His goal of turning the franchise into a champion seemed to be going nowhere. A couple of years before, in a "humbling" experience, he was stripped of his general-manager duties. His relationship with the front office was lacking. Sixteen players were set to be free agents, including running back Shaun Alexander, who made waves when he bitterly complained about not being given the chance by Holmgren to win the NFL rushing title.
"I gave it some serious thought for probably the first time," said Holmgren, who admitted to having all five signs of depression. Now, with one year left on his original eight-year, $32 million contract to guide the Seahawks, Holmgren on Friday said he and owner Paul Allen will meet to discuss a contract extension.
"We're going to talk about it," Holmgren said. "After this game, we'll see."
Holmgren, who will coach the Seahawks in Sunday's Super Bowl, guided the Packers to consecutive Super Bowls nearly a decade ago. He is trying to become the first head coach to win Super Bowls for two teams. That was among the many Packers-related topics Holmgren was asked about during his various sessions with reporters in the days leading to Sunday's championshp clash against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On why no coach has won Super Bowls with two teams:
"First of all, getting to one Super Bowl is difficult to do. You have to be in a good organization, have a solid team that year, and be pretty fortunate with the breaks you get in the game. It's hard. Getting a second chance or a third chance or whatever, and some coaches in the league have been here more times than I have, that's for sure.
"Typically when a coach goes to another team, more often than not, that team has had a tough time and the coach is hired to try and build things back up. To do it once is tough, to do it more than once is pretty difficult in our business, and so I think that is why people talk about it. I think that is probably why it hasn't happened before."
On his feelings after losing Super Bowl XXXII to Denver:
"I wasn't very happy at the end, I remember that. It was a great football game. It was a close game. Denver played a great game. It was one of those games that it took me a while to recover because I felt we had a good team, but I didn't think we had played our best that day. As a coach, I shoulder that responsibility any time the team doesn't play up to my expectations.
"I had the feeling after the game that I couldn't get our team to believe how good Denver was for whatever reason. We had had a good season and kind of dominated in many ways during the regular season. I tried to be nice to our guys. I tried to be mean to them. I tried every trick I knew, and when it came time for the game we kind of figured it out, but by that time, we were in one. That was disappointing to me. Once I got over that, which took me a little while, I think what I said before, I meant. It's pretty neat to be here and get a chance to play in this game."
On Seattle's reaction to the Seahawks going to the Super Bowl compared to Green Bay's reaction about the Packers:
"The community reaction was similar. Green Bay had a football tradition there that included Super Bowls. When I went there, even though it had been 24 years, you saw all the names and the colleagues and knew they had a tradition. Seattle is a much younger franchise and had not gotten to a Super bowl yet, so the reaction of the fans in the championship game was spectacular and very, very moving and if we can get this thing done Sunday, it would really be something, it really would."
Is he enjoying this trip to the Super Bowl more?
"I really am trying to enjoy it a little bit more, not that I didn't enjoy the experiences the first couple times. Now I am older and have a better sense of how hard it is to get here. I told the players that they've accomplished quite a bit already. We still have that game to play, but I'm not one of those that if bad things happen Sunday, that they didn't deserve to be here or the season is a waste. They worked too hard. I'm enjoying it more this time and trying to take a little time to reflect more."
Is it different this time, with Seattle being an underdog while his Packers teams were favored?
"It's a little bit the other way around this time. Pittsburgh is a fine football team and has already accomplished quite a bit by winning on the road to get to the Super Bowl, but the feeling I get is that we are very much the underdog in this game. We were very much the favorite against Denver, so how you deal with your team is quite different and I have approached it differently. Our players know who they are. For any number of reasons, maybe our exposure on national games, but aside from our team, the folks in Seattle, there are not a lot of people that really know who we are."
On the condition of Ray Rhodes, the former Packers head coach who served as Holmgren's defensive coordinator until suffering stroke-like symptoms twice this season:
"Ray came with us on this trip. He has been with the team after he had his stroke. He wasn't on the practice field for a long time and he has started going on the practice field again, but he is kind of removed. He takes notes and he will review those things with John Marshall after practice. He came to both of our playoff games and was in the press box and he hadn't been there before. The doctors are saying now he can do these things as long as he keeps calm. That's hard for him to do unless he kind of keeps himself at a little bit of a distance.
"He is very much involved and has been in the planning of our defenses. He will be in the press box Sunday. Ray is a good friend of mine and we have been through a lot together and the most important thing now is that he is healthy. He knows that and I know that, so we are trying to make it where he can help us, but at the same time, not to become too excited."
Does Rhodes' illness make him reflect on the stress of his profession?
"All of us in this business get pretty churned up sometimes. Any time a colleague or a good friend has something like this happen to him, you have to think about it. You really have a chance to put things in perspective if you think you are going over the edge just a little bit in how you go about this thing. It can be hard on you physically.
"There was Mike Martz in St. Louis and Ray and I lost Fritz Shurmur when we came to Seattle and every time something like that happens you think about it and you think, ‘Are things worth it and do you want to do it the rest of your life?' The good news is that Ray is feeling better and that he can be here and share in this great experience with us."
On if he has allowed a team to score a touchdown, like he did in the final minutes of the Super Bowl XXXII loss to Denver, and would he do it again in the same situation:
"I've never done it since, but I would do it again. The choice I had at the time was to let the clock go down and lose the game on a field goal with no time on the clock or allow them to score and maybe we could score with more time on the clock. I looked at it and said, ‘This is our best chance in my opinion.'
"I suppose we could have blocked the conversion or the field goal, but I just made a choice at the time. I think in the same circumstance I would do the same thing again. At that point it was all about the clock. I hope I never have to make that decision again."
On some of the things he has learned in past Super Bowl games
"We don't have many players who have played in this game so I think the biggest thing I can do is kind of explain to them what they can expect on this particular day. It makes it a little bit easier to deal with it and get back in line with football and practicing. It's very, very important that you practice well this week even with all the other things that are asked of the players.
"The other thing is that there are some things that we are doing a little differently now because I did them in that second game and we lost that game. I'm not superstitious, but we had to change some things up."