RENTON, Wash. -- Leroy Hill, the new old head on the Seahawks' active roster, understands how to handle Mike Holmgren Week perfectly.
The linebacker just turned 29 last month, but his seven-year Seahawks run means that he has been in Seattle long enough to see this franchise transform from a Holmgren-centric perennial winner to a Holmgren-less dysfunctional disaster to a Holmgren-unnecessary ambitious reinvention. Hill, who has more seniority than other player on the 53-man roster now that Marcus Trufant is on injured reserve, knows exactly how he'll react when the Seahawks visit Cleveland, Holmgren's new team, on Sunday in a collision of past and present.
"It'll be good to see him," Hill said. "He's a great coach. I appreciate everything he did for me. But we're three years removed, so we're over it."
It's the right perspective for this week. Dance with nostalgia for a second, and then return to reality.
Remember Holmgren fondly. Celebrate his successes. Miss him.
But don't do too much revisionist thinking.
Don't worry about what might have been two years ago if the Seahawks had granted Holmgren's wish and given him full control of the franchise again.
It's over. And, as Hill says, everyone is over it. Nearly three years have passed since Holmgren coached his last game. He wanted to come back a year later and replace Tim Ruskell as the Seahawks' football-operations guy, but the pursuit ended awkwardly for both Holmgren and the Seahawks.
Now, Holmgren is the Browns president and exercising the power he sought as he rebuilds that franchise. The Seahawks are doing just fine with Pete Carroll and John Schneider in charge.
Are the Seahawks better off without Holmgren? It's a question that many are asking this week, but it's a query that produces an unfair answer regardless of your opinion.
The better question is this: Can the Seahawks justify making an unpopular decision to break ties completely with the best football mind the franchise has ever known?
Yes, absolutely, they can. Two years ago, they were vilified for not welcoming Holmgren back. They made Holmgren an offer, he turned it down, and the Seahawks were criticized heavily because the perception was that they made a halfhearted attempt to woo The Big Show. The Seahawks handled the situation clumsily, and several weeks later, they botched the Jim Mora dismissal/Pete Carroll arrival in even more embarrassing fashion.
Because of their handling of those incidents, the Seahawks still haven't regained the trust and respect of some fans. Nevertheless, the hirings of Carroll and Schneider have enabled the franchise to move on with a fresh and solid plan to build a perennial contender.
They're rebuilding at a remarkable pace, too. It's easy to nitpick individual decisions the Seahawks have made -- saying goodbye to Matt Hasselbeck is the most prominent -- but overall, they're clearly headed in the right direction. This 2011 roster is significantly more talented than the 2009 roster they inherited. Schneider and his scouts appear to be doing solid work in the draft, as evidenced by seven starters they've acquired over two drafts -- Earl Thomas, Russell Okung, Kam Chancellor, James Carpenter, John Moffitt, K.J. Wright and Walter Thurmond. Schneider has made smart free-agent moves (tight end Zach Miller and wide receiver Sidney Rice among them). And he has made good trades to acquire the likes of Marshawn Lynch, Chris Clemons and Leon Washington.
The Holmgren era provided a detailed example of how a coach with a crystallized model of success enacts a plan and sees it through, even amid initial struggles. Though Carroll's defensive-minded style is different from Holmgren's offense-tailored approach, you can recognize the breakthroughs the Carroll regime is having because Holmgren's process was similar.
The Seahawks will never be unquestionably better off without Holmgren until they return to another Super Bowl. But Carroll and Schneider are proving that other franchise-building models can work.
"Definitely, it's been a change," said running back Justin Forsett, one of only seven current Seahawks who played for Holmgren, Mora and Carroll. "I think it's been a good change."
It was necessary change. A Holmgren/Seahawks reunion would've been a fairy tale. Now, it's an ineffectual fantasy. The reality is that it's over.
The reality is the new Seahawks have only begun to impress.