|Last homecoming week for Holmgren in Green Bay?|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 09 January 2008 15:35|
Mike Holmgren has one up on Vince Lombardi. Two up, even.
Lombardi and Holmgren each have streets named after them in Green Bay, for coaching the Packers to the Super Bowl title. But Lombardi never did what Holmgren will do again Saturday with the Seahawks: lead an opposing team into Lambeau Field for a playoff game.
Seattle is coming back for Saturday's NFC divisional playoffs against the Packers and quarterback Brett Favre, Holmgren's first protege as a head man with the Packers 16 years ago.
``I'm just tickled pink that they haven't taken my street signs down,'' Holmgren said, nine years removed from leaving to become Seattle's coach and general manager. He gave up the latter title following the Seahawks' 2002 season.
``When we dedicated the street, I drove down it. That was quite something,'' Holmgren deadpanned, pointing to an imaginary bandstand. ``We had the little five-piece polka band right over there.''
How much do Packer Backers appreciate Holmgren for winning Green Bay's first Super Bowl in 29 years, in 1996, and then getting the Packers back to the big game the following year?
Holmgren Way is 4 miles long. From Glory Road southeast of Lambeau Field, past Bay Park Square Mall and a short jog of a lane called Brett Favre Pass and ending at Lombardi Avenue near the stadium.
Lombardi Avenue is just 2 miles long, though it's the main drag past the primary entrance to Lambeau.
But before we get carried away with Holmgren vs. Lombardi, Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck - who spent his first three NFL seasons as Favre's backup in Green Bay - puts the streets in perspective.
``Holmgren Way? I think there's a Hooters there, isn't there?'' Hasselbeck said, correctly. ``I'm trying to get T-shirts that say 'Hooters on Holmgren.' That'd be awesome.''
This could be Holmgren's last game in Green Bay, which he still calls ``a special place,'' against a team he holds as so special that three of his four grown daughters are technically co-owners of it. He's 59 with four granddaughters who enjoys his bye weeks and offseasons riding his motorcycle across the Arizona desert, at one of his three homes.
While focused on the task of upsetting the second-seeded Packers, Holmgren is obviously enjoying the nostalgia of this potentially final homecoming week. It's Seattle's second playoff game in four years at Green Bay and Holmgren's eighth return for a preseason, regular-season or postseason game since he left the Packers.
``It's the only team like it in existence. You could not have a team in a little city like that, typically, now, anymore,'' he said. ``Owned by the people, and the city. And when they run out of money, or get low in the treasury, the last three times in their history, they appeal to the people. And everybody buys shares. I bought a share for each one of my children.
``It's a very unique place.''
He repeated for the third time in three weeks that he and his longtime wife Kathy will take time after the season to consider whether he wants to return for the final season of the new contract he signed shortly after Seattle lost to Pittsburgh in Holmgren's third Super Bowl as a head coach, 23 months ago.
``I'm trying to be wise with it, going to take it a year at a time right now,'' Holmgren said Wednesday.
Earlier this season, he playfully expressed his envy for the cushier lives of pals Bill Cowher, now a TV analyst, and Bill Parcells, now an executive with the Miami Dolphins.
But Hasselbeck can't see retirement in Holmgren's immediate plans. He's too close to his fire - a fire Favre warned Hasselbeck about after Holmgren traded for Favre's backup to become the Seahawks' starter in 2001.
Holmgren, a former quarterback at USC, broke into college coaching at San Francisco State (1981) and BYU (1982-85) and then the NFL under Bill Walsh with the 49ers in 1986 as a quarterbacks coach. He's still so controlling of Hasselbeck that he demanded Wednesday that he ditch the black socks and black leg sleeve he was wearing on his right leg only during a morning walkthrough, because it was ``not a good look.''
By the afternoon practice, Hasselbeck was back in white socks pulled to the knees.
``I don't know anything about retirement, but I think you could say he's mellowed to a certain degree,'' Hasselbeck said.
Hasselbeck can remember as a young player hearing Favre's stories that Holmgren, as a position coach, was a practical jokester.
``It's not the image I have of him as a head coach,'' Hasselbeck said.
Hasselbeck has said that for all he has accomplished this season - a third Pro Bowl, team records for yards (3,966), completions (352) and attempts (562) - his biggest accomplishment has been finally breaking through Holmgren's sideline intensity. Now, when Holmgren screams at him, Hasselbeck can discern the coaching points through the ruckus.
Ron Wolf said Holmgren hasn't mentioned retirement to him - and he talks to Holmgren once a month by telephone.
Wolf was Green Bay's first-year general manager who was considering Cowher and Parcells to be the Packers' new head coach for the 1992 season. Then Holmgren arrived for his interview, a California kid whom people in Green Bay thought would bring a surfboard along with this thing called the West Coast offense into the Wisconsin winters.
``They had me waiting in the lobby. The lobby was a collage of pictures,'' Holmgren said. ``As a youngster, I remember all those players. I memorized their names. You just see them and you see pictures of Coach Lombardi and I drove in on Lombardi Avenue. I'm going, 'Whoa!' Bart Starr and the great players that were coaches there later on.
``What I tried to do at the time, and I was kind of soaking that in as a fan - (was say) 'I absolutely have to be myself.' There's no way anyone could be Coach Lombardi again.''
Wolf saw that Holmgren was plenty good enough. Sixteen years and three Super Bowls later, Wolf's been proven and re-proven correct.
AP Sports Writer Chris Jenkins in Green Bay, Wis., contributed to this report.