We talked to New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre for about 20 minutes this morning, and the veteran quarterback talked frankly about his relationship with Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren and how he felt about his former coach leaving the game.
"There's two ways to look at it, the first being he's too competitive to go out like this," Favre said. "Or, I could see Mike taking a step away and not having to worry about the everyday dealings with football. Which one he will take I have no idea. I think quite honestly he deserves the right to do whatever he wants to do."
Favre said he owes a lot to Holmgren for his development as a quarterback and wouldn't be where he is today if it wasn't for his former coach.
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He also said Holmgren's strengths were his insistence on perfection and attention to detail in making sure everyone did things the way we wanted, and his ability to get players to believe in his program and game plan, and that his vision would work on Sundays.
Farve gave an example of that believability, saying when Holmgren first showed up in Green Bay he didn't mince words, saying that half the guys would be gone by the time the Packers played their first game if they didn't do exactly what they were told. Favre said that Holmgren was believable when he threatened players, which earned their respect.
Here's the full transcript of Favre's conversation. And listen to a snippet of the interview here.
If we can get right into it, how weird is it that you're going to be at Holmgren's last home game at Quest Field?
"You know what, it's odd because a couple years ago I thought that was going to be my last game in Green Bay when those guys were in the playoffs. It was one of those games that didn't really matter to Seattle, and quite honestly I think it didn't matter to us. We won the game to go 4-12. And it was just funny because I really thought that was going to be it. And Mike and I had several talks that year, and obviously I got a chance to talk to him before the game. And I remember telling him, 'It's only fitting you're here for my last game.'
"This obviously is a little different, being that our history was made in Lambaau Field. I'm honored to have played for him. And I have no idea what he's going to do after this. Whether he coaches or not, it doesn't really matter. But I'm honored to there."
What are you going to say when he gets on the Jets plane and says I'm not retiring (question in response to Holmgren's statement during Monday press conference):
"Well, I can tell you this: Never say never (laughs). And I don't know if Mike has discussed it all with you guys or not. Of course I talked to him right after I retired, and we had a long discussion about a lot of things. But of course at the time I thought it was over. I just thanked him. And as I told our media today, I would not be here today, I truly believe that, I would not be talking to you guys today and still playing professional football had it not been for that guy."
Do you ever think there will be a chance one or two years down the line that you play with Mike Holmgren again?
"That would be awesome, but he better hurry up (laughs). I'm running out of time. No, that would definitely be another chapter for the book but the odds of that happening obviously are very slim."
As well as you know Mike, there's the thought that he doesn't want to quit after a season like this so eventually get back into this. But could you see him getting away from this, and riding his motorcycle, going to the beach and hanging out with the kids?
"I could. By no means am I going to sit here and say I know Mike well enough to know what he's going to do or what he's thinking. But I do know this, he's a very, very competitive person. And I know this season obviously has been a disappointment to him. Obviously it's not a reflection of his coaching.
"There's two ways to look at it, the first being he's too competitive to go out like this. Or, I could see Mike taking a step away and not having to worry about the everyday dealings with football. Which one he will take I have no idea. I think quite honestly he deserves the right to do whatever he wants to do. And he would be damn good at whichever one.
"If he wants to get away and ride his motorcyle and enjoy his grandkids (that's what he should do). When I was playing for mike his kids were obviously younger and it seems like as you get older and you get softened up a little bit and you have grandkids and things like that you have maybe a different perspective. I don't know what Mike is like as far as dealing with him everyday and sitting in meetings and things like that. So I don't how much he's changed. But I could see him taking a break. I really could.
"I don't know what the right opportunity would be for him. I didn't know what it would be for me. I didn't know that I would be here right now. So to say a year from now he would be coaching somewhere and where that place would be, I mean there's now way to tell. But I could see him taking a step away. He's got a wonderful family. Obviously his wife Kathy has seen him through a lot of things, and maybe he wants to take a break and spend some time with her and his grandkids and relax a little bit. But he deserves to do whatever he wants to do. I do know that.
What is it that goes through the mind of a competitive person like you, like Coach Holmgren that makes it so hard to step away from this game?
"I can only speak from the football side of it. Yes, football is entertainment, but I can't speak for the professions across the world. I often find myself as I watch TV and I see maybe some older actors still doing movies and things like that. And I know just from a couple of my dealings with commercials that I've done that's a pain. For a 30-second commercial it takes two days. And to do a movie I can only imagine how long it takes.
"So I'm sitting there going, "No why with as much money he has made would he want to do that.' And then I pinch myself and say 'What are you talking about? You're doing the same thing.' And you've heard it, it's in our blood. Not that football coaches and football players are the only competitive people in the world, but you are very competitive. And I said this in my press conference when I retired, there's now way I could ever substitute throwing a touchdown pass in Lambeau field, and really what I meant in general.
"Running out of that tunnel on game day is a special thing. And there's no way to replace it. And I think for me, I knew I could still play and obviously was still competitive and things like that. And there's no doubt that Mike is still that way. I mean you guys still see the fire in him. I watch the clips on the sidelines and stuff, and I say, 'Ohh, I know that look. I know that stare.' I mean, he's got it. That will never leave you. My skills obviously, as a player, will continue to diminish.
I mean, you can only do it for so long. But from a coach's standpoint … …I think as a player you get better with age to a certain point, to where you can't do it anymore. But as a coach, you get better and better, and there just comes a point—not that the competitive nature leaves you—where there's other things that enter into your mind. Maybe it's his grandkids, and just [the thought of], 'Can I compete at this level as much as I need to, not just on Sundays?' and things like that. But I mean, there's no way to replace it. Riding a motorcycle is not going to replace scheming against your rival. But once again, that's something that only Mike knows, and his family. There's not a more competitive guy out there, I can tell you that."
On what characteristics have made Coach Holmgren so successful:
"There are a couple things that I always tell people when asked…because people always ask about Mike as a coach. [There are] a couple things that I say. Usually, the first thing I say: he's a perfectionist. It had to be done right. Now, not that there's a coach out there that says it can be done wrong, but when he would install plays, and when he would be at practice, we repeated more plays and one of the sayings he always would say is, 'How many times do we have to repeat this? 8,000-blanking-times?' It had to be done right. And he would throw a play out at the drop of a hat if it didn't look right in practice. And as we all know, you can practice the same play ten times and it can look differently all ten times, but he had a picture in his mind, and it had to be done right.
"You know, those years I spent with Mike, I was just really learning the passing offense, and really learning the game in general. I played in an option-style offense in college, it was raw, whatever you want to call it. He had to harness that in, and after he left, I realized that a lot of the things he was saying…Just an example: if it was a curl route at 12 yards, he wanted it at 12 yards, and was very demanding of it. And I'm sitting back there thinking in the meetings, 'Aww, hell, if he goes ten, it don't matter, I can get it to him. If he goes 14, I can get it to him.' That was my mentality. But not his. 'If it's a five-step drop, Brett, you take five. If I say five, hitch, throw it, it's five, hitch, throw it. Because if you're off on your drop, and I'm telling this guy to be at 12 yards, it's not going to time up.' And I find myself today preaching the same things that he preached.
"The other thing about him, I think he was a very good motivator, and not from a rah-rah standpoint…He had this ability—and I think this is probably one of the best qualities any leader in general can have—he was so believable. The first team meeting, I'll never forget. I didn't know Mike Holmgren really from any other coach. He scared not only me, but he scared our team. He said, 'I'll run half you guys off, or we'll run half you guys off, but I got to build a team. In time, half of you will be gone. I want guys who are winners, who believe in winning, and believe in doing it a certain way. And I can promise you this,' he said in his first meeting, 'we're not going to talk Super Bowl around here, because you guys have been crappy for a long time. But we're going. And we're going soon. Now, if you want to be on board, be on board. But if you don't want to do it the way I want to do it, you're going to be gone, and you know who you are.' And he was like that every week. I mean, he'd come in with a play on Fridays in the red zone, and he would say, 'This is a touchdown. I promise you.' And we believed it…You know, you're dealing with so many different types of personalities and backgrounds and athletic ability, and to bring all that together to one, and believe it, is a special quality."
On whether Coach Holmgren is more like a father figure or an old friend to him:
"I think now, obviously there's been a lot of years between us and a lot has changed over the years, I think in some ways he's let down his guard a little bit with me. And I talk with Matt [Hasselbeck] all the time. Hass and I have a great relationship, and we're good friends, and we talk pretty regularly. And I always ask, 'Matt, hey, how's Mike?' His answers are always different than what I would've said at that time. I don't know if I softened him up, kind of like the last kid in the family doesn't get treated quite the same as the first kid, you know? The first kid had to take all the whoopings to soften up dad. And I don't know, maybe that was the case with Mike, but I do know now, with me, once again, it's almost like he's let down his guard a little bit. In some ways, [he's like] a father figure, in other ways, good friend. Really, not a whole lot different than when I talk with Andy [Reid] or when I talk with Mike Sherman, guys like that. There's an openness that there wasn't when I played for Mike."
On how long he thought Coach Holmgren would stay with him in Green Bay:
"I may have been the only person within the Packer organization that, really, I was so naive to the fact that [Holmgren would leave]. I had gotten the question that Mike was thinking of leaving when we were at the Super Bowl in San Diego, our second Super Bowl, which was the '96-'97 season, whatever. We had all this press stuff, and one day, one of the questions was, 'Brett, have you and Mike discussed him possibly leaving, or have you heard rumors?' And I thought, 'Boy, they do give you crazy questions here!' So we lose the Super Bowl, we come back next year, and we go through the season, and the question came up periodically or I heard people talking about it, and I'm thinking to myself, 'There ain't no way he's leaving!' I had no idea, or was oblivious to that even being [an option]. I just thought it was totally ridiculous, until we lost to San Francisco and he came in the next day and told us that he was going to Seattle. I mean, I was floored. I just thought he would be there as long as I would. It was one of those things where I thought, 'Well, here goes my career.' I mean, I was at that point where I really knew how important he was. Thankfully, I went on and still had success, but it was one of those things that, had he stayed, I really truly believe we'd have won a couple more. And that's not a knock against all the other coaches, but the pieces were in place. All we needed was him, really. I mean, I was shocked. Totally shocked."