After an illustrious tenure in Green Bay that resulted in two trips to the Super Bowl and one championship, Mike Holmgren came to Seattle hoping to help the Seahawks win their first title.
Five seasons later, he’s still hoping.
His predecessor in Seattle will try to prevent Holmgren from taking a major step toward that elusive goal as Dennis Erickson and the San Francisco 49ers look to play spoiler against the Seahawks at 3Com Park.
Holmgren left Green Bay in 1998 after helping the Packers restore the glory they had been missing since the Vince Lombardi era. Erickson was relieved of his duties in Seattle after going 31-33 from 1995-98, failing to reach the postseason during that stretch.
Holmgren, given total control of the franchise as executive vice president, general manager and head coach, made an immediate impact in his first year at the helm, guiding Seattle into the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
The Seahawks lost their AFC wild-card game to Miami and have not returned to the playoffs since, taking some of the luster off Holmgren’s status as an elite coach.
This season, Holmgren dropped his general manager duties, hoping to focus solely on coaching.
To earn a playoff spot for the first time since 1999, Seattle needs to win Saturday and have either Minnesota lose at Arizona or Green Bay fall to Denver on Sunday.
Even if they win, the Seahawks could miss the playoffs with a 10-6 record— something that Holmgren is trying not to pay too much attention to.
“We all have to win on Saturday and Sunday,” Holmgren said. “It comes down to the last game for all of us. We have to take care of business on Saturday and then whatever happens, happens.”
There’s another longshot scenario for the Seahawks to get into the playoffs.
If Seattle, Minnesota and Green Bay all win, and Dallas loses Sunday at New Orleans, all four teams would finish 10-6. In that case, Minnesota would be the NFC North winner, while the Seahawks and Dallas would be the wild cards.
“I just get nervous,” Holmgren said. “There’s so many things. My focus has got to be there. We have got to finish the way we would like to finish.”
The Seahawks went unbeaten at home for the first time in franchise history, but are 1-6 away from Seattle. Holmgren said there’s no danger of his team being too emotional for Saturday’s game.
“I think we’re going to need that,” he said. “On the road, you need to play that type of game. You have to get cranked up even a little more because you don’t have anybody there with you pushing you to help you.”
The Niners also won just one road game this season, but it was a big one as they knocked off NFC East-leading Philadelphia 31-28 in overtime on Sunday.
Erickson, who has endured a difficult first season in San Francisco after replacing Steve Mariucci, will be without star receiver Terrell Owens for the finale.
Owens suffered a broken collarbone last weekend, and may have played his last down as a Niner as he is eligible for free agency this year.
“Terrell Owens is one of the great football players in the league and they don’t have him,” Holmgren said.
For Erickson, a win against Holmgren and the Seahawks will get the Niners to .500 and serve as a small measure of redemption.
“You would like to not have a losing season,” Erickson said. “Not only does it look better, but it feels better.
“I really want the game because we would like to end up 8-8. Is it a big deal? No, not really, but it is an opportunity. We lost to them up there. Now we have an opportunity to win down here. Yeah, it is important to me.”