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With Erickson, Seahawks Open Their New Era

A new era has dawned for Seahawks fans. In-your-face football is coming to Seattle.

Fire replaces ice. Storm replaces calm. Tough love is headed for the Seahawks.

Seattle has a new face - literally and figuratively. There will be no more Calm Tom on the Seahawks sideline.

If former coach Tom Flores was Tranquility Base, his successor, Dennis Erickson, is Mount St. Helens. If Flores was placid as a mountain lake, Erickson is as turbulent as the Skykomish River in springtime.

Erickson is the answer. He is, in the vernacular, all about winning. He is all about football. A professional coach.

You can feel the change in the air. Flores was a relaxation tape. Erickson is a Stones CD. Flores was lapping waves. Erickson is a tidal wave.

Seattle under Tom Flores was Club Med. There wasn’t enough discipline. There wasn’t enough challenge. It was more summer camp than boot camp.

It will be different with Erickson. He fits Seattle like a well-tailored suit. Seahawks football has a pulse and a purpose again. Players will be pushed as they haven’t been pushed since Chuck Knox left.

Nobody should benefit more than quarterback Rick Mirer.

Under Flores, Mirer was given game plans that were safe and sanitary. He was given a latex offense, designed to protect him from failure.

Erickson, who said he will be hands-on with the offense, will challenge Mirer like never before. He will be in Mirer’s face mask. He will expand the game plan. He will allow Mirer to grow.

“I coached Rick two years ago in the Shrine Game. Coming from Notre Dame, he didn’t have a tremendous idea of what the passing game was about,” Erickson said. “And even after only two years in the NFL, I don’t care who you are, you’ve still got a lot of things to learn.

“We’ll still have him drop back (in the pocket), but we’ll probably move him around a little bit more than he was moved before, because he is a good athlete. Just try to take advantage of what he does best.

“I really think Rick has the chance to be a great player. He needs to be coached and schooled and he needs experience. It just takes time. He’s tough and he’s very physically talented. He’s a competitor and he’s going to get things done.”

At that Shrine Game, Erickson saw the NFL quarterback in Mirer. Two years later that quarterback is the key to his future.

“It’s just a matter of grooming him and getting him better,” Erickson said. “He’s got a very good arm, but probably his biggest quality, he’s very accurate. When he throws it, it’s usually pretty close to being completed.”

Erickson shouldn’t be confused with college coaches who came into the league without experience and failed. He isn’t the next Gene Stallings, Lou Holtz or Bud Wilkinson.

He was born for the NFL. Here he won’t have to argue with angry alumni, meet with stolid botany professors, or sweet-talk recruits.

Erickson is a bottom-line guy. Wins and losses are all he’ll be judged on in this league. The only film study is football, not Fellini. There are no presidents harping on graduation rates, no eligibility standards, no NCAA hypocrisy.

“Here I can spend all my time on the football aspect of things,” Erickson said. “That’s something I haven’t been able to do for a long time, and I’m excited about getting there.

“But whether it’s college or the NFL, the bottom line is winning. They can talk all they want about graduation rates and all these other things in college football, but I’ve never seen a college coach get fired because of graduation rates. The bottom line is winning, just as it is in this league.”

Erickson is cut from the same cloth as Jimmy Johnson and Bobby Ross, two other coaches who have made the transition from college to pro.

“I’ve talked to Jimmy about this a lot,” Erickson said. “Jimmy’s always told me that coaching is coaching. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in the NFL, or college coaching.”

Erickson is contagious. Under Flores, few players stayed and worked out in Kirkland in the offseason. Under Erickson, they’ll want to stay and win.

The fever for football broke in Seattle under Tom Flores. Attendance dropped, ratings shrank, interest fizzled. The ennui in the stands was just a reflection of what was happening on the field.

But Hawk football is about to change. Erickson will bring back the fever and recharge the pulse.

Erickson is the answer.

(Steve Kelley is a sports columnist for The Seattle Times.)

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