But Mike Holmgren was the only coach who could effectively control Brett Favre's wild right arm. He harnessed the strongest arm in NFL history into a three-time MVP and a Super Bowl champion. Eight years after his departure, Holmgren's tutelage can be fully appreciated.
Since Holmgren left Green Bay for a head coach/general manager role with Seattle, Favre hasn't advanced beyond the NFC Divisional playoff round, compiling nine touchdowns and 16 interceptions in six playoff games. In six regular season games against his former coach, Favre has averaged 242 yards/game, while throwing six touchdowns and eight picks.
Saturday night the duo that reinvented ‘Titletown' meet again, albeit a preseason game. Unlike the Holmgren era, where Favre could waltz into Toronto's SkyDome and whip the Buffalo Bills 35-3 for a slight August sweat, this game demands a concerned effort.
Four years ago, Favre's Packers scored on five straight possessions against Holmgren's Seahawks in a 35-13 blowout. Last week Green Bay's first team offense went four possessions without a first down. The ‘O' must find chemistry fast. Saturday is great start.
In a Favre tribute, are '4' things to watch for in Green Bay's second preseason game:
1. Brandon Jackson. Last week Jackson only received three carries with the first team. He couldn't find a rhythm with his offensive line and Blitzburgh's 3-4 defense posed major problems to the Packers' zone-blocking scheme, as Favre later admitted. But Jackson is leaps and bounds ahead of where he was when camp began on July 28.
During this week's five practices, Jackson displayed improved patience for lanes to evolve and a quicker burst once the alley does open. He's allowing the line to wash down before cutting diagonally.
Jackson has a major opportunity tonight to win the No. 1 job outright.
McCarthy will give him plenty of chances.
2. The Linebackers - top to bottom. Cullen Jenkins is probably still feeling lint in his pocket eight months after getting absolutely robbed at Seattle. The defensive end received a severely questionable late-hit penalty on Matt Hasselbeck, which extended a game-clinching fourth quarter drive for the Seahawks.
Yet that wasn't the real story of a demoralizing 34-24 loss at a snow-soaked Qwest Field. On 40 painful carries, Shaun Alexander ran wild for 201 yards Abdul Hodge was in for Nick Barnett (broken hand) and was used and abused, A.J. Hawk made a team-high 14 tackles, though most of them were 5-10 yards downfield and Seattle literally ran the clock out.
Case in point - Green Bay's linebacker corps has a tall task ahead of them against Alexander and shifty backup Maurice Morris. To prove they're an elite unit, Hawk, Barnett, and Brady Poppinga must keep Alexander at bay.
The real intrigue lies behind this trio.
The fight for three roster spots along the team's backup linebackers is reaching its climax.
Can Desmond Bishop and Tracy White build on successful training camps by becoming core special team players a la Lamont Hollinquest? Can Abdul Hodge recapture his 2006 camp swagger and snag a roster spot before it's too late? And who knows, maybe Spencer Havner or Tim Goodwill can get into the mix with a big play tonight.
3. The return game. Desmond Howard caught 13 passes in 1996 with Green Bay ... but he singled-handedly uncorked Green Bay's divisional playoff win over San Francisco and put a cherry on top of Super Bowl XXXI.
Roell Preston caught a whopping two catches during his two-year stay in Green Bay and Allen Rossum only has two NFL interceptions through his nine-year career… but Preston set a team record with 1,895 kick return yards in 1998 and two years later, Allen Rossum racked up 1,536 yards, good for 2nd all-time.
It sure is helpful to start an offensive drive at 45, instead of the 25. All three deserve considerable credit for the Packers' success on offense from 1996-2001. Since then, the team has struggled with the likes of Robert Ferguson, Najeh Davenport, Antonio Chatman and Morency returning kicks.
Still McCarthy doesn't see the need of a return specialist. For Shaun Bodiford, David Clowney, Tramon Williams and/or Will Blackmon to land a roster spot they need to excel at their traditional position.
"Nobody is going to be on this football team just to be a returner," McCarthy assured. "They'll also have other attributes that contribute to winning. That always works itself out."
At Pittsburgh, Bodiford reached behind his body for a nifty 18-yard catch from Aaron Rodgers. He has the inside track on the kick return job. The punt return frontrunner? Blackmon, who had a highlight reel punt return against the Steelers.
"Bodiford has jumped out at us," McCarthy said. "I like the number of tackles Blackmon broke. We'll continue to get those guys reps and see what the other guys can do. We have more individuals in this mix this year than we did last year. That's a positive."
By Sunday, McCarthy probably hopes that ‘mix' is minimized with a couple returners distinguishing themselves against the ‘Hawks. Strong performances could give Bodiford and Blackmon job security.
4. Favre. There is no quarterback controversy in Green Bay. Such chaos is miles in the distance. However, it is no secret that Aaron Rodgers has outperformed Favre in practice and the preseason, regardless of who he is playing with and against. Favre admits that he doesn't trust his entire wide receiver group. His erratic play still lingers.
In a no-huddle 11-on-11 drill Thursday, Favre went an impressive 6 of 9, guiding the offense 71 yards to an eventual field goal against the defense's No. 1's. Impressive. But on the drive, both Charles Woodson and Al Harris had sure interceptions bounce off their hands. Ugh.
Favre must harness his gunslingin' as he did under Holmgren a decade ago. He can't expect James Jones, Greg Jennings, Ruvell Martin, and Carlyle Holiday to be perfect every play. Adjust to personnel. A conservative approach to the game would not only benefit his young receivers, but a turnover-happy defense as well. The entire team would profit.
Saturday is a prime chance toward establishing this mindset. Favre won't dump his style. It's what makes him a living legend. But in glimpses last season (i.e. 17 of 25, 180 yards, one TD in a 31-14 win vs. Arizona) Favre proved he can lead a winner without throwing the ball 10 times per quarter.
McCarthy said he plans on Favre and the first team possibly playing for the entire first half. Goal Numeral Uno?
"Score points No. 1," he said. "We want to get out there, get into a rhythm. Get our timing better. Our execution wasn't very high. We're looking at going 25 to 35 reps with the first group on offense and defense. We'll see how that plays out whether it's a quarter or two quarters. We just want to continue to grow and find that rhythm and timing that's necessary."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. (CT) for a preseason game that is much more than an exhibition for the Packers.