Mike Holmgren knows he has just two more games as coach of the Seattle Seahawks, and he plans to thank the team’s fans after his home finale on Sunday.
He also hopes to help make sure his former quarterback’s season won’t last any longer than his.
Brett Favre and the struggling New York Jets look to move closer to securing a playoff spot in what could be a snowy Seattle this weekend, but to do so they’ll have to reverse a trend of poor performances on the West Coast.
Holmgren is stepping down at the end of this season after 10 years in Seattle, and though the Seahawks (3-11) have struggled with injuries this season - quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will likely miss his eighth game Sunday - Holmgren’s tenure has included six division titles and a Super Bowl appearance.
He did even better in Green Bay from 1992-98 with three-time MVP Favre as his quarterback, including a Super Bowl championship after the 1996 season.
Including playoffs, Favre’s Packers were 4-2 against Holmgren’s Seahawks since the coach’s departure from Green Bay - a slate of games that included a 42-20 Packers victory in a divisional playoff game last season in which Favre dodged snowflakes to throw for three touchdowns without an interception.
If Favre wants to get back to the postseason, he’ll likely have to lead the Jets (9-5) to a win in Sunday’s game, which forecasts predict could also be played in snowy conditions.
“It’s going to be a very, very big game for them. And it will be a fun game for me,” Holmgren said.
Locked in a three-way tie with New England and Miami atop the AFC East, the Jets haven’t had much fun lately, dropping consecutive games to Denver and San Francisco before a last-second fumble recovery for a TD gave them a come-from-behind 31-27 home win over Buffalo last Sunday.
New York trailed by a field goal and the Bills had the ball with two minutes to go, but after Buffalo quarterback J.P. Losman rolled out for a play-action pass, Jets safety Abram Elam forced a fumble and Shaun Ellis returned it 11 yards for the winning touchdown.
“That play that Shaun makes and Abe makes, who knows?” Favre said. “At the end, we may look back and say that could be one of those plays that catapulted us into something great.”
Thanks to their early revival behind Favre, the Jets still control their own destiny, and if both New York and Miami win Sunday, the teams’ Week 17 showdown in New Jersey will decide the division title. The Jets also have a shot at a wild-card berth, but will likely have to improve their play for any of the scenarios to work out.
While their defense allowed a season-high 187 rushing yards against Buffalo, Favre has also struggled in recent weeks, throwing just one touchdown pass and four interceptions in the last three games. He leads the NFL with 17 interceptions.
“Maybe I don’t have the arm I once had,” Favre said. “I don’t know.”
The Jets do know plenty about their problems on the West Coast. Coach Eric Mangini’s team has won road games at AFC contenders Miami, New England and Tennessee this season, but is 0-3 at San Diego, Oakland and San Francisco - teams that are a combined 14-28.
New York totaled seven turnovers in losses at San Diego and Oakland earlier this season, then managed just 182 total yards in a 24-14 loss at San Francisco on Dec. 7.
“What I don’t want to get too caught up in is that being a reason why we can’t perform,” Mangini said.
The Seahawks have plenty of reasons why their run of five straight playoff appearances is over, including a receiving corps and an offensive line both decimated at times by injuries. Future Hall of Fame tackle Walter Jones had microfracture knee surgery this week, becoming their fifth offensive lineman to go on injured reserve.
Still, they’ve looked better the last two weeks, even with backup quarterback Seneca Wallace starting in place of Hasselbeck, who continues to battle back problems.
After taking the Patriots down to the wire in a 24-21 home loss on Dec. 7, the Seahawks responded from an ugly first half and scored 10 points in the final three minutes of a 23-20 win at St. Louis last Sunday, snapping a six-game losing streak.
“I challenged them a little at halftime and I think they responded beautifully,” Holmgren said. “They’re very happy. They should be.”
The Seahawks have lost five straight at home since a 37-13 win over the Rams on Sept. 21 - their lone home win this season. They had been 33-7 in Seattle over the previous five years.
Holmgren would love a win in his home finale, but either way he plans to walk around the field after the game to thank fans.
The Jets are hoping it comes after their sixth straight victory against Seattle, where they haven’t played since a 41-3 win on Aug. 31, 1997.