|Seahawks' Holmgren has what former protege Gruden wants with Bucs|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 07 September 2007 07:32|
Not Holmgren's dockside, island home, his power boat or his motorcycles. Not the 16-year head coach's seniority. Not necessarily his Super Bowl ring, either, because Gruden already has one of those.
What the Tampa Bay coach wants most is the luxury Seattle's coach has enjoyed for five years - and for seven years before that in Green Bay: one quarterback upon whom you build a team.
``I personally think that's absolutely necessary to maintain consistency and have the development of the rest of the football team. You've got to start there,'' said Holmgren, who's had Matt Hasselbeck running the Seahawks since 2002, after Brett Favre led the Packers for him from 1992-98.
``I believe Jon feels the same way.''
Oh, yes, you can bet Gruden's signature, pulled-down visor and sideline snarl he feels the same way. Especially entering Sunday's game between the Buccaneers and Seahawks, the opener to a season in which people already have asked Gruden about his job security.
``The continuity, I think, between play-caller, coach, and quarterback is a huge winning edge,'' Gruden said, emphasizing ``huge.''
``That's the thing we're trying to get here in Tampa is a guy that we can build a franchise around, a guy that will be durable and complete every single Sunday. And it's been hard to get.''
Paris Hilton's life has been more stable than Tampa Bay's quarterback situation since Gruden arrived in 2002. When Jeff Garcia makes his Bucs debut Sunday, he will try to become the 11th quarterback to win a game for Gruden in Tampa Bay. No other NFL coach has prepped more passers in the last six seasons.
Holmgren has had Hasselbeck. Oh, there have also been backups Trent Dilfer (two games in 2004) and Seneca Wallace (four games last season), but only for spot starts while Hasselbeck was hurt.
Seattle is coming off a third consecutive division championship. Tampa Bay is coming off a 4-12 disaster.
``It's been hard here,'' Gruden said.
``If you don't do some things to get a guy at that position they don't just fall out of the stars into your lap. ... We hope Garcia can really solve a mystery for us and give us some stability at a position that you have to have to be successful in pro football.''
Garcia, a three-time Pro Bowler, resurrected his career late last season by winning five of six starts with Philadelphia as an injury replacement. Now, he's Gruden's unquestioned starter.
``I think it's something that I'm very well prepared for. I've been doing it for a lot of years and I'm excited about it,'' Garcia said. ``I'm excited to be able to get into some sort of rhythm.''
Garcia will play in his 100th game Sunday, his 93rd start. He is fourth on the league's list for interception percentage (2.46 - with 73 interceptions in almost 3,000 throws) and sixth in ratio of touchdowns to interceptions (1.86).
But the mobile guy whom Holmgren tried to sign two years ago as Hasselbeck's backup is 37. He is on his fifth team in five years. How long can Gruden count on Garcia?
``I saw George Foreman win a heavyweight title. I think he was 44 years old,'' Gruden said, chuckling. ``I'm hoping he has seven years left, let's put it that way.''
Even Garcia at 44 may be better than this recent past:
Brad Johnson was efficient while winning the Super Bowl with Gruden at the end of the '02 season. Then again, cynics claimed with the Bucs' swarming defense, Elmer Fudd could have quarterbacked them to a title.
In 2003, the offense rose to 10th behind Johnson's 27 touchdown passes and a balanced running game. But after four games of '04, Brian Griese took Johnson's job. The Buccaneers sank to 5-11, then Johnson signed with Minnesota. The following year, Griese's season ended with a knee injury in the sixth game. Tampa Bay rallied to 11-5 and won the NFC South when inexperienced quarterback Chris Simms benefited from Carnell ``Cadillac'' Williams' 1,178 yards rushing.
But Tampa Bay continued to watch idly because of salary cap problems as Griese signed with Chicago.
Three games into 2006, Simms had thrown seven interceptions and just one touchdown, then was injured and needed his spleen removed. Bruce Gradkowski, a rookie sixth-round pick, started 11 games. The well-traveled Tim Rattay threw 101 passes. The Bucs fell to their worst record since 1991 (3-13).
Holmgren, who brought Gruden into the NFL as the league's first part-time, ``quality-control'' assistants when he was the offensive coordinator with San Francisco in 1990, has had no such constraints.
And that's going back to 1992, when Holmgren replaced Packers starter Don Majkowski with a raw Favre early in the season. All Favre has done since is start 257 consecutive regular-season and playoff games, a league record for quarterbacks.
``In Brett's case, who knew?'' Holmgren said, deflecting any credit for him.
Hasselbeck led the Seahawks to the Super Bowl and was elected to the Pro Bowl following the 2005 season, but he hasn't had an entirely smooth tenure in Seattle. Yet team executives allowed Holmgren to stick with Hasselbeck for years, which the coach feels is a must to develop a quarterback for the long term.
``Understanding there are going to be bumps on the road, you kind of commit - but then you give yourself three years,'' Holmgren said.
``I think every coach would like that situation.''
Gruden, for one, sure would.
AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.