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Dennis In Danger Playoffs Gone; Erickson’s Job Next?

In the last moments of another game gone bad, of another season gone south, wide receiver James McKnight curled toward the sideline as Warren Moon’s misbegotten pass spiraled behind him.

This miscommunication - the final indignity of an inglorious afternoon - became an interception by Atlanta’s Lenny McGill. With 1:27 left in Week 13, another Seahawks season died.

“It was a poor effort. I thought in the first half we played terrible on both sides of the ball.”

All of the quotes in this column belong to Seattle coach Dennis Erickson. He is speaking for all of us who have suffered through the Sundays of the ‘90s watching Seahawks football.

Another season of promise is ending in failure. Another Seahawks head coach is about to lose his job.

How could a team with so much to play for mail it in like the Seahawks did in this 24-17 loss? How could a team, this deep into the season, play as flat as Saturday night’s beer?

How could these Seahawks, with all of the new players, with all of the millions of dollars spent on improvement, look like all of the old Seahawks? Why are the Dennis Erickson Seahawks looking every bit as bad and uninterested as the Tom Flores Seahawks?

“We just didn’t play very well, and that’s disgusting and very disappointing. A chance to keep ourselves in the playoff race at home, and we didn’t do it. We didn’t rise to the occasion. It’s inexcusable.”

Erickson probably lost all hope of saving his job with this loss. Seahawks president Bob Whitsitt is not a patient man, and he spent too many of owner Paul Allen’s millions to watch this disaster flick of a season.

He expected this team to make the playoffs, but these Seahawks are beginning to look like the Sonics in the last days of K.C. Jones and the Portland Trail Blazers in the final days of P.J. Carlesimo. Both coaches were fired by Whitsitt.

Too much of what Whitsitt saw as he sat in the owners’ box Sunday was unacceptable.

The uninterested way the Hawks began the game, falling behind 17-0 to these bad, bad Falcons. The sack of Warren Moon that turned a second-and-1 into a third-and-8. The timeout the Seahawks called late in the first half that almost gave the Falcons another chance to score.

The quartet of missed tackles on Byron Hanspard’s 93-yard kickoff return. The dropped passes by Daryl Hobbs and Joey Galloway. The missed 48-yard field-goal attempt by Todd Peterson. The terminally rotten field position, caused by the disgraceful play of the special teams.

The empty seats. The unsettling, sepulchral silence inside the Kingdome. The eerie boos in those rare moments when there was noise. The familiar post-Thanksgiving blues.

Former 49ers coach George Seifert is out there fishing and waiting for the inevitable phone call. All it will take to hire him is money, and this is a franchise that seems willing to spend money to fix problems.

For a franchise with so many problems, Seifert is the best solution.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been so disappointed in my coaching career as I am after this football game.”

Three years ago, Erickson appeared to be the perfect choice to lead the Seahawks out of the darkness. He was a hell of a coach. An offensive genius with the same kind of magic touch as Jimmy Johnson, Bill Parcells and Seifert.

But after almost three seasons, the Seahawks are no better than they were when he was hired. More talented, yes. But better? No.

This team, at 6-7, is the definition of mediocrity.

Sure, there have been punishing injuries, but there were injuries in each of Flores’ three seasons.

Injuries can’t be used as excuses. Because of injuries, the Falcons had journeymen McGill and Juran Bolden playing and both made big plays.

“I don’t know why we came out flat. If I knew it, they wouldn’t have come out flat. I mean we talked about it. What this game meant. We just didn’t do it.”

Erickson preaches the right sermon, but not enough players listen.

The Seahawks still don’t win the important games. They’ve won only three of seven at home. They still don’t sustain momentum. They still lose games, such as to New Orleans two weeks ago and Atlanta Sunday, they shouldn’t lose.

They still have a losing record.

“I don’t have the answer to it.”

That lack of an answer will cost Erickson his job.

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