Sleepless in Seattle.
That was Tom Flores a year ago, suffering through a nightmare first season as coach of the Seattle Seahawks, tossing and turning from one quarterback to another.
Talk about lowered expectations.
Flores went from winning Super Bowls as coach of the Raiders to merely trying to win games in Seattle.
He won only two of 16.
In defensive lineman Cortez Kennedy, the Seahawks had the NFL’s defensive player of the year, but the problem was the offense. Too many times, the Seahawks came up pointless in Seattle. They hit an all-time NFL low, scoring 140 points all season.
The problems started at quarterback. First, Kelly Stouffer was sidelined because of a shoulder injury. Then, Dan McGwire was sidelined because of a hip injury. That left the Seahawk attack depending on the sometimes less-than-capable arm of third-stringer Stan Gelbaugh.
But no more. The Seahawks may be winless in Seattle at 0-1 heading into today’s game at the Kingdome against the Raiders, but they are no longer hopeless.
The Seahawks figure they have finally found their long-sought quarterback of the future in Rick Mirer, the No. 2 pick in the 1993 draft from Notre Dame.
In his debut last Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, Mirer completed 20 of 27 passes for 154 yards in an 18-12 defeat.
That was modest production by most teams’ standards, but the Seahawks are not most teams. They have been a lot worse. So they’re willing to grow with Mirer.
“He’s young,” Flores said. “Lot of talent and very poised for a rookie quarterback. He handles the pressure very well, but he still has a lot to learn.”
No argument from Mirer.
“You can look at things on film and you can look at your playbook,” the 23-year-old quarterback said. “But when you get on the field, it doesn’t look anything like that because it’s happening at 100 m.p.h.
“It’s not a one-man show in this sport. It takes a lot of guys to be on the same page, and I think we’re getting closer to that.”
Seattle has definitely turned the page from last season. Its starting offensive unit today will include eight new faces from the unit that took the field for the Seahawks’ second game a year ago.
There are, of course, plenty of new faces on the Raiders as well, the newest being receiver/return man Rocket Ismail, who has been activated and is expected to make his NFL debut.
But the biggest change is at quarterback. Unlike the Seahawks, the Raiders have a veteran at the controls. Jeff Hostetler is in his sixth season.
The difference last Sunday from a year ago for the Raiders was dramatic. Hostetler completed 23 of 27 passes, including a club-record 15 in a row, in leading his new team to a 24-7 opening-day victory over the Minnesota Vikings at the Coliseum.
The Vikings played right into Hostetler’s talented hands by denying him the bomb, previously a Raider specialty.
So Hostetler turned to his own specialty, a short-pass, ball-control offense.
Flores, who coached the Raiders for nine seasons, winning a pair of Super Bowls, was impressed.
“I haven’t seen them look good this early in quite a while,” Flores said. “I don’t think they’re going to go away from the deep ball. Just because you have the deep ball doesn’t mean you’re going to throw it down the field every single play. . . . But anytime you have speed, that in itself is a tremendous threat.”
Hostetler says he has no intention of getting away from the Raiders’ vertical offense of the past.
“Maybe it was just executed a little differently for the first game,” he said. “I think we will always be a team that has a lot of speed and is going to go after you down the field. . . . We’ve got the talent and the speed to do that and that’s always part of the game plan.”
But Hostetler concedes that, by his nature, he will change the offense to some extent.
“Instead of trying to force the ball deep sometimes, I’ll take something underneath, get the completion and continue to move the ball,” he said, “I might be maybe a little more selective when I go deep.”
The Raiders won’t mind. Not if he can keep the Seahawks winless in Seattle.
With Nick Bell still sidelined because of a hamstring injury, Greg Robinson will again start at tailback for the Raiders. . . . The Raiders have won six games in a row over the Seahawks, including three at the Kingdome.