Sunday, December 21, 2008

End of an Era

There are all sorts of endings. This one merited a little commentary, at least for my future reference. I wanted today to be all about honoring one of my heroes, Mike Holmgren, on his way out the door. I don't throw the hero word around lightly, and I understand why some would find it offensive to call a football coach a hero. What I know is that a team I have spent 27 years following was a joke for most of the 90s, and had been out of the playoffs for over a decade in a league defined by its parity.

I care about my sports teams way more than I could ever defend as appropriate or logical, and that's part of the fun. When one of them is a wreck, it hurts. When they are a wreck for a few seasons, it really hurts. When they reach the point of being hopeless, my coping skills kinda suck. If you haven't noticed, I've taken the last month off on this blog, and much of the past few months. With a wife and kids and a job, I can no longer afford to punch walls and lose days at a time with anger about a losing team. Instead, I just shut down. Before Holmgren came aboard, I was in a similar state for years. It was brutal.

He came in with a plan, and stuck with it. I didn't agree with all his moves (trading my favorite player, Ahman Green, and then spending a first round pick on a Shaun Alexander to replace him), but I had that confidence that he knew what he was doing. I also started to learn about him as a man and a leader and my respect grew. He owned up to his mistakes. He spoke about his family the way a man does when he loves them and has figured out what life is about. He wasn't afraid to rely on people with skills that he didn't have, whether it be in the front office or on the defensive side of the ball. He protected his young players, but held them accountable. And, most of all, he made it safe for me to pour myself into my team again.

I can say with all honesty that I never called for his job, either as a GM or as a coach. I'm proud of that. Not only do I give him 98% of the credit for building the 2005 team, but I think we might have been back if Ruskell hadn't made one of the worst moves in history by transition tagging Hutch.

And that brings me to the hardest part of today for me. As much as I tried to just reflect on all the great things Holmgren accomplished here and how much I'm going to miss having him around, I couldn't help but stew about Ruskell. Where does this guy get off denying Holmgren a chance to return next year? I'll give him Lofa, Patrick Kerney and LeRoy Hill. I can name a much larger list of bad moves off the top of my head (Hutch, Lawrence Jackson, Daryll Tapp, Kelly Jennings, David Greene to name a few). You could argue he's hurt the team more than helped it, and now he's running the guy out of town that made significantly more good moves than bad, including as a GM.

Where's Paul Allen in all this? Is this really what he thinks is best for the football team? Well, it's spilt milk, and I'm crying over it. I know. Vent done...for now.

Congratulations to Mike Holmgren, and I know he will end up winning executive of the year sometime down the road. I only can hope it's not within our division.