But on this hot August night following a 29-26 preseason win over the Bears, Holmgren looks and sounds nothing like a guy making the final turn and heading for home.
Cheeks red, brow wet with sweat, Holmgren's gushing about the 233rd overall pick in April’s draft, 5-foot-8 running back Justin Forsett. As deadline-crunched writers check their watches, Holmgren shifts his weight, adjusts the mike and seems like he could talk all night about Justin Forsett if anyone wants ...
"The little guy can really play," said Holmgren with unmasked admiration. "He is just small by today's standards. He doesn't think he is small, and that is half the battle."
So engaged. So enthused. So clearly enjoying the process of building an NFL team.
Why is he retiring?
"I don't have a good answer for you on that," Holmgren answers.
And then, suddenly, he does have a good answer. And it's an answer that indicates he's not DONE done. Just done here.
"My situation here has changed in Seattle," says Holmgren, who was hired as The Man by the Seahawks in 1999. "As much as anything, that's been the driving force. I started out responsible for everything and had the GM responsibilities as well and then, changing from that (Holmgren gave up GM responsibilities before the 2003 season), it was a tense transition period with a lot of things happening that not many people know about.
"Most people said, 'Well, he's a good coach but he's not a good GM' but a lot went on. And when the dust settled and everyone realized what happened, I stayed and everyone left," Holmgren points out.
Tim Ruskell took over for Whitsitt. And while there's no apparent discord between Holmgren and anyone in the Seahawks front office, the job he took in 1999 when he came in from Green Bay is a lot different from the one he has now.
"There's new people in the front office, new philosophies and I understand it, they chose to do it a different way," he says without venom. "But that stuff together and the promises I made to Kathy (his wife of 38 years), all that stuff together and it's probably time to call it a sabbatical leave. A year off."
That's because the teaching is in your bones, isn't it?
"That's right, I love the teaching part. I just love it," says Holmgren, acknowledging that the possibility of a return is real. "That's the type of coach I am. I wish I was more like Tony Dungy."
Ironically, Dungy was hedging his bets on the phone a day earlier. Dungy's raving about the Colts new downtown Indianapolis home, Lucas Oil Stadium. Enough to make you want to stick around another year? "You never know."
It's hard to make a clean break with coaching in the NFL. Yeah, it's stressful, time-consuming and unhealthy. But the pay is good and you get free golf shirts. Plus, football is what these men have done since they were less than 10.
So while we acknowledge that Holmgren and Dungy could return to the sidelines, it's worth appraising their head coaching bodies of work heading into 2008.
Both men have won Super Bowls — Holmgren with Green Bay in 1996; Dungy in Indy in 2006. Both have coached surefire Hall of Fame quarterbacks (Favre for Holmgren; Manning for Dungy). Both men have won more than 60 percent of the games they've coached (Holmgren's at .613; Dungy’s at .661). And both are highly respected as individuals as well.
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