Seattle Has Been Lucky
Mike Holmgren announced his retirement at the beginning of January - well, kind of.
Holmgren announced that he will return to the Seattle Seahawks for the 2008 season, but that 2008 will be his last season.
Holmgren is a legendary coach is two cities, Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Seattle. He has done an excellent job following in the footsteps of the coaching lineage from which he came.
Holmgren began his professional coaching career as an offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49’ers, under Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh. During Holmgren’s time in San Francisco, Walsh was in the midst of popularizing the West Coast Offense, and also populating the NFL with Head Coaches. Walsh was the head of a fraternity of coaches, who have since branched off into several series of successful head coaches.
In 1992, the Green Bay Packers gave Holmgren his first opportunity as a head coach. He went on to win a Super Bowl, mold Brett Favre into a Hall of Fame quarterback, and turn several other players into Pro Bowlers. Most of Holmgren’s greatest contributors were drafted outside of the first round of the NFL Draft.
In 1997, Paul Allen bought the Seahawks from Ken Behring. Behring had threatened to move the team, and Seattle native, and billionaire, Allen bought the team to keep it in Seattle. The team was mired in mediocrity, and on the verge of firing its third coach in less than a decade.
Allen hired Holmgren following the 1998 season, after his contract ended with the Green Bay Packers. Holmgren was the hottest coaching prospect that offseason, and Seattle was not considered a likely destination, but both the offer of general manager duties, and an eight year contract wooed the coach, legendary in Green Bay, to the northwest.
Holmgren quickly gained favor with Seahawks fans, making the playoffs in 1999, his first season as head coach. This was the first time the Seahawks had made the playoffs in over a decade.
For most of the 1999 season Joey Galloway, the Seahawks then star wide receiver, was absent from the team, holding out for a new contract. Holmgren’s replacements for Galloway, Derrick Mayes and Sean Dawkins, combined to catch 17 touchdowns and over 1,800 yards.
Though the Seahawks backed into the playoffs in 1999, relying on a Kansas City Chiefs’ loss to win their then division, the AFC West, a calm confidence permeated through Seahawks football. Holmgren had the vision and pedigree of a champion.
Perhaps Holmgren’s most important personnel move as a General Manager, a role he relinquished in 2002, was to trade Galloway to the Dallas Cowboys in 2000 for two first round picks. Holmgren used those picks to draft Shaun Alexander and Koren Robinson.
Holmgren also brought Brett Favre’s understudy to Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck, a sixth round pick, who has become a Pro Bowl Quarterback. Holmgren and Hasselbeck, during their time in Seattle, have shown a near father-son type of relationship.
Holmgren showed a similar level of compassion for the aforementioned Koren Robinson. Robinson battled on and off the field issues. Holmgren continually gave Robinson opportunities to repair his life, and image. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after the Seahawks released him, that Robinson would be able to resume a normal life, and career in the NFL.
The Seahawks 2005 drive to the Super Bowl surpassed the accomplishments of former Seahawks coach, and current ring of honor member Chuck Knox, cementing Holmgren’s legendary status. Holmgren became one of five coaches to take two different teams to a Super Bowl.
Holmgren has done a great job finding contributors outside of the first round since coming to Seattle also. Darrell Jackson, Sean Locklear, D.J. Hackett, and Rob Sims have all seen considerable playing time as Seahawks.
The free agents signed, and trades made by the Seahawks for offensive players have rarely made major headlines the day they happened, but Bobby Engram, Joe Jurevicius, Derrick Mayes, and Sean Dawkins have all played major roles as Seahawks, despite coming to Seattle for a very low price tag.
The Seahawks have made the playoffs in each of the past five seasons. Previous to the 2003 season, they had only made the playoffs five times in the franchises 27-year history to that point, and one of those was the 1999 season under Holmgren.
It is possible that this isn’t an end to Holmgren’s career in football. Holmgren has shown an interest in being a general manager, and his ability to evaluate talent would make him very attractive for many teams’ front offices.
Mike Holmgren is one of the greatest coaches the NFL has ever seen. Seattle has been lucky to spend nearly a decade with him, and he has made a permanent mark on the Seahawks, and the city of Seattle.