Holmgren on Drafts, Branch and NFL Travel

In the conclusion of our three-part transcript of Mike Holmgren's comments at the Owner's Meetings, the coach discusses draft histories in Green Bay and San Francisco, more on the Deion Branch trade, and a little bit about the preseason and Frequent Flyer Miles…

For your drafts in Green Bay, was the second round as good as the first one?

"While we were in Green Bay, our first-round picks were OK. But our second-round picks (and later) were much more productive. Sharper was one, Edgar Bennett was one, Robert Brooks was one, Antonio Freeman, those were third-round picks. All those guys were later. (Mark) Chmura, fifth-round pick. Guys who started for a long time, went to Pro Bowls, and then our first-round picks were John Michaels, a tackle from USC who actually played two years. Aaron Taylor, who was pretty good. George Teague, pretty good. Terrell Buckley was our first first-round pick. Mark Brunell was a fifth-rounder."


Do you have to have some job security to draft a quarterback, with the time it takes to develop them?

”You have to feel fairly secure, I think, that you are going to be there to see the results of your grooming. Because there is an allure to trading for a guy who can play.


Will Matt Hasselbeck be ready for minicamps?

I would say (he’ll be ready in) June. Our OTA is in June. He'll probably get to throw a little bit.


With five exhibition games this year, could you hold him out of games, possibly the Beijing game vs. the Patriots?

That would actually be our second game. We play New England and then we play them again. That's a good question. I might hold him. I've got to see how he does.


Have you ever found you get jet-lagged on those overseas trips?

”Absolutely.”


The Colts went 0-5 in the preseason after a Japan game a few years back…

”What we're doing, the Japan thing in San Francisco, we went to Japan and we were over there a week, roughly a week. And then when we came back, I thought Bill, he really eased back into stuff. It kind of worked. When I was in Green Bay, we went on a Wednesday, played the game on a Saturday and came back on Sunday. It was like waves hitting. You were no good for about three or four days, absolutely couldn't function.”


More post-trip thoughts…

”When we come back, I'm giving them, we're not going to do anything for about three or four days. Our training camp this year is going to be a little different because not only are we going to play the Patriots two games in a row, it is chopped up a little bit. Then we're going to have, you've got to give them time to recover, I think. You do.”


How did the trade for Deion Branch work out ?

First of all, he's a great human being. He is a great kid. I thought he came in and gave us great leadership. He ingratiated himself to his teammates. He is a hard worker. I can't say anything bad about him. Plus, he's a really good football player. And he came in and had what I would call a very good season. I think after a year with us, and how we do things, because every team does things a little differently, he'll really be, we're counting on him to be, even better. I was asked, because we don't have a No. 1 pick and it was for Deion (in a trade with New England), we were picking 24th, would you take, how do you feel about that? I said if I got to 24th and I knew I could take Deion Branch, I would take him. You just take him. It worked out well for Seattle and he'll be a good player for the Seahawks for a long time.


What are your thoughts about breaking the “Super Bowl Losers’ Curse”?

”It's one of those statistics that it didn't mean much to me. I never said, well, why does that have to be? I was asked that a lot, as you can imagine. But yeah, I was very proud of the team at the end. We putzed it around during the year a little bit. We were inconsistent, to say the least, but we gave the Bears a good go and we had a chance to win that game, so we were close. They came to camp, worked hard, the attitude on the team was excellent.

"I've always felt to get to the Super Bowl your best players have to have really good seasons. Other things are kind of the ebb and flow of any year. But your good guys? They've gotta be good. And that was the difference from last year to the year before, that our good guys, some of them were hurt and then some of them, they were a little better the year before. That was the difference.”


One of the things discussed here is the “K-ball” and its maintenance – some people think you doctored the ball (in the wild-card game) against Dallas.

”Me personally?”


Not you, but your team guys, somehow they rubbed up the ball so it was slick…

”You know what happened is that shot that they, and it's wonderful television, that shot where you can actually see the rotation of the ball coming back to you in slow motion. Well, the ball looks shiny because of the light. But Erik, I went to Erik Kennedy, he's our equipment guy, and he goes ‘hey, listen, I was in there, the Dallas guy was in there, by the rules of how he did those things.’ They both go in there and they rub them down and inspect them. That was the way it was. Now, if you watch Romo, he caught the ball. He caught the ball. But then when he went to put it down, he lost it. If it was really slippery, sometimes you'll see it like a greased pig, it will kind of slip through his hands. But he caught it. And then he just got a little casual doing this (putting it down).


You hated to see that, didn't you?

"Gosh. I missed it. I was turning around with Matt (Hasselbeck). I thought they kick it and we'd hopefully get a little return and we had about three or four plays to have a chance to kick a long field goal to win on our side. I turned around at the last second. I was talking to Matt and getting a receiver and saying these are the four plays I'm going to call. And then they were kind of looking past me. So I turned around right as it happened. I'm looking. Ah, geez, and then he's going to run in. And (Jordan) Babineaux makes this miracle tackle. It was unbelievable.

"And then our bench thought we won. But they had all three of their timeouts. We had the ball on the 1. So I go, ‘well, they are going to call it’. We gain three yards here, punt it, they are going to kick another one anyway. And then Alexander popped a little run in there. Bill and I played three games. The last three times we played Dallas. The last two, we won. The other one we won on a 50-yard field goal with no time. Bledsoe had thrown an interception. The year before, we had them dead, bang beat. It was a high-scoring game. I think it wound up 45 to 42 or something. We had them beat by a lot. Ten points or something with a minute to go. They came back on this miracle thing. We couldn't get an onside kick. Keyshawn Johnson caught a touchdown pass where actually his foot was out of bounds. I won't even get into that because I'm going for the Horrigan (Award)."


Why is it you seem to get receivers in third round or below, Branch was (originally a) second rounder but other guys were later picks, Darrell Jackson in third round, etc., why is there more value there than in first round so frequently?

"I don't know. It is an interesting thing. I think it's very true. I mentioned earlier, we had Freeman and Brooks in Green Bay in the third round. They were starters for a long time. We drafted Koren Robinson in the first round and he was a good player, but it didn't quite work out. I honestly can't tell you why. One is speed. The measurables with receivers, that will change their round. You guys know. Jerry Rice (was a 4.6), yeah, but he was so good and big in other areas that he was a first-round pick but I think speed is something.

What program you're in can maybe give you a chance to catch more passes. You have good workouts. People put a lot of premium on those workouts. I personally think you have to be careful of those things. They are so orchestrated. It's nothing like a game but it is valued. But there is no real, I can't give you good reasons."


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