Sportsman of the Year
Life of Reilly
SI for Kids
SI Customer Service
SI Media Kits
Get into College
Posted: Tuesday October 16, 2001 3:49 PM|
Updated: Friday October 19, 2001 7:43 PM
|Sports Illustrated's Don Banks tackles three questions that matter to fans:
||What's the toughest sell in the NFL right now?
The one Mike Holmgren faces during this, his bye week. All Holmgren has to do is convince Seattle's fans, media, ownership, players and even himself that quarterback Matt Hasselbeck gives the Seahawks a better chance of winning right now than backup Trent Dilfer. When all the results scream just the opposite. To wit: As an NFL starter, Dilfer has as many Super Bowl rings (one) as Hasselbeck does wins.
Inch by inch, probably running counter to every instinct in his body, Holmgren has backed himself into the classic coaching trap in the NFL. He must weigh the benefits of winning now with Dilfer versus winning in the future with Hasselbeck.
For Holmgren, the situation perfectly illustrates the difficulties of being both general manager and head coach, the high-profile role he left Green Bay for. As a general manager in charge of the franchise's long-term future, Holmgren knows he must continue to develop Hasselbeck, whom he traded for this offseason and then quickly signed to a rich multi-year deal (some would say foolishly signed to a rich multi-year deal before Hasselbeck had proved anything).
But as a head coach who as recently as three weeks ago was in some deepening hot water in terms of job security, Holmgren knows Dilfer presents him the best possible chance to win in 2001. With Hasselbeck as a starter, the Seahawks were 1-2, had barely escaped with their lone victory and were going nowhere as an offense. With Dilfer, the Seahawks are 2-0, with impressive home wins against Jacksonville and Denver, and are just a game out of first place in the AFC West.
This long-term upside versus short-term gratification debate is exactly why Holmgren hesitated so long this offseason before going out and signing a veteran backup behind Hasselbeck -- Dilfer wasn't added until early August. For a long while, Holmgren appeared ready to enter the season with Brock Huard as his backup, which would have presented zero challenge to Hasselbeck's supremacy.
Now, despite his patient cultivation of Hasselbeck as the team's future, Holmgren has the same dilemma on his hands that countless other head coaches have wrestled with. He reiterated this week that a healthy Hasselbeck will start against Miami on Oct. 28. That's the GM in him talking. But if Hasselbeck's struggles continue, how long will it take before the head coach in Holmgren wins out and Dilfer gets the nod?
With the franchise poised to open a new stadium next year, Holmgren was convinced Hasselbeck was the guy to lead the Seahawks into their new era. But next year didn't get here quickly enough. Maybe because this year hasn't gone as planned.
||What did we learn from that debacle in Dallas?
Just call them the ashington Redskins, because they still don't have a W.
After Monday night's loss at Dallas -- a game that resembled one of those embarrassing Tough Man contests featuring two beer-bellied over-the-hill types swinging and missing wildly in a boxing ring -- there is only one obvious motivation left for Marty Schottenheimer's bedraggled bunch.
History. The first 0-16 season in NFL annals. Move over, '76 Bucs. Here come the relentless Redskins. One team. One goal. One destination. Zero wins.
You laugh? Well, first of all, you were supposed to. But don't think for a moment that it's out of the question. After the Cowboys found a way to win against them, whose chances don't you like against the Redskins (0-5)?
Carolina this week? Please. The Panthers (1-4) haven't won since Sept. 9, but they came within a play of upsetting New Orleans on Sunday, hung with Green Bay for a little while, and played Atlanta and San Francisco fairly tough on the road. That's a dynasty compared to Washington.
Dallas in the rematch at FedEx on Dec. 2? By then, Ryan Leaf will have that Cowboys' offense humming like a finely tuned machine. Arizona in the rescheduled regular-season finale Jan. 6? No chance. The Redskins will be able to smell it by then -- as will the rest of us, given the stench -- and they'll be jacked up to send Darrell Green out a loser. No, there's no stopping these Redskins, who have lost seven of the eight games since owner Daniel Snyder pulled the plug on head coach Norv Turner in December.
Up 7-3 with about 13 minutes to play, Washington held just its second lead of the season Monday night -- and its first of more than three points -- and still found a way to fumble it away at the gun to a truly terrible team in its own right. That's greatness. That's determination. That's the will to lose. That's the Redskins.
||What three misconceptions have been cleared up in recent weeks?
No. 1, that Tampa Bay has a great defense. Not true. At least not lately. The Bucs are a very average football team in every way, even on defense. Offenses are driving up and down the field against Tampa Bay, and their bevy of defensive play-makers are doing little to stop it.
Coming into Sunday's game, winless Tennessee had just seven third-down conversions all season, and the NFL's worst ratio, at 7-of-42, for 16.7 percent. But the Titans converted eight third downs in 16 chances against the mighty Bucs, and hung up a 365 yards of total offense. Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks combined for three tackles, one assist and one sack in the loss at Tennessee.
Some how, the Bucs have lost their defensive intensity and identity. No longer are they getting it done with a fierce four-man rush, solid tackling and tight coverage. The pass rush is lacking and the tackling is uninspired.
No. 2, that the Ravens defense can't be successfully schemed for. Not true. Green Bay proved what others have tinkered with. Namely, that Baltimore's defensive dominance is susceptible to a well-executed spread-the-field formation that employs four receivers.
It doesn't hurt, of course, to have Brett Favre pulling the trigger. It took one of the greatest games by one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to expose the Ravens. But it no doubt provided a blueprint for Baltimore's remaining opponents.
There were, however, other indications of this trend. The Jets in last year's regular-season finale threw for 481 yards against the Ravens using a spread-the-field mentality. But the Jets' Vinny Testaverde threw three interceptions and New York lost 34-20. In this year's opener, Chicago also had a little success using a similar look. The Bears went no-huddle with four-receiver sets early in their 17-6 loss, and actually led the defending Super Bowl champions 6-3 into the third quarter.
Get used to it, Baltimore. Gone are the days when teams will keep trying to run right at you. The only way for them to get ahead and is to go the spread.
And No. 3, that the Rams fast-break offense has no real weakness. Ah, ditto. The Giants did what others have tried to do to St. Louis, they just did it more successfully. With defensive end Michael Strahan (four sacks) pounding Rams quarterback Kurt Warner all day, the Giants used their brute strength to knock running back Marshall Faulk out of the game and take much of the effectiveness out of St. Louis' speed attack.
We knew that getting pressure on Warner offered the only hope for forcing the Rams into a slower-paced game. The Eagles managed it successfully in the first half on opening day, but then St. Louis made adjustments and wound up winning in overtime.
And now every defensive coordinator in the league will be studying game film of the Giants' 15-14 loss at St. Louis, trying to duplicate New York's in-your-face approach to the Rams offense.
Copyright © 2001|
An AOL Time Warner Company.
All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.