KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) - Almost four years ago, Mike Holmgren found himself at yet another scouting combine. He bumped into old pals, fellow veteran NFL coaches.
Bill Parcells. Mike Sherman. Bill Cowher. ... Joe Gibbs?
The same Joe Gibbs who was Southern California's line coach in 1969, when Holmgren was a senior quarterback? The same man who had left coaching a decade earlier to run a NASCAR team?
``What are you doing? Are you sure you want to do this?'' Holmgren asked Gibbs that spring day in 2004, knowing Gibbs was thoroughly enjoying life outside of football.
``Yeah, I think so,'' Gibbs told him of returning to the game.
Saturday, the men who are 1-2 in victories among the league's active coaches will be across the field from each other. Gibbs' Redskins will be in Seattle to play Holmgren's Seahawks in the NFC's wild-card playoffs.
And sometime after this game, the 59-year-old Holmgren will revisit Gibbs (171-100 in 16 seasons) to ask about stepping away from coaching and beginning a new life.
``I will have a conversation with him at some point about that,'' said Holmgren, who is 169-109 in 16 seasons.
Sooner than later?
``Yeah, probably,'' Holmgren said.
He and longtime wife Kathy have four daughters, and Holmgren relishes being a grandfather. He owns a boat and a house in an upscale Seattle suburb. He also has homes in the coastal hills of his native Northern California, and in Arizona, where he escapes football by riding motorcycles across the desert. He did that again during Seattle's bye week in late October.
After these playoffs, Holmgren has one season remaining on the two-year contract he signed after the Seahawks lost in the Super Bowl to Pittsburgh 23 months ago. He was to earn $7 million for last season, before the contract was redone.
Holmgren agreed to that deal only after some soul searching. Then 12 months ago, after Seattle lost in the second round of the playoffs in overtime at Chicago, Holmgren again took his time before deciding to return. Now, as he is trying to reach a sixth Super Bowl as a head man or assistant, he acknowledges this could be his last go-around.
``Where I am in my coaching life, I've got more years behind me than I have ahead of me, that's for sure,'' Holmgren said. ``You think about it (being the last chance). If you get into the playoffs, you probably think about it every year.
``My mindset has not changed. ... At the end of each season Kathy and I will get away from here for a week and just kind of bang (the possibility of retiring) around a little bit and think about how we're going to do this in fairness to everybody - the players, the owner, everybody.
``You have to take some time and let things settle in. It's an important decision.''
Holmgren began coaching freshmen in 1971 while teaching history at Lincoln High School in San Francisco, while Gibbs was on Frank Broyles' staff at Arkansas. Two years later, Gibbs was in the NFL with the St. Louis Cardinals, as an assistant for Don Coryell, his former mentor at alma mater San Diego State.
Holmgren moved to San Francisco State and BYU through '85, then grew into a guru of NFL quarterbacks.
He has tutored Joe Montana and Steve Young in San Francisco, Brett Favre in Green Bay and now Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle. He has won two Super Bowls as a 49ers assistant, another as the head man with the Packers, and has led Green Bay and the Seahawks to two more Super Bowls.
Already during this maddeningly inconsistent season in Seattle, Holmgren has been coy while admiring the new, softer lives of those pals he used to see at the combines.
``Not yet,'' a smiling Holmgren said a few months ago, when asked if he envied Cowher. The former Steelers coach is spending a lot of time home with his family and is an analyst for CBS on Sundays.
Last week, Holmgren's tongue was in his cheek as he admired Parcells' new job as executive vice president of football operations for the Miami Dolphins. He had the same title with the Seahawks from 1999-2002, when he was also Seattle's coach.
``It's one of those good gigs,'' Holmgren said. ``They pay you a lot of money. You sit in a nice office. You make decisions kind of like the king. Probably a little less stress in his life than being a coach.''
Holmgren said each loss hurts far more now than it did 10 years ago, so he will determine with his wife in the coming weeks whether ``I still have the fire'' to coach.
But those flames will always flicker.
``If you have been doing something your whole life, you probably wonder what the heck would you do if you weren't doing this. There's a little nervousness or uncertainty about it,'' he said.
``But the fire? In the nursing home, in the rocking chair, I'll be looking at a game and probably start yelling at the officials.''
Gibbs? He won't talk about whether this is his last chance at another Super Bowl.
``I get those questions every 10 minutes,'' Gibbs said. ``I guess the fact that I'm in the fourth quarter playing on house money, a lot of people figure, 'Hey, this guy's about done.'''

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