right guys," Hasselbeck said.
The Seahawks have 16 players who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in March:
Player Pos. Acquired
Shaun Alexander RB D(1), 2000
Alex Bannister WR D(5), 2001
Heath Evans FB D(3), 2001
Chris Gray OG FA, 1998
Matt Hasselbeck QB Tr., 2001
Brock Huard QB FA, 2004
Orlando Huff MLB D(4), 2001
Walter Jones OT D(1), 1997
Ken Lucas CB D(2), 2001
Itula Mili TE D(6), 1997
Brandon Mitchell DE FA, 2002
Chike Okeafor DE FA, 2003
Tom Rouen P FA, 2003
Robbie Tobeck C FA, 2000
Ken Walter P FA, 2004
Floyd Womack OL D(4), 2001