Mike Holmgren, the Packers head coach from 1992-1998, will make his second regular season trip to Green Bay on Sunday since becoming Seattle Seahawks head coach.
"Green Bay is a special place for my family and will always be," Holmgren said.
A renowned quarterback guru and offensive coordinator from his days with the San Francisco 49ers, Holmgren played a major role in building the Packers into winners and molding Brett Favre into a Hall of Fame quarterback. Holmgren amassed a 84-42 record with the Packers and took them to the playoffs every year except for his first. Much of that success can be attributed to how he helped Favre master the fundamentals of playing quarterback. Favre still recognizes his influence.
"I love Mike Holmgren to death," Favre said.
That doesn't mean Favre always loved Holmgren's methods. Holmgren used to embarrass Favre and other players by screaming at them during practice and meetings when they made mistakes. But the end justified the means, and the Packers players improved and reached the Super Bowl in 1996 and 1997.
"He was just a very thorough coach," said William Henderson, who described his relationship with Holmgren as business-like. "He paid attention to detail and made sure we were fundamentally sound when we came into the game. He was very strict when it came to that."
With time and age, Holmgren has changed his demanding ways to a degree. After winning the NFC West in his first season with the Seahawks, Holmgren missed the playoffs for three consecutive years, going 6-10, 9-7 and 7-9. Those trying seasons helped Holmgren become more patient and pave the way for his NFC-best 13-2 record in 2005.
"You learn from those things," Holmgren said. "I had never really experienced that as a head coach."
Holmgren remains close to Favre -- the quarterback he groomed from his earliest days with the franchise. His former head coach called him in September after Hurricane Katrina ravaged Favre's family home in Mississippi. He plans to chat with Favre before Sunday's game and ask about the quarterback's family and wish him good luck and health.
Favre's career flourished in the West Coast offense, which Holmgren brought with him from San Francisco. Holmgren then took that offense with him to Seattle where it still has many of the components implemented by legendary coach Bill Walsh.
"Mike is definitely the purest in the West Coast philosophy," Head Coach Mike Sherman said.
Sherman adopted much of that philosophy while he worked under Holmgren as a tight ends and assistant offensive line coach with the Packers from 1997 to 1998 and as Holmgren's offensive coordinator with the Seahawks in 1999.
Over the years Sherman has tweaked the Packers' scheme to make it his own. He favors a more run-oriented approach, using more I-formations and play-action passes than split backfields. But the Packers still run a timing-based offense predicated on short passes and receivers churning out yards after the catch.
The connections between the Seahawks and Packers franchise extend beyond Holmgren, Sherman and the West Coast offense. General Manager Ted Thompson served as Seahawks vice president of football operations from 2000-2004. Director of college scouting John Dorsey served as Seahawks director of player personnel in 1999. The Packers even drafted Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in the sixth round of the 1998 draft before trading him to the Seahawks in 2001.
But Holmgren remains the strongest link to both franchises. The city of Green Bay named a street after him near Lambeau Field, and the former Packers head coach still has many friends in the area. After Sunday's game he hopes his next trip to Green Bay will serve as more of a vacation and a chance to re-acquaint with old friends and old sights.
"One of these days," Holmgren said, "I'd like to fool around and not worry about a game."