In 2015, it was Ron Wolf’s time in the spotlight.
This past summer, Brett Favre took center stage.
In 2017, will Mike Holmgren make it three in a row?
The former Green Bay Packers coach is again a candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, on the list of 94 modern-era players and coaches eligible. That has him dreaming of the possibilities, but also staying realistic.
“I know how hard it is to get in,” said Holmgren last Monday night at the Meyer Theatre in downtown Green Bay. “I’ve had the privilege of going back there (Canton) for Brett (Favre), for Ron (Wolf), for Walter Jones, some of my guys in Seattle that went in. And I am on the list — the 90 list. I get to 90 and then I get cut, kind of like I was cut from the pros.”
Holmgren was also on the list of nominees for 2016 but failed to make the group of semifinalists. This year’s candidate list will be trimmed down to 25 in November. Eleven of the 94 nominees are coaches, including Don Coryell, who was a finalist for the third time in 2016.
Holmgren was not only back in Titletown for the speaking engagement, but also for the Packers’ homecoming weekend festivities surrounding the Sept. 25 home opener. His halftime introduction at Lambeau Field drew one of the biggest cheers among the dozens of alumni announced.
It was Holmgren who was the leader of the Packers’ return to glory in the 1990s alongside general manager Wolf, Favre and Reggie White, part of the 2006 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Holmgren moved on to coach Seattle in 1999 but, from 1992 through 1998, he coached the Packers to an 84-42 overall record, including a Super Bowl victory 20 years ago this season. He last coached in 2008 but admitted that until recently he still had visions of coaching again.
“The last couple of years, I’ve turned down a couple positions where I could’ve coached, and then this last year, the one place I asked my agent to reach out to was San Francisco,” said Holmgren. “That was where I grew up. I thought if I was going to coach again, that would be the one place I would try to do it. And also in a situation I think where it would appeal to my DNA of trying to build something up again. And word got back that I was too old. Right away, I’m going, ‘What do you mean?’ But it was probably something I needed to hear, honesty. I’m 68 years old. It takes a lot of energy. And right now I’m in such a good place as far as the freedom to do things with the kids, with the grandkids. You know, as a coach, my kids never held it against me, but this summer I kind of reflected a little bit that I missed stuff. You miss things as your kids grow up. And now I guess through my grandkids and through my daughters, to a certain extent, I find myself doing everything. I don’t know if it’s making up for lost time or whatever. They’re not asking me to do it, but it’s fun.”
Holmgren is one of only six to coach two different teams to the Super Bowl (Seattle went in 2005 but lost). Two — Bill Parcells and Don Shula — are in the Hall of Fame. The others are John Fox, Dan Reeves and Dick Vermeil.
All told, 23 coaches are in the Hall, so the odds might be stacked against Holmgren. Tony Dungy was the lone coach in 2016 to get in and before that only Parcells (2013) has gotten in since Holmgren last coached.
Still, Holmgren is OK with his resume and whatever the future holds.
“I honestly will say this, and I mean this, and I’ve said it a number of times to the people in Seattle on my radio show,” he started. “The No. 1 thing for me coaching — it would be a wonderful honor (to get in the Pro Football Hall of Fame), it would be fabulous, just like when I went into the Packers Hall of Fame — but the No. 1 thing I wanted was the respect of my peers… It was really important to me that the other head coaches in the league would look over and say, ‘He’s OK. He can coach.’ I think we’ve done that. I think we did that.”
The 2017 class will not be announced until the selection committee meets Feb. 4 in Houston, a day before Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium.
Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at email@example.com