RENTON – Although they stay in touch, and both cite their relationship as a high point in their successful careers, Mike Holmgren is not going to take counsel from Brett Favre on at least one topic.
Holmgren’s about to give it a try. Favre has been a chronic failure at it.
Independently, in press conferences on either coast, Holmgren and Favre spent a portion of Wednesday professing deep mutual admiration, and recognizing the irony in the way they’ve been involved in each other’s “farewell” games.
Favre will quarterback the New York Jets on Sunday in what will be Holmgren’s final home game as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
Holmgren and the Hawks were on hand for what Favre believed – at the time – to be his career finale at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field at the end of the 2005 regular season.
The fact that Favre is toward the end of his 18th season in the league, and has the Jets in the playoff race, is proof that he was not particularly resolute in sticking to his exit strategy.
Holmgren said he’s been convinced Favre was calling it quits on three occasions.
“I’ve given up predicting that one,” Holmgren said. “I thought I had that nailed down a couple years ago and it didn’t happen, so I don’t know.”
Both were more than a bit wistful when they talked of their seven seasons together in Green Bay. With Holmgren effectively bridling Favre’s instinctive skills, the quarterback earned three league MVP awards and took the Packers to two Super Bowls.
Favre recalled the first meeting with Holmgren in 1992. The young coach scared the heck out of him.
“He had this ability – and I think this is probably one of the best qualities a leader can have – he was so believable,” Favre said. “I didn’t know Mike Holmgren from any other coach, but he scared not only me, but he scared our team.”
Holmgren let it be known that he might end up firing half the players if that’s what it took to create a winning atmosphere. And if you weren’t willing to do it his way ... the only other way led out of town.
And they all believed him.
From a distance, Favre can tell that Holmgren isn’t exactly easing toward retirement.
“You see the fire in him,” Favre said. “I watch (him) on the sidelines and I say, ‘Oh, I know that look; I know that stare.’ I mean, he’s got it. There’s not a more competitive guy out there, I can tell you that.”
Holmgren senses that Favre still plays with the pure joy of competition he brought into the league almost two decades ago.
“He’s just one of the more enjoyable guys I’ve ever coached,” Holmgren said. “He has a wonderful personality. He’s funny; he’s a great leader. He’s a great player who is the whole package.”
Jets coach Eric Mangini saw it first-hand when Favre arrived in New York, having decided once again that retirement was not for him.
“”When (Brett) and I first talked, one of the first things that impressed me about him was how important it was to him to go to a situation where he could be part of the group and not bigger than the group,” Mangini said. “That is pretty unique for a guy with his résumé, and that was important for me as well. When he came here he made everybody feel comfortable, and really assimilated into our system and our way of doing things. He has a very good work ethic and combines that with having fun; he keeps the mood light and the enthusiasm up.”
Favre kidded himself a bit, admitting that he’s watched movies with aging actors and wondered why they continue despite their obvious wealth and accomplishments.
“Then I pinch myself and say, ‘What are you talking about? You’re doing the same thing.’”
“It’s in our blood,” he said. “There’s no way I could ever substitute (anything) for throwing a touchdown pass at Lambeau Field or taking a snap from center in the National Football League, or running out of that tunnel on game day. It’s a special thing. There’s no way to replace it.”
Favre’s season has been spotty: He threw six touchdowns against Arizona, but also has a league-high 17 interceptions. More importantly, though, the Jets are 9-5 after going 4-12 last season.
“Sometimes players make the decision to play one more year and you look at it after the year and you say, ‘Gee, they couldn’t play anymore’,” Holmgren said. “That is not the case with Brett. He has helped their team a lot. He still does the same stuff that I’ve seen him do year after year after year. And he appears to be enjoying it.”
Holmgren already admitted that Sunday will be an emotional day for him; having Favre there will add to it.
Favre got a jump on the emotion and got some of it out of the way on Wednesday, telling us exactly how much Holmgren has meant to his career.
“I truly believe that I would not be sitting here talking to you guys today, still playing professional football, had it not been for that guy,” Favre said. “I’m honored to have played for him.”
It’s not unreasonable to believe that Holmgren will be as big a failure at retirement as Favre was. And in that case, is it possible the two might be reunited with another franchise?
“That would be awesome,” Favre said. “But he better hurry up. I’m running out of time.”
Yeah, he’s been saying that for years.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440