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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Letter to Mike Holmgren

Understanding that I am far from non-biased, I still found it necessary to respond to comments made during yesterday's Seahawk postseason celebration. During the celebration, Holmgren said: "We knew it was going to be tough going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I didn't know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well." Holmgren got what he wanted from the Seattle crowd (cheers), but has received some negative reaction from many others. My letter can be counted among that reaction.

Dear Coach Holmgren,

Congratulations on a fantastic season and for winning the NFC title. Whether due to "east coast bias" or not, your team seemed to dominate the entire conference, yet doing so without much recognition from the press. There was little doubt last Sunday that the team representing the NFC in the Super Bowl was the best team in the NFC.

I would also like to commend you for the class your franchise has shown in winning. The team has conducted itself with sportsmanship during contests, and has been a good example to its community as law abiding citizens. Equally impressive was that your team appeared to accept defeat with the same class and grace on Sunday. I was, therefore, quite disappointed to hear your comments on Monday.

Though I am sure I missed many of what could be contested as "poor calls" on Sunday, I would like to make the following observations about the game:

Darrell Jackson did push off. Whether his shove was truly enough to impede the corner is not really in question. The bottom line is, he placed his hand in the chest of the defender and then fully extended his arm to create separation. Receivers know that a hand placed in the middle of a defender's torso (chest or back) will result in a penalty. Eight out of ten times, that penalty is called.
The holding call. I will readily admit that I hardly understand what does and does not constitute holding in the NFL. I agree that it did not look like a violation to me. However, I have regularly heard announcers (usually former players) confess that holding happens on every single snap in the NFL. It appears to be one of the more subjective penalties. This doesn't make a blown call right. However, it also should place in perspective that this call should not have changed the course of the game.
Pittsburgh had 0 first downs in the first quarter. You may want to consider having a conversation with Tom Rouen. His continual punts into the end zone allowed the Steelers to start every stalled drive on the twenty, thereby keeping your team from gaining field position. You dominated the game in the first quarter and had a 3 point lead. That is not the referees' problem.
The clock is objective. The refs do not increase or decrease the value of a second. Your team squandered a scoring drive in the first half (even taking an unused timeout into the half) and poorly managed the clock at the end of the game. Just a field goal in either of those situations (granted, early at the end, with an on side kick to follow) would have radically changed the stategy your team needed to execute.
The better team should win. I am aware, Mr. Holmgren, that my bias may come through. But I believe there were more frequent and more costly poor calls in the Indianapolis/Pittsburgh game. Yet Pittsburgh persevered. Had Pittsburgh lost, the officiating would have hurt, but costly turnovers could not be ignored. I think maybe first, your coaching staff should consider dropped passes, touchback punts, missed field goals and interceptions, and poor time managment before the officials are blamed. Correcting just half of those problems may have resulted in a different outcome, regardless of the referees.

In the end, criticism of the officiating is understandable. There are going to be mistakes in any game. Unfortunately, those mistakes can sometimes pile up against one team. However, to present the officiating as a foe you had to overcome undermines the integrity of the entire league. It may create caustic situations with fans and officials during future games. It even makes you look less noble for being willing to accept blame for your mistakes.

In the end, your comments may have been "Seattle friendly" but I don't see how they were "football friendly." However, I'm sure the fine the NFL will exact upon you will go to a charitable cause, and for that, I am thankful for your "contribution."


Danny Wright


  • At 4:43 PM, Blogger David said…

    I guess I'm just frustrated with the officiating as a whole in these playoffs. There were really bad calls sunday night, during the Pittsburgh-Indy game and the New England-Denver game. I understand football is quite possibly the hardest sport in existence to fairly refiree, but seriously, some of this stuff has been ridiculous.

    And if you want to get on someone for whining about officiating, I have two words for you: Joey. Porter.

  • At 5:28 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    Actually, I have heard a lot of people who don't give a rip about Seattle complain about the refs on Sunday.

    Most of the laughable calls went against Seattle.
    Most of the laughable calls were to Pittsburgh's advantage.

    While nobody is putting an asterisk next to Pittsburgh's victory, it seems like most of the non-biased opinions out there agree with Holmgren.

    It's been all over talk shows about how the quality of the officiating needs to be upgraded, reviewed, and held accountable.

    I could list five or six calls that you didn't mention... that were horrible. The very fact that I can recall each of these plays in detail (if you like) highlights to me the scandalous nature of the calls.

    When Pittsburgh did beat the Colts, I felt a sigh of relief, because I thought the referees tried to rob Pittsburgh of a victory.

    However, when key plays and bad calls by refs had a deciding factor in the Super Bowl, I did not experience the same kind of relief.

    Holmgren is correct in his assessment, and has the right to make these comments.

    If the Steelers had lost to the Colts, Cowher would have to speak up as well.

    Finally, you did admit that you are far from non-biased. I don't think any Steeler fan can speak objectively on this issue. No offense, bro. I just know that it wasn't a football game to you. It was sooooo much more! While that's awesome, and I'm happy for you, I do think it makes you view referee calls and Holmgren comments as through Steeler-colored glasses.

    For me, it's the same thing with the OSU-MIami national championship interference call. It was the right call, but the way the ref called it late basically invited controversy. As an OSU fan, I am more quick to declare, "that's the right call." As a Miami fan, I would be more quick to declare, "what a terrible ref for his lateness and bad angle!"

    I guess we are getting into relativism. Objective fans and refs can see with their eyes, and not their hearts.

  • At 5:29 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    Can I add one more thing...

    The only thing that matters in all this, is that the Steelers won the Super Bowl.


    That's what history will remember and the NFL does respect.

  • At 10:24 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i agree, david, something has to be done about the officiating. the only solution i see is full time professional referees. and younger guys too. most refs are semi retired bankers or lawyers.


    i admitted that i'm quite biased. however, there are some things that can't be denied.

    pittsburgh beat indy...against odds and on the road.
    pittsburgh beat denver...at mile high
    pittsburgh beat cincy...again, on the road.

    seattle played against arizona, san fransico and saint louis twice each. pittsburgh played against cleveland twice.

    pittsburgh may not have played well sunday (their worst performance in 6 weeks), but they are certainly the better team between seattle and pittsburgh.

  • At 10:46 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    Dew, I wasn't dissing Pittsburgh. Neither was Holmgren.

    I didn't think we were debating who is the better team.

    I thought the whole issue was the performance of the refs.

    I agree Pittsburgh is the more complete team, and probably the better team on Sunday.

  • At 11:50 PM, Blogger Joy said…

    Danny-I have wanted to post many times but just never have. I guess tonight is the night..
    As a fellow Steeler fan, I must say I have always done my best to be unbiased & fair in accessing their games. EVERY game has a bad call, some more then others. Living in Bengal country, what I am really tired of hearing is that Pittsburgh did not deserve to be there. I just wish others would be willing to look at what they did this season. They were 7 & 5 and for all intents FINISHED in everyone's eyes but a few of us faithful. They won EIGHT in a row. All their playoff games were on the road. I got so tired of hearing that the next game would be their last...but one by one they knocked them off. My son could rattle off the stats...my mind is too old to remember them but what I do know is that the defense did its job in every game. I think another interesting stat he shared with me last night while listening to all the pundits....The Steelers won by more points in this one game then the Patriots did in their last 3 combined!!! So this game didn't have some of the zip the previous one did. Ben wasn't outstanding... Jerome wasn't a huge factor...Troy's hair wasn't seen as much.... So no one guy stood out...to me is all the better..this win belonged to the TEAM.

    And by the way...I have really enjoyed your posts on the emergent church. :-)

  • At 9:02 AM, Blogger ~~anna~~ said…

    Can't speak much about the officiating....not knowledgable there. The fact that I watched the 2nd half of the game with Mexican commentary could have something to do with that too! We had a med team here from Washington that Bob had to take to a local Italian restaurant that has two large screen tv's because they wanted to see the game. All part of the ministry here...we just try to keep the groups happy and give them what they want. But Bob did say that the ride back to the ministry center was very QUIET!
    I have my own blog now Danny. Feel free to check it out!

  • At 9:12 AM, Blogger danny2 said…


    i can't help but feel that the quote does dis the steelers. holmgren didn't say, "we played a great team that was resilient tonight. there were some bad calls that hurt us, but pittsburgh seemed to stop us when it mattered." no instead, he said, "we knew pittsburgh would be tough, but it was impossible when the refs were on their side."

    that's not admitting the better team won. that's not admitting they didn't execute when it mattered. it's not even admitting you got beat. it's saying that the other team won because it wasn't a fair fight...implying that it was intentionally that way.

    on a whole side note, i've been surprised to hear how some attack porter and polamalu for not showing up for the game. first, porter's position is a very easy one to negate. you just focus more blockers on him, but that opens it up for other defenders. and troy was very visibly limping in the game. he was clearly injured.

    i can't help but remember the total disrespect new england got after their first super bowl. they shouldn't have beat the rams and it was a fluke. after the second win, people started to come around. by the third, people were finally admitting they deserve it.

    here's hoping pittsburgh gets the same opportunity to prove people wrong. their playoff run proves it is not a fluke.

    but yes, i hope the officiating is improved by next season.

  • At 12:05 PM, Blogger Steve said…

    Holmgren was a jerk for not shaking Cowher's hand. he's a fat cry baby.....and a sore loser...

    so there.

  • At 12:38 PM, Anonymous Natty said…

    Im still ticked about Carson Palmer. HE WILL HAVE HIS REVENGE!!!!!!!!!!!

    I look forwawd to the Bengals beating you all next season.

    -Congrats again on the victory.


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