Huge game for Holmgren

Seattle coach Mike Holmgren, who spend three seasons in San Francisco as the Niners' offensive coordinator and three as their quarterbacks coach, discusses the Seahawks and 49ers and Sunday night's key NFC West clash between the teams at Seahawks Stadium.

Q: How big a game is this week's?

Holmgren: It is a very important game. We're playing at home, which is good. We're trying to build up our fan base and get them excited. The game is going to be sold out, it is Sunday night. It is big for the players because all of their peers watch them play. Then, of course, it is a division opponent. So, it is an important game for both teams.

Q: Are you developing a bit of a home-field advantage with your recent successes?

Holmgren: "Well, I would hope so. I think you need that and you should have a home-field advantage. That is one of the things that all the teams have in the league if you have been in your stadium for awhile. We've played the last few games there and we've won two at home this year. We had trouble filling the stadium last year and as a result, a lot of the games were blacked out. But, we started out this year and didn't fill it in our opener against New Orleans, but the Rams game we did. People are excited about how we won it. Hopefully, we can keep it going and really develop that home field advantage because you need it.

Q: Do you feel liberated in getting solely back to coaching and not doing as much GM duties?

Holmgren: Liberated is a nice word. Actually, I had my feelings hurt. No, my life hasn't changed dramatically to be honest. I don't have to attend a couple of meetings that I was in before and I don't have to deal with the agents directly as much, clearly like I did last year. So, with that time, I've tried to take that time and pump it into the actual football part of it, which is the most fun thing for me. You know, my ego was bruised just a little bit because I worked very, very hard at trying to be a good general manager and making good personnel decision and things like that. But, I am having fun this year. We hired Bob Ferguson as the general manager, who is a good guy. Ted Thompson, who is our vice president of football operations does a great job with our personnel in the draft. So, I'm lucky to have those guys around me and I'm having fun this year.

Q: What went into your hiring of Ray Rhodes as defensive coordinator?

Holmgren: Well, we were going to make some defensive changes and I started looking for a coordinator. It's tough to get the good ones away from their teams. I totally understood that when I talked to Terry Donahue about Jim. But, I had interviewed a couple of guys and frankly, Ray Rhodes was not available. He was with Denver. Then, he became available, and as soon as he did, I really stopped the interview process at that point because I offered the job to Ray. We had known each other and worked together at Green Bay. He's an outstanding coach. If he was willing to come, I wanted him. So, it worked and I was very happy. We hired some guys that you know very well in Dwaine Board and John Marshall on my staff. Then I hired a young guy from the University of Michigan, Teryl Austin. So, I'm very pleased with my defensive staff in how they are working and how the guys are communicating. We didn't have such a great game Sunday against the Packers. They took it to us pretty good. We have a young defense in some respects. We have a lot of new players on defense compared to last year. They'll bounce back and I expect our defense to be pretty good this year.

Q: Was hiring Rhodes just as much about his personality than X's and O's?

Holmgren: Yeah, I think so. You guys know Ray really well. He's a very intense, serious football coach, yet at the same time, he has a particular style to him. His style works. The players listen to him and play hard for him. We needed to get our defense going. We had not statistically had very good defensive years since I have been there and I'm not blaming anybody. There are a lot of things that go into that, but clearly we needed to get stronger over there. With me and Ray, we know each other so well. It just freed me up again. I don't mess with the defense too much. I might tell him blitz more, but I'm very confident the defense is in good hands and he'll get the maximum out of our players.

Q: Did you have some trepidation starting two rookies in secondary?

Holmgren: I sure did. You don't want to do that too much. But, I think these two young guys are exceptional players and good solid guys who are not going to get overwhelmed by the decision. But at the same time, they are rookies and yeah, it's a tough deal. That is a tough thing against some of the guys in this league, but they are playing pretty well. I think we get Shawn Springs back here pretty quick, which gives our secondary a boost. Until we do, those young guys are starting and they are going to play.

Q: How has defensive end Chike Okeafor been doing since coming over to the Seahawks from the Niners?

Holmgren: Again, he's a high energy guy. He practices a certain way and he plays the game a certain way. We needed that. We needed to have some examples of guys who just kind of play the game at 110 percent all the time. We have another one in John Randle. Pretty soon, if you get enough of those guys, your defense really is flying around. I think that kind of typifies the 49ers defense, as well. On film, they appear to be that type of team. They were last year and that is the way Jim Mora coaches. He gets them moving.

Q: What has it been like since taking over the team from Dennis Erickson?

Holmgren: We had a situation where we had a fair number of No. 1 draft choices and a fair number of guys who had been here a long time and making a lot of money. It was a little bit what the 49ers went through when Steve Mariucci was there and all of a sudden they had to deal with their salary cap situation. We made the playoffs our first year and we didn't shoot lights out, but we made the playoffs. Then, the second year, we really had to deal with the salary cap the situation not unlike the 49ers did. As a result, our record suffered. Then the third year, we were able to get that going again. When Dennis was here, Warren Moon came in and played very very well and they threw a lot of touchdown passes. They had some real exciting players here, but Joey Galloway didn't want to be here anymore, so we made that trade. Warren left. There was Cortez Kennedy, who had been a great player for this franchise forever, played one more year. There was a pretty heavy turnover in the players. Anytime you build something up, like Dennis is building up in San Francisco, it takes some time. Maybe a little more time than you are allowed to have or a little more time than certainly your fans have patience for, but sometimes it just takes a little more time. In our case, we had to solidify the quarterback position, which has taken us a little while, but I think that is done.

Q: Does media make too much of Erickson going back to Seattle and you going back to San Francisco?

Holmgren: The first time you come back, we probably make a little too much of it. Then, after awhile, I've come back to San Francisco and played a lot of games there now, but this is Dennis's first trip back up here, so they are going to talk about that and write about it. Then, hopefully we play a lot of games against with one another and that thing kind of dies out. Now, we're just playing football.

Q: Do you see any weaknesses in receiver Terrell Owens' game?

Holmgren: I don't see any weaknesses. I think he is one of the top receivers in football and I think that is very obvious. If you don't deal with him, you are in for a long long day against the 49ers. We are no different than any other team that plays San Francisco. You have receivers that just flat make a difference in the game; the Terrell Owenses, Randy Mosses or the Jerry Rices. Guys like that you better deal with them. Otherwise, you are in for a long game.

Q: How's your offensive line doing?

Holmgren: Walter (Jones) has been playing fine. He's been playing great and he is a Pro Bowl lineman. Chris Terry will be in at right tackle for us. We are very happy that he came back. We missed him. He appears to be in very good shape and now he has got to get a good week of practice under his belt and he'll be ready to go.

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