GREEN BAY – As Mike McCarthy makes his return to Lambeau Field on Sunday as coach of the Dallas Cowboys, it's worth detailing the history of such an occasion.
The Packers have had four championship-winning coaches – Curly Lambeau (six titles), Vince Lombardi (five), Mike Holmgren (one) and McCarthy (one) – and McCarthy is now the third of those four to face Green Bay as the leader of another franchise.
Lombardi is the only one who didn't. After his fifth championship (Super Bowl II), he resigned and continued as Packers general manager for one season.
The following year, Lombardi became head coach and general manager for the Washington Redskins, but his new team did not meet his old one in his only season with Washington, in 1969. Lombardi then died in 1970.
Lambeau and Holmgren both did face the Packers with different teams and experienced decidedly mixed results. Here's how those encounters went.
Oct. 5, 1952: Packers 35, Redskins 20
Lambeau's regular-season return to Wisconsin to face the Packers took place at Marquette Stadium in Milwaukee, and an 89-yard TD pass from Babe Parilli to Billy Howton in the game's opening minutes sent Green Bay on its way to a comfortable victory.
According to team historian Cliff Christl's anthology "The Greatest Story in Sports," Lambeau's quote to the press after the game was as follows: "The Packer team outplayed us and out-gamed us. We were just outfought today – I have no alibis."
The game didn't generate the attention one might assume because two seasons earlier, on Aug. 16, 1950, as coach of the Chicago Cardinals the year after his exit from the Packers, Lambeau was back in Green Bay for an exhibition game.
That contest, which the Packers won, 17-14 at City Stadium, drew more than twice as many fans (20,136 compared to 9,657) as the regular-season matchup with Washington in '52, due to the more proximate timing and Lambeau himself creating a stir, according to Christl's book.
Lambeau had scouted the Packers four days earlier in Toledo in a 38-7 exhibition loss to Cleveland, and after the game apparently told Bob Snyder, the University of Toledo coach and former Lambeau assistant, the Packers played "just like 1949 – no effort." Word of the comment got around.
Nov. 1, 1999: Seahawks 27, Packers 7
Holmgren's much-hyped return, just 10 months after a devastating playoff loss in San Francisco (Young to Owens) in his last game as Green Bay's coach, was nationally televised on Monday Night Football.
It was a forgettable evening for the Packers.
According to Associated Press accounts, Holmgren received "mostly cheers" from the Lambeau crowd, which held up a mixture of signs – some positive, some not – for TV cameras.
Afterward, Holmgren called it "a very emotional night" but wanted credit to go to his players. Running back Ricky Watters rushed for 125 yards and QB Jon Kitna threw two TD passes.
The story, though, became the quarterback Holmgren had mentored into a three-time MVP and future Hall of Famer. Brett Favre committed six turnovers, throwing four interceptions and losing two fumbles, as the Packers' total was an unsightly seven giveaways that night. And those didn't even include a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown by the Seahawks for the first points of the game.
The Packers managed to tie it on a long TD pass from Favre to Corey Bradford early in the second quarter, but the game was all Seahawks from there.
In the world of coincidences, eventually Favre was replaced late in the game by backup Matt Hasselbeck, who would go on to become Holmgren's quarterback in Seattle, leading the Seahawks to a Super Bowl appearance six years later.
The QB coach in Green Bay for Favre and Hasselbeck that season? McCarthy.
Holmgren would go on to face the Packers during his Seahawks tenure six more times, with Green Bay winning five of the matchups. Those included two playoff contests, the 2003 wild-card and 2007 divisional rounds.
In both of those postseason games, Hasselbeck was Holmgren's quarterback, and in the latter one, the Packers were coached by McCarthy.