RENTON – Do the Seattle Seahawks have an East Coast hex over them? Or is it a bunch of mythological baloney that has taken on a life of its own?
Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren has chosen to lump the notion of his team having problems on the East Coast with other myths, such as effective voodoo, the Loch Ness Monster, Sasquatch and universal health care.
“It’s mentioned every time we go to the East Coast if we lose the football game,” Holmgren said. “The simple fact is, it has not a single thing to do with sleep levels or anything. Nothing. Anybody that gets too concerned with your biorhythms and the seat on the airplane and all that stuff, it’s a bunch of bunk.
“You lose a football game for the same reason you lose a football game at home, on the road, a two-hour time change, when we go to Arizona, San Francisco—you lose because you played lousy. You fumbled the ball, and you threw interceptions, and you missed tackles. Period. I don’t want to hear it.”
Despite Holmgren’s protestations, there is no doubt the Seahawks struggle when they travel three time zones away. They got clobbered in Buffalo in their season opener, 34-10.
Going back to last season, they lost games in Pittsburgh, in Cleveland, in Carolina and in Atlanta, winning an Eastern game only against the Philadelphia Eagles, who were without Donovan McNabb.
Even the year they went to the Super Bowl, the Seahawks lost games in Jacksonville and Washington, two of only three losses that season.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said that a few seasons ago, the players talked about it with the coaches to figure out a solution. Last season, Holmgren altered his practice schedule a bit to get into a destination earlier to allow body clocks to adjust.
Before the Buffalo game, Holmgren changed the players’ curfew to allow them to stay up a little later the night they arrived because their bodies were three hours ahead.
Now, it seems, everybody is done seeking excuses and answers where perhaps none exist.
“We talked about it so much over the years. I just think we are all at the point where our mind-set is just to go out and play football,” Hasselbeck said. “We can take a red-eye. We don’t care.”
The issue, possibly, is that players’ internal body clocks are not prepared to begin playing a game at what would be 10 in the morning in the West. The Seahawks often get off to slow, clumsy starts and are unable to catch up.
“We are waking up at 10 o’clock. Man, people wake up at 8 o’clock to go to work,” Deon Grant said. “That’s what this is, it’s a job.
“We could play at 9 o’clock, I’m ready. It’s a job. If your job requires you to get up and run at 9 in the morning, it should be easy. It’s a job.”
It was pointed out to Holmgren that sleep deprivation and altered biorhythms are perhaps the root cause of increased fumbles and lousy play. The coach wasn’t subscribing to that view.
“Would I make that argument? No. I wouldn’t,” Holmgren said. “I don’t believe in that stuff. Now I’m probably wrong with the scientists in the audience, but I don’t believe in that stuff.”
In his weekly press conference Wednesday, Holmgren became as animated on this topic as he has on any question he has received in what has at times been a difficult season.
He seems to be removing all doubt about his feelings, in part because he never experienced such travel difficulties when he was an assistant to Bill Walsh in San Francisco. The 49ers had similar trips and Holmgren mimics Walsh’s preparations.
“It’s almost exactly the same, which points out the fact that if your team is good enough, you should win,” Holmgren said.
“If you start the game slowly, you say, ‘Oh well, it’s 10 in the morning.’ Well, so what! So what! So what if it’s at 6 in the morning. You put on the pads and you go out there and you play. Don’t give me this stuff.”