SEATTLE, Wash. — From an "old home week" perspective, the only thing the Seattle Seahawks-Cleveland Browns game will be missing this Sunday is Chuck Knox and Tom Flores running the halftime show. Dennis Erickson is busy with his Arizona State team, but the last three men to coach the Seahawks will all be at Cleveland Browns Stadium when Seattle and Cleveland take each other on.
Browns president Mike Holmgren coached the team from 1999 through 2008 — he led the franchise to its only Super Bowl and is generally considered to be the best coach in team history. Jim Mora will be calling the game for Fox Sports — he followed Holmgren in 2009 and was summarily dismissed after a 5-11 season in which he seemed to lose the team. And Pete Carroll, the splashy name chosen to replace Mora, is in his second year of serious rebuilding after leading the Seahawks to a highly improbable playoff run in 2010 — he's the guy very much in the pilot's chair now and in the near future..
Carroll and Holmgren have a few things in common, which Carroll talked about this week.
"Well, I've known Mike for a real long time," Carroll said. "Way back, [we are] a couple of San Francisco natives. I think he was born in San Francisco. … I know he grew up there. So, that familiarity. He was a USC guy as well. The San Francisco familiarity. We've just known each other for a long time. We've never been on the same staff or been in the same circles and all that, but I've just known about him and watched him become so successful and have such a great career. It's always fun because he's a San Francisco guy and that kind of thing."
Both men coached for the 49ers — Holmgren worked with Joe Montana and Steve Young and that dynamic Bill Walsh offense from 1986 to 1991, and Carroll was the team's defensive coordinator in 1995 and 1996.
"We've known each other forever," Holmgren told the Seattle media on a Thursday conference call. "He was an assistant coach for the Vikings when we first met, and he's a Bay Area guy just like I am. We have a lot of mutual friends, and over the years, you can't help but bump into each other. The last time I talked to Pete for any length of time was when he had gotten the job in Seattle — you remember they had given me a little office there — so one day, I went over to his office and we just chatted. I wished him well, and told him about all the great people I had worked with there, and were still there, and who he could rely on. I haven't talked to him since. He's got his hands full, as I do."
After Carroll and current Seattle general manager John Schneider worked nearly 300 transactions to bring life to what the previous administration had done to a once-great roster, there were very few names left that Holmgren or Mora recognized when asked about it this week.
Mora isn't part of the Holmgren/Carroll circle (though he also coached with the 49ers a bit later -- he was their secondary coach in 1997 and 1998, and their defensive coordinator from 1999 through 2003), but his Seattle roots run much deeper. Mora's father coached the Seahawks' defensive line from 1978 through 1981, and Mora the younger played for the University of Washington (where his dad also coached in the mid-1970s) before heading into coaching. He was Holmgren's last secondary coach in Seattle before replacing Holmgren in a very odd way — ex-GM Tim Ruskell announced the Mora promotion a year before Holmgren left, essentially making Holmgren a lame duck coach at the end of a great decade. Despite that, and despite Mora's fairly disastrous short term as Seattle's head coach, there's no bad blood in this particular triumvirate.
In fact, when asked by Seattle station KJR on Thursday whether he would hypothetically accept the team's defensive coordinator position if current Seahawks DC Gus Bradley received a promotion with this or another team, Mora didn't hesitate.
"Absolutely," he said. "Well … I shouldn't say, 'Absolutely,' but I'd certainly consider it. It would depend on what else was going on in my life, but I wouldn't have a problem with that. First of all, I love Seattle, and everyone knows that. I had three or four college jobs offered to me last year, and four defensive coordinator jobs offered to me in the NFL, and I simply didn't take them because I didn't want to leave this area.
"Initially, when I got fired, emotions were raw. But at the end of the day, I'm a football coach. I like the Seahawks, I like Pete Carroll, I have a lot of respect for the organization and for Pete, and I'd be thrilled if Gus Bradley got a job, but I'd be pissed if Gus didn't offer me a job, because I brought him there in the first place!" Mora said with a laugh.
So, in his current position as a TV analyst, Mora will resist any small temptation to take shots at his former team … or, their current coach.
"Here's the deal — Pete and I go back a long, long way," Mora concluded. "This isn't about me and him. For me, it's about being impartial, and doing a good job explaining what's happening to the viewers at home. If the Seahawks are playing well, I'll sing their praises. If they're not, I'll try to explain what's going wrong. I'm not partial to one team or another, and I'm not holding a grudge."
In a non-grudge match between two very inconsistent teams with losing records, the most interesting dynamic may very well be on each sideline … and up in the booth.