Holmgren vs. Billick: match of QB plans and egos

November 22, 2003|By LAURA VECSEY

M&T BANK Stadium is big, but it may not be big enough tomorrow for the robust egos of both Mike Holmgren and Brian Billick.

Entertainingly robust egos, we must point out.

Both men have Super Bowl rings. Both have Brigham Young/Bill Walsh/Bay Area/quarterback roots and connections.

And both have had to stand tall against heavy criticism about their respective decisions to install young, inexperienced quarterbacks as insta-NFL starters.

But whereas Billick unceremoniously showed veteran Trent Dilfer the door after the Super Bowl win, Holmgren merely asks Dilfer to stand on the sideline and give the Seahawks a backup quarterback who knows how to manage a game. At this stage in his career, Dilfer is focused only on producing victories, not proving what he can do or proving his critics wrong.

Advantage Holmgren and Seahawks. But it didn't start out this way.

When Holmgren traded with his former Green Bay team in 2001 for a sixth-round pick out of Boston College, Matt Hasselbeck was even less heralded, less hyped than Kyle Boller. At least Billick was starting off his quarterback guru tutorial with a first-round pick. Holmgren's choice was far more suspect.

In fact, many exasperated Seahawks fans worried and wondered whether Holmgren was so bent on proving that the Packers' success was more about him than Brett Favre's arm and Ron Wolf's general managerial skills that Holmgren would stop at nothing to turn Hasselbeck into an NFL starter.

With talent, leadership skills and a good brain, Hasselbeck is proving himself worthy of Holmgren's experiment. Three years into his reign, Hasselbeck has finally led the Seahawks to a winning record - a timetable Billick had hoped to accelerate with Boller before he was knocked out with a quadriceps tear.

Said Holmgren about the Ravens' offense this week:

"Brian is a very bright guy, and he's going to do what he has to do to win games. That's what we all try to do. Now whether he loves the offense he's running or would rather do some other things in his heart of hearts, right now that's irrelevant, and I'm sure it is to him. That's not the point.

"The point is to win the game, and if he has a certain team and it's built a certain way, he's got a young quarterback he's bringing along, he obviously feels he has to play the game a certain way and if it works for you, that's the measuring stick. "

Phew.

Meanwhile, Billick knows the Seahawks' young offense is two years ahead of the Ravens' offense, if you can call it an offense:

"It's just very balanced, that's the thing that strikes you," Billick said.

"I think Hasselbeck is really getting comfortable with it. He doesn't hold onto the ball, he takes his shots, and when they're not there, he gets the ball off quickly. I think they're getting a good feel for what the strength of the running back is. They're very well-balanced right now and they're playing with confidence, and you can see it."

Prediction: Ravens 17, Seahawks 16.

Orioles set 40-man at 35:

Here's a sample dialogue between one of the Orioles' general managers and eager Orioles fans.

Jim Beattie: "We feel we've got some flexibility within this roster. If we go out and sign three or four or five free agents, or make a trade, we're going to be positioned pretty well."

Fans: " `If' we sign or trade?' Isn't it `When?' "

NHL blues: The abysmal Washington Capitals ought to find out if D.C. United's Freddy Adu can skate.

Love, Barry? It's amazing. With the home run record in sight, Barry Bonds finally cares what people think.

"I felt I've really been misrepresented as a bad guy, a bad person. I want the public to see who I am. ... I'll be able to control my name and likeness," said the six-time National League Most Valuable Player after rebuking the licensing agreement with Major League Baseball Players Association.

Chucklehead Award nominees: Keyshawn Johnson, deactivated to Fox, giving us one fewer football channel to watch.

Rangers owner Tom Hicks, the latest rich guy to learn he doesn't know squat about running a baseball team.

Orlando All-Star Tracy McGrady, for dissing ex-Orlando coach Doc Rivers after Rivers was scapegoated.

New York Mets general manager Steve Phillips, because the Mets are in worse shape than the Orioles and Devil Rays put together.

Opening Day lineup: Hairston, Mora, Tejada, I-Rodriguez, Gibbons, Lee, Randa, Bigbie, Matos.

Pudge reconsidered: Is it me, or doesn't a power-hitting, All-Star catcher seem like the Orioles' most pressing need?

This is the one position where the Orioles desperately need help and can get a serious offensive, defensive and box-office upgrade - all in one.

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