In a September post, I wrote about Mike Holmgren and the manner in which he left the Green Bay Packers.
In 1998, when Mike Holmgren demanded a head coaching job that also included complete control over all personnel decisions, it was obvious that he was going to have to find that job at a franchise other than the Green Bay Packers. The team was on the heels of two consecutive Super Bowl appearances and GM Ron Wolf was regarded as one of the best of the business and was deservedly given much of the credit. It was clear that the Packers weren’t going to fire him to appease Holmgren’s misguided career aspirations – back-to-back Super Bowl appearances weren’t enough? Many thought that Holmgren would land in San Francisco, a franchise that was familiar with the coach’s work and was at the time somewhat unhappy with their coach, Steve Mariucci, a Holmgren disciple. Oddly enough, the two teams faced each other in the playoffs that year and the futures of both coaches may have been altered by a blown call in that game. During San Francisco’s final drive (with the Packers leading 27-23), Jerry Rice fumbled after a catch. The Packers recovered, but the referee watching the play called Rice “down by contact” and the 49ers kept possession. The drive ultimately resulted in a last second touchdown pass from Steve Young to a then up-and-coming Terrell Owens, which gave San Francisco the win, 30-27. Had that fumble call gone the other way, Mariucci would have likely been fired for losing a first round playoff game at home and Holmgren would have been the favorite to take his place. The win bought Mariucci some time in San Francisco and forced Holmgren to look for complete control elsewhere. He ultimately signed with Seattle, where he has had mixed success in seven seasons and has recently had to relinquish his GM duties. Oh, the irony!
Fast forward four months and Holmgren is on the verge of winning his second title. While many Packer fans have mixed feelings about his recent success (or are blatantly rooting against him), I for one would like to see him win. I’ve always been a fan of his coaching style – he’s offensive minded, but knows enough about defense to keep his defensive coordinator honest. He’s very demanding and not always that popular with his players. He scripts the first set of plays and his teams are usually lethal the first time they have the ball.
But the biggest reason I’m rooting for Seattle this weekend is that Holmgren has had this success with the Seahawks only after giving up his GM responsibilities. I have to think, looking back, that he must regret (to some degree) leaving a great Green Bay team, only to be mired in mediocrity for several years in Seattle. He has to wonder what kind of success he would have had in Green Bay over that same span. His own ego drove him out of Wisconsin and he had to swallow that ego in order to coach a team to his third Super Bowl. I’d like to see that humility pay off.