Two years into his tenure as the head coach and general manager of the Seahawks, Mike Holmgren made a trade with his former team, the Green Bay Packers, to acquire what he hoped would be the Seattle's long-term solution at quarterback.
A sixth-round pick who had spent his rookie season on the practice squad and the next two years backing up Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck was hardly a household name, but Holmgren was the coach who helped mentor Favre and Steve Young, and who was the offensive coordinator in San Francisco when Joe Montana won a pair of MVP awards, so if Hasselbeck was Holmgren's hand-picked choice for the Seahawks, then surely it would be smooth sailing once Hasselbeck got to the Pacific Northwest and took over the starting job.
"It didn't start out so hot for me there," Hasselbeck recalled.
"When we traded for Matt, I would say the first couple of years were kind of bumpy," said Holmgren. "It was kind of tough love."
Hasselbeck struggled at times in his first two seasons in Seattle, and Holmgren even benched him on a couple of occasions in favor of veteran Trent Dilfer. The two strong-willed competitors also clashed at times when they didn't see eye to eye on things. It was, in the early days at least, anything but a perfect marriage of coach and quarterback.
Once things started clicking, however, Hasselbeck and Holmgren became two of the most important people in franchise history, helping put the Seahawks on the map with a run of success that to that point was unrivaled in franchise history.
"He had come from Green Bay, and he's very, very bright, and he said, 'We didn't do that in Green Bay,' but we had changed some things," Holmgren said. "But then all of a sudden we had a moment, he came into my office one day the second year, and he said, 'Mike, I get it.' So we kind of had that moment, and he did a remarkable job, he was great for us, really great for us. I've been fortunate to be around some really fine quarterbacks, and he was one of them."
Paul Allen made a bold move to get Holmgren away from Green Bay after the 1998 season, and Holmgren in turn trusted his quarterback instincts and made Hasselbeck the centerpiece of his offense, and those two decisions helped the Seahawks reach the playoffs five straight years from 2003-2007, win four straight NFC West titles, and most notably, reach the Super Bowl for the first time in team history.
Now, fittingly, Hasselbeck and Holmgren will both be inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor this year, with Hasselbeck going in on Monday, October 25 during halftime of Seattle's Monday night game against New Orleans. Holmgren's ceremony will be the following Sunday, October 31, during halftime of Seattle's game against Jacksonville.
Hasselbeck and Holmgren will become the 13th and 14th members of the Ring of Honor, and first additions since the late Paul Allen was inducted in 2019. Hasselbeck and Holmgren will join in the Ring of Honor Steve Largent, Jim Zorn, Dave Brown, Pete Gross, Curt Warner, Jacob Green, Kenny Easley, Dave Krieg, Chuck Knox, Cortez Kennedy, Walter Jones and Allen.
"The Seahawks are thrilled to honor two of the most beloved people in our franchise's history with their induction into the Seahawks Ring of Honor," said Seahawks President Chuck Arnold. "Coach and Matt took the organization to new heights during their decade together. From our first Super Bowl appearance to countless memories on and off the field, we celebrate their legacy and the lasting impact they had on the 12s and the entire Pacific Northwest."
Holmgren, who came to Seattle as one of the league's most accomplished head coaches, having led the Packers to two Super Bowls, winning one, continued his success in Seattle with the Seahawks reaching the playoffs six times, including five straight from 2003-2007. The 2005 Seahawks won a franchise-best 13 games, ended a 21-year playoff victory drought, and reached the Super Bowl for the first time in team history. Under Holmgren, the Seahawks won five division titles (1999, 2004-07), had a winning record in seven of his 10 seasons, with six playoff appearances and three 10-win seasons. In the previous 23 seasons before Holmgren's arrival, Seattle had a winning record eight times, won one division title, with four playoff appearances and two 10-win seasons.
As an executive, Holmgren not only acquired Hasselbeck, he also had a hand in acquiring Hall of Fame guard Steve Hutchinson, 2005 MVP Shaun Alexander, Pro-Bowl defensive players Lofa Tatupu and Marcus Trufant, and several other starters on Seattle's Super Bowl team.
Hasselbeck, meanwhile, was a three-time Pro Bowler who started 11 playoff games, and was team captain for nine seasons. Hasselbeck also won the team's Steve Largent Award in 2009, was the team's Man of the Year in 2003, and finished his Seahawks career as the team's all time leader in pass attempts (4,250), completions (2,559), yards (29,434) and career wins (74), and was second in touchdowns (174), numbers all since surpassed by Russell Wilson.
This latest honor is one Hasselbeck could only dream about when he arrived in Seattle as an inexperienced player who was trying to hang onto a starting job.
"I remember being in the stadium and looking up at those names—some of the names I knew, and some of the names I had to go do some research—but that was definitely something that was there in my mind, like, 'Wow, can you imagine having such an impact that someday your name is up in the stadium?'" Hasselbeck said. "That would be a miracle, basically."
So when Arnold called Hasselbeck with the news that he was going into the Ring of Honor, Hasselbeck was at a loss for words.
"I didn't really know what to say," he said. "I knew it was a huge deal, but I was a little bit at a loss for words."
Joining an exclusive club like the Ring of Honor would be a big deal no matter what, but for Hasselbeck, this honor is made all the more special because he is going in with Holmgren, the coach who pushed him and helped him become one of the NFC's top quarterbacks in the 2000s.
"He deserves it. He's the most underrated coach around in my mind," Hasselbeck said. "I'm not exactly sure why, but he is not talked about enough. This is a huge honor. This is a huge honor to me. It means so much to my family and my kids, especially, but the fact that my name will be up there with his name is an honor as well.
"He was a coach that pushed you harder than you thought you could even be pushed. He demanded things from you that you didn't know if you could deliver on. And he would say, 'Hey, listen, my job is to push you further than you think you can be pushed. My job is to make you better than you think you can be. And part of that is getting you to believe that you can go further.' So I'm extremely grateful."
And for all Holmgren and Hasselbeck accomplished together, including the team's first NFC Championship, and for all the memories Hasselbeck made in his final seasons in Seattle after Holmgren left, including his final home game in Seattle, a shocking playoff win over New Orleans that saw him outduel Drew Brees in a win over the defending Super Bowl champs, the legacy of Hasselbeck and Holmgren goes far beyond what they did during their coaching and playing careers in Seattle.
By turning the Seahawks into perennial contenders, Holmgren and Hasselbeck helped make the Seahawks relevant on the national stage, they helped make blue and green cool, and they helped erase the stigma of Seattle's remote location—South Alaska as Hasselbeck jokingly used to call it. For Hasselbeck, that all came full circle when he was in New York during the buildup to Super Bowl XLVIII.
"One of the coolest moments for me really was—and I wasn't even on the Seahawks—but I was in New York for that New York Super Bowl, and everywhere I went, there was Seahawks gear," he said. "And when we were playing with the Seahawks, we had some great players, we had some guys with great years, but you couldn't buy Seahawks gear around the country. It was hard to buy Seahawks gear in Seattle. So that just mattered a lot to me when I was in New York. I've found myself stopping people, being like, 'Hey, love your hat! Nice shirt! Go Seahawks!' It was really cool. And so when they got it done in New York, that was just a really, really proud moment.
"Now Seattle is a powerhouse. And they're one of the star teams, and Russell Wilson is a big reason for that, and Pete Carroll is a big reason for that. And there's a cool factor with the Seahawks, and the swagger and an attitude and a reputation and a toughness and a grit. And they've earned it, they've definitely earned it, but I think I would speak for all my teammates in saying that I think we're all really, really proud of that, of them."
On March 2, 2001, the Seattle Seahawks acquired quarterback Matt Hasselbeck from the Green Bay Packers, beginning a 10-season span in Seattle, including the team's first Super Bowl appearance.