— Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren faces his former employer, the Green Bay Packers, on Sunday.
— For the first time in seven matchups against his old team, Holmgren will face a Packers team not quarterbacked by Brett Favre.
— The 60-year-old Holmgren, in what may or may not be his final season as a coach, has an injury-ravaged team on a three-game losing streak. The Packers, also hit hard by injuries, also have lost three straight. The loser's playoff hopes could die on Sunday afternoon.
— Leading the Packers will be Aaron Rodgers, who has earned Holmgren's respect for reasons other than his superb play with a bum shoulder.
First thing's first, though.
Holmgren and Favre were two of the driving forces behind the Packers' rise from pretender to contender to champion. Holmgren's coaching is a major reason why Favre is considered one of the finest quarterbacks in NFL history. Similarly, Favre's brilliance is a big reason why Holmgren is considered one of the finest coaches of his generation. And if both retire at the end of this season, they could enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame together. Wouldn't that be something: Favre could give Holmgren's Canton introduction, and Holmgren could do likewise for Favre.
"It probably will be a little weird," Holmgren said of facing the Packers without Favre. "I'll look out there and see Aaron out there. Every time we've played in in the past, of course, Brett's been out there. I think initially, yeah, it will be a little bit different."
Holmgren, who said he hasn't talked to Favre since about a month after the quarterback retired, followed the Favre-Packers saga like everyone else: through the media. His relationship with Favre and Packers general manager Ted Thompson made the messy divorce all the more difficult to watch.
"I was saddened a little bit by it, because I knew all the principals involved pretty well," Holmgren said in a conference call with reporters at Lambeau Field on Wednesday. "They're all honorable, good guys. Everybody is. And so, this is my profession and I care about it and I care about those people who are involved and I'll always have a special place in my heart for the Packers. I felt it was too bad. I was hoping that things would get resolved."
Holmgren, who like Packers coach Mike McCarthy is a quarterback guru, offered plenty of praise for Favre and Rodgers.
When the Seahawks were on their bye week, Holmgren watched Favre light up the Arizona Cardinals for six touchdown passes. On the strength of that game, Favre is the NFL's highest-rated passer at 110.8.
"Nothing he does anymore really surprises me," Holmgren said. "I mean, he's a special, unique athlete. If he wanted to play, I think you're foolish to bet against him. He's just one in a million. He'll always be a favorite of mine."
How Rodgers has dealt with the immense pressure of replacing a legend — especially the circumstances that transpired at the start of training camp — impressed Holmgren as much as how Rodgers has performed.
"I'm not there and I'm just an outsider looking in, but I think how Aaron Rodgers has handled this whole thing is really a credit to him," Holmgren said without prompting. "I mean, I know him a little bit — not very well, but a little bit — but in a very, very unique situation, I think the young man's been remarkable. I tip my hat to him."
Meanwhile, Holmgren's final season in Seattle is in jeopardy of ending badly. Injuries have wiped out the receiving corps, leaving Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in an unenviable situation.
So, at 1-3 and coming off of a 44-6 loss at the Giants, it hasn't exactly been a fun-filled farewell tour, but then again, this might not be farewell. Holmgren indeed is taking next year off — calling it a "sabbatical" to enjoy time with his wife of 38 years, Kathy. But, he's hardly slammed the door shut on a return to coaching, a front-office role or television.
"I wish I could tell you how I'm going to react to this, after having done it for so long and not taking a break for so many years," Holmgren said. "I don't know. I'm going to be open, and then, who knows? After one year, who knows? I'm going to be open to any number of things, hopefully, but we'll see."
Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org