Lombardi: Holmgren

Politics cut former coach's stay in Green Bay short

I am sure that there is more than one Packer Fan who is wondering how it is that Mike Holmgren is taking a team to the Super Bowl and it is not the Packers. I did not live here during the Holmgren era, but looking back on it, it seems strange that he would have left Green Bay when he was at the top of his game.

I know that he wanted more control over the football operations and he got that initially in Seattle. But given that Mike Sherman eventually got control over all of the football decisions in Green Bay and Holmgren was eventually "demoted" back to coach only in Seattle, it is sad that it did not work out here in Wisconsin.

When he left for the Pacific Northwest, the Packers were still in a position to contend for a championship. They had played in two of the last three Super Bowls, Brett Favre was still in his prime, but ego and politics conspired to destroy what could have become a dynasty. Holmgren left in 1998, Ron Wolf stayed on in 1999 and 2000, and Sherman was promoted to GM in 2001. It is impossible to determine what went on behind the scenes and who knows if Wolf had any inkling as to his future when the Holmgren kerfuffle ballooned, but it is sad that they could not get along and play nice.

Was there not enough money? Was there not enough credit to go around? Did they not get along? None of these factors should have been enough to destroy what had been created.

What has always mystified me about the NFL and the Packers in particular is the level that politics and ego drive decisions. There is no human resources department in the upper echelons of league boardrooms. Personality conflicts and relationships either determine hiring decisions positively or negatively. Just look at Tom Rossley for instance. He is the poster boy for the old boy network. He had a job because he was Mike Sherman's friend. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. If I were the head guy, I would want a close friend who I trusted implicitly. But let us see if he gets a similar position with any other team that does not have Sherman on the staff. On the same note, bad relationships and personality conflicts have sidetracked more than one coach's career. Jeff Jagodzinski can probably attest to that. He apologized for some ill timed words dating back to his leaving Green Bay in 2003 at his most recent press conference.

Talent and merit take a back seat sometimes to friendship, politics, public relations and emotion. It is obvious that Holmgren can coach; he has proved that time and time again. It is just sad that he has been head coach in Seattle for as long as he was in Green Bay, a place where he is still respected and admired. I am sure that he does not regret anything he has done in the past. Going to the Super Bowl has a way of making everything all right, but imagine what this team could have accomplished had he stayed.


John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at johnlombardi22@yahoo.com.


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