Dave Krieg throws the ball in a game for the Seahawks. Herald file photo
With appropriate timing, the first chapter of one of the most legendary stories in NFL history was being written a few months after a similar tale had come to an end. In the fall of 1999, unknown quarterback and one-time grocery bagger Kurt Warner overcame stops at Division I-AA Northern Iowa University, the Arena League and NFL Europe to become the starting quarterback of the St. Louis Rams. Over the ensuing months, he would become as unlikely a Most Valuable Player as the NFL would ever anoint. Warner was the stuff of Disney movies, the kind of character F. Scott Fitzgerald might create on the pages of a book. His was the most inspirational story the NFL had seen in years. He was an inspiration to all. All, that is, except Dave Krieg. Krieg, a longtime NFL veteran who could not find work that fall and thus saw his 19-year career come to an end, had heard a similar tale before. It was, of course, his own. Warner had to buck the odds after playing Division I-AA football at Northern Iowa? Try playing at an NAIA Division III school like Milton College. Warner had to play in developmental leagues before getting a shot in the NFL? Those weren't even around when Krieg was playing. "He used to bag groceries?" Krieg added in 2007, 27 years after making the Seahawks' roster as an undrafted rookie out of the Wisconsin school. "I worked in a paper mill and at Roto Rooter, and I worked on a farm. Not to take anything away from Kurt Warner, but I'd rather bag groceries than do some of that stuff."
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Born in tiny Iola, Wisc., and raised in nearby Rothschild, Krieg lived his young life so far removed from the NFL spotlight that even the moon seemed more within reach. His father, Myron, was a dairy farmer who gave his family a modest life but never had much time to chase any of his own athletic endeavors. Even when Myron's son David became the starting quarterback at D.C. Everest High School in nearby Schofield, there was no hint that a prolonged football career might be in the cards. Everest High ran a Power-I formation that featured the running game, and so Dave Krieg became adept at handing the ball off but never got to show enough as a passer to bring any college scouts to Schofield.
Dave Krieg (left) and Steve Largent. Herald file photo
Dave Krieg hands off during a game for the Seahawks. Herald file photo
Dave Krieg (left) and the man he succeeded at quarterback, Jim Zorn. Herald file photo
The final game of the 1988 season came against our long-time nemesis, the Los Angeles Raiders, at the L.A. Coliseum. The stakes were for division championship -- the very, very first division championship for the Seattle Seahawks. So for us, it was huge. We were only 9-7, but we had some pretty good teams in the division that year: the Broncos, the Raiders and us. When we got the Coliseum that day, it felt pretty good. I remember the grass was very green. It wasn't cold; it wasn't warm. It was just right for football. It felt like a championship-type game. I felt better because I had some championship experience, and our team had started to jell, and we felt really good about ourselves. In 1983, when we were playing them for the AFC championship, we had lost there. So for me personally, I knew I had been there one other time for a big game and didn't come out on top. That was during the height of the Seahawks-Raiders rivalries. By 1988, the rivalry was getting near the end because they had changed over their personnel, and we were getting near the end of our little run. It was getting near the end, I suppose. But they still had plenty of familiar guys, especially on defense. There were the Howie Longs, the Vann McElroys, Michael Haynes. They had linebackers all over the place. Rod Martin – man, he was good. He had long arms; just a great, solid linebacker. They had Bill Pickel. There was a time when they got the better of the rivalry, but we had started to change that a little bit. We had beaten them previously in a 1984 playoff game, and we had been out of everything in that game. We were out of linemen, we didn't have Curt Warner, and we still beat them in the playoff game that year, in 1984.
I don't remember what the deal was with Curt this time around, but I know that John L. Williams was back there. And we still had Eric Lane. It was the mystique of the Raiders, which we had finally gotten over in the mid-'80s, around 1983 or '84. We weren't letting them bully us around anymore. We came out there, and it was totally different than they thought it was going to be. Head coach Chuck Knox came up with a game plan that was like: we're going to go attack. In a game for the division championship, usually you'll get conservative. But I think Chuck just said: We're gonna throw the ball around. He told offensive coordinator Steve Moore, 'You call the plays the way you see fit.' Things didn't get off to a perfect start – I fumbled away the football after Pickel sacked me on our first possession – but eventually we got into a rhythm. I completed my first three passes, two of which went for touchdowns. We eventually led 23-17 at halftime. Then the play-calling really got creative. Moore called for a flea-flicker, which involved me handing off to John L. before he turned and pitched the ball back to me. I hit a wide open Brian Blades for 21 yards. He was pretty open. I just had to make sure I got it there. One play later, I hit Blades again for a 30-yard touchdown and a 30-17 lead. On the next drive, Moore called a misdirection screen pass that we had only used one other time. We had done it against the Bears toward the end of the 1987 season. John L. came up with the play by himself. We had run a similar play earlier in that Chicago game, where everybody went right and we threw it over there to the right side. Afterward, John L. came to the sideline and said, 'Everybody run right, then I'll slip out to the left.' So Steve called the play, and it worked. So then we did it again against the Raiders. I rolled out to the right, looked downfield, then turned back to my left. I think there was a big defensive lineman who had come through, with his hands up, so I had to get it over him. But I got it to John L., who was alone on the other side of the field. All there was in front of him were big offensive linemen and little defensive backs. So he ran it all the way for a 75-yard touchdown. That was the game plan: cut it loose. Any quarterback likes that, where you just go out there and throw the ball around. It's like a basketball player getting in rhythm. You start throwing the ball early, and have some success, and you feel like throwing it all day. We completed them early and often. It kept working. The only time they stopped us was when we stopped ourselves. We got everybody involved: the running backs, the tight ends, the receivers. Everybody was catching the ball. Everyone was looking forward to getting into the huddle and hoping that the play was coming their way so they'd have a chance to catch the ball. The whole offense felt in rhythm. It goes like that sometimes. Fortunately, in that particular game, it happened. We built up a 40-27 lead before the Raiders started to make a comeback. After a field goal, they were within six points in the final couple minutes. They got to within six, and we had to run out the clock.
Dave Krieg celebrates with teammates during a game. Herald file photo
We tried to run the clock out with three running plays, and then we punted and they still had time to get some plays off. There was 1:08 left on the clock, and they needed to go 67 yards for the game-winning touchdown. I was going, 'Oh, no, don't let this happen like this.' They completed a long pass to midfield, then had three cracks at the end zone. Watching that is nerve-wracking because anything can happen. You see enough games, and you're around long enough, you know that anything can happen. So it's very nerve-wracking. You don't have any control. You're just watching and hoping. Fortunately, the final hail-mary pass fell incomplete. What we felt was relief. It was the fulfillment of the whole team getting it done. Everybody was ecstatic. Even at 9-7, we were able to go down there and win a division championship. I don't care what your record is; when you win a division championship, that's a big deal. Especially when it's your first one. So we were about as happy as we were when we beat Miami in that playoff game in 1983, and when we beat Kansas City with no time on the clock a few years later. It was just as exciting. It was draining -- emotionally and physically. It was kind of warm, 70 degrees, which is fairly warm for football weather. I remember I was just worn out emotionally, mentally and physically. It felt like you just had a really good workout, like you went out there and spent it all. Now, 18 to 20 years later, I don't dwell on the game that much. But when the season starts up, and you see the Raiders, that's the game I think of. It was the first time the franchise ever won a division championship, so that's something you never forget.
Dave Krieg throws against the rival L.A. Raiders. Herald file photo
|Video: Dave Krieg leads the Seahawks to a playoff upset of Miami after the 1983 season.|
WWhile the Seahawks didn't win another division championship under Krieg, he had plenty more success in his final three seasons with the team. He held franchise records in 31 different categories before Matt Hasselbeck eclipsed several of them in recent years. Krieg also engineered one of the most memorable comebacks in franchise history, during the same game that an opposing player set an NFL record for sacks. The date was Nov. 11, 1990, and Krieg spent most of the afternoon on the wrong end of a league-record seven sacks by Kansas City's Derrick Thomas. Along the way, the Chiefs built up a 16-10 lead into the final minute. The Seahawks got the ball back at their own 34-yard line with 48 seconds left on the clock, needing a touchdown to win the game. Krieg completed two quick passes to the 50-yard line and spiked the ball with two seconds left. On what would be the final play of the game, Thomas broke through the offensive line and got his left hand on Krieg, his sights set on Sack No. 8. But somehow Krieg escaped his grasp -- "I think I'd already worn him out," Krieg later joked. "He was just too tired to tackle me" – and threw a pass toward the end zone. Clutch receiver Paul Skansi came back to the ball and caught it after time expired, while the extra point gave Seattle an improbable, memorable 17-16 win. But wins were less frequent as the Seahawks went through a period of transition. Players like Curt Warner, Steve Largent and Kenny Easley moved on, and their replacements weren't as talented. The franchise was in a state of rebuilding, and Seattle's thirty-something quarterback could see the writing on the wall. The Seahawks traded for Kelly Stouffer in 1988, then used a first-round draft pick on Dan McGwire in 1991.
Dave Krieg runs during a game for the Seahawks. Herald file photo
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