Hawks not in spirit of giving

  • SCOTT M. JOHNSON / Herald Writer
  • Friday, December 15, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By SCOTT M. JOHNSON

Herald Writer

SEATTLE – Maybe Mike Holmgren will get Jon Gruden a necktie. Or some after shave. Anything but an easy victory today.

Granted, the Seattle Seahawks coach owes his Oakland Raiders counterpart big-time. Because of the Raiders’ overtime victory against Kansas City on the final Sunday of last season, Holmgren’s Seahawks went to the playoffs.

Now Holmgren is in position to do a little giving of his own. The Raiders (11-3) already have qualified for the postseason, but they probably need to win their final two games to have any shot at getting home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. And Oakland hasn’t quite locked up the AFC West title yet, either.

But Holmgren isn’t in a giving mood this holiday season.

“We have to go in there and battle like crazy, see if we can disrupt their season a little bit,” Holmgren said.

So much for return favors.

Because of a 2-7 start that essentially knocked them out of playoff contention, the defending AFC West champion Seahawks (5-9) are in the unenviable position of spoilers. Other than personal pride, their only motivation comes down to playing Grinch and stealing someone else’s Christmas.

“Different teams respond differently to different situations,” Seahawks guard Pete Kendall said. “We’ve certainly got nothing to lose, and really nothing to gain. But we’ve demonstrated the whole season that we’re going to come out and play.”

What different paths these teams have traveled since the end of last season, when the Raiders – already eliminated from postseason contention – knocked off Kansas City on the final Sunday to send Seattle through the back door and into the playoffs. This season, Oakland has led the AFC West from the opening game.

“I think that this team and this organization has turned the corner,” Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon said this week. “I think we realize in order to be a championship-caliber football team, you need to do the extra things to really put yourself in a situation each Sunday to be a professional.”

The Raiders have lost only two AFC West games – both to the Denver Broncos – and have been one of the best teams in all of football from the get-go. Although they are tied with Tennessee for the conference’s best record, the Raiders need to pick up a game on the Titans over the final two weeks. Tennessee holds the fourth playoff tie-breaker, having a better record than the Raiders against common opponents.

And the AFC West isn’t wrapped up yet, as Denver trails by just one game and holds that tie-breaker.

So Gruden won’t need to script any legendary pre-game speeches to get his troops fired up today.

“I’ve always felt the more you had to play for, the better you played. You have an edge,” Holmgren said. ” … They still have a lot to play for. We have to play hard, continue to play hard, try to eliminate the mistakes. We have certain goals for ourselves as a team. They have certain goals. That won’t change. Both teams will play hard.”

Holmgren’s team has continued to fight throughout the season despite the lack of any realistic playoff hopes (the Seahawks were officially eliminated after Week 13). With a season finale on tap next Saturday against another also-ran, the Buffalo Bills, today marks the last time Seattle can have any effect on the NFL playoffs.

So don’t expect Holmgren to be returning any favors to his former pupil.

“There’s a part of me that feels good about having worked with Jon a few years ago,” Holmgren said. “I feel good that he’s doing well. The problem is that he’s in our division and it’s a big rivalry. That’s real.”

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