JEFF: Be Like Mike
By Jeff Falconio
There will likely be a lot of familiarity this weekend between the Packers and Seahawks. Throughout the regular season, Packers coach Mike McCarthy and Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren have displayed quite a few similar traits. Playcalling comes to mind. Seattle ditched a balanced attack for a more wide open offense in the second half of the season that looks a lot like what the Packers did all year.
More importantly, both were able to change the role of the team's franchise player. McCarthy turned Brett Favre from a vertical, downfield gunslinger to a much more controlled thrower who doesn't mind checking down and taking the short gain. Meanwhile Holmgren altered running back Shaun Alexander from a franchise cornerstone to a role player.
Both moves were brilliant. Favre enjoyed one of the best years of his career and would've been the NFL's MVP had it not been for the monster numbers Tom Brady put up. Alexander saw his role diminished but in doing so Seattle opened up its offense and went on a tear late in the season. Alexander averaged a little more than 22 carries in the first four weeks but in that stretch his game high rushing total was only 105 yards. It was evident that age was beginning to slow him down. So when Alexander was hurt midway through the year Holmgren decided to put the team on quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's shoulders. The result was a five game winning streak that saw the Seahawks score nearly 30 points per game.
Much like the Packers, Seattle runs a traditional version of the West Coast offense with multiple receivers running short and intermediate routes. The Seahawks have tremendous depth at wide receiver and Hasselbeck has been able to distribute the ball to a number of pass catchers. This, of course, is really no different than what the Packers have done all season. Hasselbeck is very familiar with Holmgren's system and with the recent additions of Nate Burleson and Deion Branch the Seahawks have the weapons to match Green Bay's potent offensive capabilities. This should translate into a classic chess match between two of the NFL's better offensive minded coaches.