Last week, I wrote a story on how the murder of Sean Taylor was overshadowing the play of the Redskins as they came into Seattle for the NFC Wildcard round. Some thought it was insensitive and some thought it was spot on.
This week I feel that the storylines leading in to the Divisional Matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks are larger in number but equal in distraction; the storylines tend to overshadow the actual play of the teams. Let's see if we can fix that.
Brett Favre. Just the name makes many think of corrugated metal, barbed wire and a myriad of other "manly" images. He is a man who is more comfortable trimming trees and driving a tractor on his Mississippi land then he is eating dinner with celebrities or wearing a designer suit.
Others may remember him as the "other" man in "There's Something About Mary". The man known as Brett Fah-vrah.
And still others think of the guy who may be playing his last game in Lambeau and maybe even the NFL -- something we have been hearing for what seems to be a decade. Favre talks about retiring more often then my Father during fishing season.
Yet the storyline in this game is about the "Teacher and the Pupil": Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre, Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck, and even [Green Bay (and ex-Seattle) General Manager] Ted Thompson and Mike Holmgren.
In the last few days I have heard this phrase over and over: "Mike knows what Brett will do and Brett knows what Mike will do."
That may have been true a few years ago, but things change. Of those two phrases I would think that the one closest to reality is that Mike knows Brett.
Why? I believe that a player may be able to change some tendencies, but will never be able to change the TYPE of player that he is. Brett has always been a "gunslinger" who throws caution to the wind to try and make something happen.A coach, on the other hand, is more likely to change what he does based on personnel, where he is coaching and the front-office. So is it safe to say that Mike knows more about what Brett is going to do then vise versa.
The second story is about Brett’s tutelage of Matt Hasselbeck.
To me, this is a non-story, since Hasselbeck was only there for 2 seasons and threw a total of 29 passes. The only similarities are in the comparisons between the two. (I know I will get hate mail saying that they are different and that Matt wouldn’t be allowed to fuel up Brett’s tractor.) I am not talking stats, because we know that “The Great One” is going to end his career in the top 3 of all-time. In stats he may be the #1 in every category.
In the short time he was in Green Bay, Hasselbeck did learn a few things from Brett. He learned how to lead a team. He learned how to be the guy to make things happen. He learned that being a “gunslinger” isn’t a bad thing.
Of course, there are the Matt-haters out there who can’t stand the idea of me comparing Hasselbeck to Favre, the God of Football, but let me do something:
Which is Hasselbeck and which is Favre? (Career numbers)
Completion percentage: 61.4 versus 60.7
Percentage of touchdowns thrown (TDs/Attempts): 5.0 versus 4.5
Yards per passing attempt: 7.0 versus 7.1
Passer Rating: 85.7 versus 86.2
If you said the first was Favre then you would be right. I understand that Favre has played a lot more and that may skew his numbers, but you can’t deny the similarity in numbers.
If you check out Pro-Football Reference.com, you will see that the two of them were very close in the above stats over their first 7 full seasons.
Maybe this story is the best. I think that it is going to be interesting watching two of Holmgren’s baby’s go up against opposing defenses that are also very similar.
Everyone talks about Hasselbeck’s "We want the ball, and we're going to score" comment from the 2003 Wildcard game. Well, they got the ball and then had to punt. The Seattle D then made the Packers punt, which is when the interception occured. This was caused by a route mistake by WR Alex Bannister (who also fumbled earlier in the game; later overturned)
Hasselbeck: 25/45 for 305 yards and 1 interception (THE interception)
Favre: 26/38 for 319 yards and 1 touchdown
"I'm thinking, 'heads, tails,' " Favre said.” There’s been talk he didn't know the microphone was on. I don't think it really mattered. I think he had hoped it was on. The worst that could happen is they lose. Yeah, they lost. I thought he played an outstanding game. That was just one play. Yeah, it was a big play, but he wasn't being cocky or anything. People can call it what they want, but I thought it was pretty neat.
"I wouldn't do it, but I'm not saying that negatively. If he throws the winning touchdown ... but if he doesn't, they're talking about it here four years later. But he's a tough guy mentally."
The last point is less of a major storyline and more of a conversation on philosophy.
From Wikipedia: “Thompson worked in Seattle along with former Packers and current Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren . During Thompson’s time in Seattle, The Seahawks advanced to the playoffs in two of the five seasons there with several players Thompson helped acquired through the draft. Some of the notable players Thompson selected in his tenure with the Seahawks were running back Shaun Alexander , kicker Josh Brown , guard Steve Hutchinson , and wide receiver Darrell Jackson , cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Ken Lucas , safeties Ken Hamlin and Michael Boulware . In 2005, however, with Thompson off to run the Packers, the Seahawks coincidentally had their best success in team history, reaching the Super Bowl. Naming Tim Ruskell the new president of football operations, the Seahawks were more aggressive utilizing free agency in 2005. They also were able to re-sign All-Pro left tackle Walter Jones to a multi-year contract, QB Matt Hasselbeck to a long-term contract and able to keep RB Shaun Alexander by declaring him their "franchise player". The 2005 second round draft pick, LB Lofa Tatupu , is credited with bringing the Seattle defense to the next level and helping get the Seahawks to the Super Bowl.”
So it is safe to say that Thompson helped build the base of the team, but you could argue that once he left the Seahawks they were able to make moves that Thompson could not and finally made the next level.
He is credited for Darrell Jackson, but he is also credited for making promises to him that NEVER happened, leading to problems that would later cause a trade. And as we have seen Hamlin and Boulware are no longer with the team. (Hamlin made the Pro Bowl with Dallas, but still shows the propensity to give up big plays; Boulware is rarely seeing the field in Houston)
"Ted gave his two cents. We had a little personnel meeting," [Packers Head coach, Mike] McCarthy said. "He knows a lot of their players and has been around Holmgren and that staff, so I had a chance to visit with Ted about it."
There were also rumors that Thompson and Holmgren were constantly battling over roster moves, drafts picks and contracts. This head-butting just makes for more drama.
Those are the major storylines for the upcoming game, at least from the non-off-field-production standpoint.
I will leave you to make your own decisions with these intangibles:
- Mike McCarthy is coaching his first NFL playoff game.
- Brett Favre, this decade, is 2-4 in the post-season with a passer rating of 72.2 and a TD to INT ratio of 9:14. (Thanks to Groz at KJR)
- Weather is supposed to be 20 degrees with a 30% chance of snow showers.
- Mike Holmgren is 48-8 in Lambeau (including playoffs)
- Brett Favre leads the league in short passes to the zone in front of the linebacking core. (Thanks to Hugh Millen at KJR)
- The strength of the Seattle Defense is the linebacking core.
- With the exception of a few players the Packers are new to the playoffs.
- With the exception of a few players the Seahawks are playoff “veterans”.
- 79% of Sportcenter’s “Fannation” chose the Packers to win; last week it was close to the same percentage for the Redskins to win.
-In the last 16 games at Lambeau, when the temp is under 40 degrees, the Pack is 7-9
My Prediction: Seattle to upset. 24-23