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Chapter 8: Through a Hass, darkly

As I looked through the game plans, I had to admit that Holmgren was right: everything had been put together specifically to go through Hass. He’d been given the whole ten yards, and he clearly hadn’t delivered.

So, had Hass been playing me for a sap? Was he looking for someone to blame for his performance, taking me along for the ride? And yet … I couldn’t forget his eyes in Green Bay. Could someone look that scared as an act? I decided it was time to have a serious talk with young Hass.

I knew where he’d be. Back on the training ground, hurling leather and dreaming of days of glory ahead. He saw me coming, and for a moment I thought he was going to bolt. But he stayed as I caught up to him. “Didn’t get what you wanted,” he mumbled. “Are you surprised?”.

“You’re scared and the others are shut tighter than an Enron office. No, I’m not surprised. I’m not even disappointed. I’m not blind — if you’d had any backbone, you wouldn’t have let the season go down like it did.”

I could see him tense up. If he wasn’t going to slug me, he might just tell me something I needed to hear. “We did what we could. We followed orders.”

“They were your orders, kid. Every move in the plan, all yours. The works were on your shoulders, and you just weren’t good enough to carry it.”

“I didn’t ask for them. Look at them! Quarterback runs! Everyone knows I’m slower than the Seattle bus service! Crossing patterns! I can barely throw one way, and Holmgren wanted me to throw two ways. Scrambles out of the pocket, then back into the pocket! What pocket! I didn’t ask for any of this — he just gave them to me. You have to believe me!

“Look, mister, I know you don’t trust me but at least hear me out. He gave me all those lousy plays and they wound up lousy. Just like I said they would. Ask the others! Koren, Mack, Shaun. They’ll back me up!”

“But why?” I asked. “What possible reason would Holmgren have for doing it?”

“I don’t know,” he wailed. “All he ever talked about was protecting history.”

That was one fairy tale too many. The kid was just yellow. He’d failed and someone was going to take the fall. I turned away and walked towards the car park, with the howling quarterback right behind me. I saw his car, the same one I’d seen at Lambeau. There was an empty box in the back. Old Patera, ’76 vintage no less.

“Been taking some stock to celebrate your pack of lies?” I growled.

“No, I’ve had that for over a year,” he said miserably. The coaches passed it all on to the players at the end of 2002. None of them could stand the stuff.”