Philosophical Differences

Chuck Knox’s career as coach of the Seahawks was over before it actually ended.

The popular and successful coach was officially fired on Dec. 27, 1991, but the unraveling of his ninth – and final – season with the team began long before the team ever played its first game, let alone its last.

“There was all kinds of writing on the wall,” tight end Mike Tice said at the time. “The feeling was there the entire year.” But why? How could the franchise turn its back on the coach who had led the Seahawks to their first playoff appearance in his first season with the team (1983) and also their first division title (1988)?

Call it a clash of strong personalities between Knox – who was old school, yet still cool – and owner Ken Behring. After the Seahawks’ early success under Knox, the team never won more than nine games in his final five seasons. His philosophy had morphed into keeping games as close as possible and then trying to make a play to win them in the fourth quarter.

Behring wanted more bang for his buck, not bang the drum slowly.

The opposite way they viewed things – this longtime NFL coach and this first-time NFL owner – was never more obvious than on Draft Day that year. With Knox hoping to land a linebacker in the first round to help his defense – or Brett Favre, if the team was to select a quarterback – Behring and club president Tom Flores opted for Dan McGwire.

The difference in opinion – and approach – was apparent after the Seahawks selected the 6-foot-8 quarterback from San Diego State. The year before, when the first-round pick was defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, Knox’s giddiness immediately after the selection was obvious as he talked with reporters. After McGwire was picked, Flores and Behring appeared to discuss the virtues of the selection – with Knox nowhere to be seen.

Flash forward to Week 5, when Knox was informed that the owner wanted to see his newest player actually play. Knox started McGwire against the Indianapolis Colts at the Kingdome. But, despite leading 17-3, Knox pulled McGwire at halftime in favor of veteran backup Jeff Kemp.

“Well, I just felt that at that point I wanted to put the experienced guy in there,” Knox said after the game of switching to Kemp, who had been starting because Dave Krieg broke his thumb in a season-opening loss to the Saints in New Orleans. “That was the reason that I made that decision.”

Later that season, it became clear just how much that decision had chaffed Behring. Before a Week 15 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at the Kingdome, Behring was overheard on the sideline telling associates, “I’m not going through this again next year. There are players on the bench that should be playing.”

The situation became so irreparable that the question in the press box during the season finale against the Los Angeles Rams at the Kingdome was whether Knox would exit the field through the tunnel that led to the Seahawks locker room or depart via the other one used by the Rams – the first NFL team he coached, the team that was most interested in him again, and the team he rejoined after being let go by the Seahawks.

It was a messy end to what at times had been a magical matching for Knox and the Seahawks.

But even with that 23-9 win over the Rams, the Seahawks finished 7-9 after dropping five of their final seven games.

Knox was on his way back to L.A. Flores was on his way back to coaching after a three-season absence. Behring was simply relieved.

“My philosophy is you play to win. Chuck’s philosophy is a little more to play not to lose,” Behring said after Flores was announced as the new coach on Jan. 6, 1992. “The end result is the same, but there’s a little difference in philosophy.”

Knox’s final season was as uneven as it was awkward. The team lost three of its first four games, only to win four of the next five. Then came the 2-5 limp to the inevitable.

The events that played out on the field, however, were not a complete loss.

After a disappointing rookie season, Kennedy showed glimpses of how good a player he was – and how great a player he would become. He was voted to the first of what would be eight Pro Bowl berths after collecting 67 tackles, 6½ sacks and making more of an impact than those stats would indicate.

Free safety Eugene Robinson had a 91-tackle, five-interception season and was voted the team MVP, leading a unit that allowed 261 points – eighth fewest in the league. Linebacker Terry Wooden, another member of that 1990 draft class, led the team with 105 tackles after sitting out the second half of his rookie season with a knee injury that required surgery. Rufus Porter, the other outside ’backer, had 10 sacks. Cornerback Dwayne Harper contributed four interceptions and 24 passes defensed.

Fullback John L. Williams paced an offense that scored only 276 points – fifth fewest in the AFC – by leading the team in rushing (741 yards) and was second in receptions (61) to wide receiver Brian Blades (70). The double duty earned Williams his second Pro Bowl berth.

On special teams, rookie kicker John Kasay scored a team-high 102 points and Rick Tuten averaged a club-record 43 yards on 49 punts after being signed as an injury replacement when Rick Donnelly’s back went out and Alex Waits’ leg went out. Chris Warren also was doing his thing – averaging 22.6 yards returning kickoffs to rank third in the AFC and 9.3 on punts to rank fourth, as well as sharing the team lead with 12 coverage tackles – while waiting his turn to become the team’s next 1,000-yard rusher.

The highlight moments in what turned out to be a lowlight of a season included: Blades catching 12 passes for 160 yards and two TDs in the season opener Warren returning a punt 59 yards for a TD, the Seahawks’ first since 1986, in the win over the Colts Harper and safety Nesby Glasgow making a stop on a fourth-and-1 play with 29 seconds left to ice a 13-7 win over the Bengals at Cincinnati Krieg completing 25 of 31 passes and throwing for two TDs in his first game back, a 27-7 win over the Steelers at Pittsburgh Kasay tying a NFL record by kicking two 50-plus field goals (54 and 51 yards) in a 20-9 win over the San Diego Chargers at the Kingdome Porter collecting a trio of sacks in a 13-10 upset of the eventual division champion Denver Broncos at the Kingdome and the defense holding the Rams without a TD, while running back James Jones scored twice, in the season finale.

But the most memorable event of the ’91 campaign was Knox coaching his final season with the Seahawks, and no one being surprised about it because of the way events had played out during the season and even the offseason.

“Because of the obvious,” as Flores put it, “which makes everything else anti-climatic.”

Year in Review
Record
7-9 (fourth in AFC West)
Owner
Ken Behring
Coach
Chuck Knox
Captains
QB Dave Krieg (off.), DE Jacob Green (def.)
MVP
FS Eugene Robinson
Man of the Year
Robinson
Largent Award
LB Rufus Porter
Leading Passer
Krieg (187 of 285 for 2,080 yards, with 11 TDs and 12 interceptions)
Leading Rusher
FB John L. Williams (741 yards)
Leading Receiver
WR Brian Blades (70 receptions for 1,003 yards)
Leading Tackler(s)
LB Terry Wooden (105)
Special Teams Tackles
WR David Daniels, LB Rod Stephens, RB Chris Warren (12)
Interception Leader(s)
Robinson (5)
Sack Leader
Porter (10)
Leading Scorer(s)
K John Kasay (102 points)
Pro Bowl Selection(s)
DT Cortez Kennedy, Williams

1991

1991: Philosophical Differences

Chuck Knox’s career as coach of the Seahawks was over before it actually ended.

Key Date
November 24, 1991

The defense forces four turnovers and has five sacks, three by Rufus Porter, in a 13-10 win over the eventual AFC West Champion Denver Broncos in the Kingdome. Additionally, the defense twice holds on downs inside Seahawks territory in the game’s last 4:49

Key Date
September 29, 1991

Chris Warren’s 59-yard punt return touchdown, the first by a Seahawks player since 1986, sparks a 31-3 win over the visiting Indianapolis Colts. The defense limits the Colts to 137 yards and records five sacks. Rookie first-round draft choice Dan McGwire starts and plays the first half, engineering a 50-yard touchdown drive on his first possession.

Dave Krieg Returns from Injury
October 20, 1991

Dave Krieg returns from missing six games on injured reserve to lead Seattle to a 27-7 win at Pittsburgh. Krieg throws for 266 yards, completing 25-of-31 passes, and two scores.

Key Date
September 01, 1991

Seahawks drop season opener, 27-24, at New Orleans and lose starting quarterback Dave Krieg for six weeks with a broken thumb in the process. Wide receiver Brian Blades sets career highs with 12 receptions, 160 yards, and two touchdowns.

Key Date
September 08, 1991

Jeff Kemp makes his first start since September 25, 1988, and throws two touchdown passes in a 20-13 win over the New York Jets. One goes to Travis McNeal, the first of his career.

Key Date
October 06, 1991

The Seahawks defense stops the Cincinnati Bengals on a 4th-and-four inches short with 29 seconds left to preserve a 13-7 win at Riverfront Stadium. Dwayne Harper and Nesby Glasgow combine for the tackle, which comes at the Seattle 22.

Key Date
April 25, 1991

Head Coach Chuck Knox agrees to a two-year contract extension.

Seahawks and Coach Knox's Part Ways
December 27, 1991

The Seahawks and Head Coach Chuck Knox agree to mutually end Knox’s nine-year tenure as head coach. Knox leaves having compiled an 80-63-0 (55.9%) regular season record. He guided the Seahawks to four playoff appearances, including an AFC West title in 1988 and a berth in the AFC Championship Game in 1983.

Key Date
October 27, 1991

John Kasay equals an NFL record with two field goals of 50-or-more yards in a 20-9 win over the San Diego Chargers. Kasay connects from 54 and 51 yards. The 54-yarder equals the team record.

Williams and Kennedy in Pro Bowl
February 02, 1991

John L. Williams (four carries for 8 yards, one reception) and Cortez Kennedy represent the AFC in the Pro Bowl, but the NFC wins 21-15.

Key Date
November 10, 1991

John Carney kicks a career-long 54-yard field goal with 18 seconds remaining as the Chargers grab a 17-14 victory over the Seahawks in San Diego. Dave Krieg throws two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to rally the Seahawks from a 14-0 deficit as part of his 28-of-38, 376-yard passing performance and Brian Blades catches eight passes for 131 yards.

Jim Zorn Inducted into Ring of Honor
August 03, 1991

Quarterback Jim Zorn (1976-84) becomes the second person inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor.

Dan McGwire Selected 16th Overall
April 21, 1991

Seahawks select San Diego State quarterback Dan McGwire with the 16th pick on the first round of the 1991 NFL Draft. The 6-8, 243-pound McGwire is the first quarterback ever selected in the first round by Seattle.

Key Date
December 22, 1991

Seattle finishes their 16th season with a 7-9 record after defeating the Los Angeles Rams, 23-9, in the Kingdome. It was the first win by the Seahawks over the Rams in five regular season games. James Jones rushes for a pair of scores, while the defense keeps their third 1991 opponent out of the end zone.

Key Date
October 13, 1991

Jeff Jaeger kicks a 37-yard field goal with 6:37 remaining in overtime to give the Raiders a 23-20 victory over the Seahawks at the Kingdome. Jaeger, who also kicked at Kent-Meridian High School and the University of Washington, ties the game with 49-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Seahawks’ Patrick Hunter returns an interception 32 yards for a touchdown.

“My philosophy is you play to win. Chuck’s philosophy is a little more to play not to lose. The end result is the same, but there’s a little difference in philosophy.”
Ken Behring
1991 Season Schedule
DateOpponentScoreW:L
9/1 AT New Orleans 24-27 L
9/8 New York Jets 20-13 W
9/15 AT Denver 10-16 L
9/22 AT Kansas City 13-20 L
9/29 Indianapolis 31-3 W
10/6 AT Cincinnati 13-7 W
10/13 L.A. Raiders 20-23 L
10/20 AT Pittsburgh 27-7 W
10/27 San Diego 20-9 W
11/10 AT San Diego 14-17 L
11/17 AT L.A. Raiders 7-31 L
11/24 Denver 13-10 W
12/1 Kansas City 6-19 L
12/8 San Francisco 22-24 L
12/15 AT Atlanta 13-26 L
12/22 L.A. Rams 23-9 W
1991 Record
79
1991 Offense
PosPlayerStarts
C Joe Tofflemire 0
C Grant Feasel 15
G Edwin Bailey 0
G Darrick Brilz 6
G Warren Wheat 7
G Bryan Millard 16
T Bill Hitchcock 9
T Curt Singer 0
T Andy Heck 16
T Ronnie Lee 7
TE Mike Tice 15
TE Travis McNeal 0
WR Louis Clark 0
WR David Daniels 0
WR Tommy Kane 15
WR Brian Blades 16
WR Jeff Chadwick 0
WR Paul Skansi 0
WR Doug Thomas 0
QB Kelly Stouffer 1
QB Dave Krieg 9
QB Dan McGwire (R) 1
FB John L. Williams 16
RB Tony Stewart 0
RB Chris Warren 0
RB Derrick Fenner 8
RB James Jones 6
RB Derek Loville 0
RB Stacy Danley 0
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1991 Defense
PosPlayerStarts
DE Tony Woods 14
DE Michael Sinclair 0
DE Jim Skow 0
DE Jacob Green 16
DT Cortez Kennedy 16
DT Eric Hayes 0
DT Joe Nash 0
DT Jeff Bryant 14
LB Joe Cain 0
LB Marcus Cotton 0
LB Richard Newbill 0
LB Rod Stephens 0
LB Trey Junkin 0
MLB David Wyman 0
MLB Darren Comeaux 11
OLB Terry Wooden 15
OLB Rufus Porter 15
CB Patrick Hunter 15
CB Dwayne Harper 16
DB Brian Davis 0
DB Harlan Davis 0
DB Dedrick Dodge 0
DB Vann McElroy 0
DB James Jefferson 0
DB Nesby Glasgow 0
FS Eugene Robinson 16
SS Robert Blackmon 16
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1991 Special Teams
PosPlayerStarts
K John Kasay (R) 16
P Rick Donnelly 0
P Rick Tuten 10
P Alex Waits 0
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1991: Taking Flight

VIDEO: 1991: Taking Flight

On this Day in Seahawks History