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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Holmgren back to drawing board

Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren is looking forward to the upcoming NFL season.
 (File/ / The Spokesman-Review)
Scott M. Johnson Everett Herald

KIRKLAND, Wash. – His will nearly broken by underachievement, his unwavering confidence tainted by doubt, Mike Holmgren was ready to throw in the towel.

His Seattle Seahawks had extended their postseason winless streak to 21 years, and the game that Holmgren loved was beginning to take its toll.

Now, five months and several personnel moves later, Holmgren is back to enjoying himself on the football field.

“I’m in a good place now,” Holmgren said Tuesday, shortly after a minicamp practice. “I like our team.”

By the end of the 2004 season, Holmgren openly admitted that he considered whether to continue coaching. After an impressive 3-0 start, and a memorable first half against the St. Louis Rams on Oct. 10, the Seahawks fell apart. Seattle lost to the Rams in overtime, and the rest of the season seemed cursed by injuries, defensive meltdowns and overall inconsistency.

No matter what Holmgren tried, the team never got back on track. A few days after a playoff loss to St. Louis in January, he took a much-needed vacation to contemplate his future.

“I was being honest last year; it was a hard season,” Holmgren said. “I felt bad about how it ended. But, heck, that’s the way it goes.

“I think I bounced back well. My best gauge is my wife (Kathy). She knows my moods. She says I’m doing OK.”

Holmgren will be celebrating his 57th birthday today in typical fashion. He’ll be back out at a Seahawks practice, doing what he loves.

For part of last season, it looked like Holmgren’s coaching days might be over – or at least in need of a hiatus. The 2004 campaign wore on him, so much so that he looked physically drained by the final few weeks of the regular season.

“Last year there were some high expectations from outside people,” tight end Itula Mili said. “Of course, it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it. It puts a little bit of a monkey on your back.”

Mili, one of five players who has been with the Seahawks for Holmgren’s entire seven-year tenure, has already noticed a change in Seattle’s head coach this spring.

“I think he’s come back and he’s really fired up this year,” Mili said of Holmgren. “We all feed off that as well. He’s always anxious and ready to go this time of year. He’s ready to play football.”

Not that the off-season has been a smooth ride. Holmgren has already had to deal with a fragile contract situation involving star running back Shaun Alexander, the release of longtime veteran Chad Brown, a highly publicized arrest that led to the release of Koren Robinson, and a physical condition that briefly landed the coach in an Eastside hospital.

Holmgren, who complained of chest pains early last week but was given a clean bill of health by doctors last Friday, has weathered the off-season storm without getting drained. He doesn’t promise he’ll be as stress-free when the games begin.

“I am who I am,” he said. “I think I’ll react to losses the way I always react to losses. Last year, we had two games, though, that you have to say were a little unusual (losses to St. Louis and Dallas that saw Seattle give up big leads late in the fourth quarter). But I’m human. I’m emotional.

“If I ever didn’t react to something when we had our Monday press conference, then maybe it’s time to make a change. But I don’t think I’m going to change.”

A change in personnel – both on the field and in the front office – has led to Holmgren’s reinvigorated attitude. Gone is team president Bob Whitsitt, with whom Holmgren had a fractured relationship, as well as troublesome players such as Robinson, Anthony Simmons and Chris Terry.

Holmgren loves the attitudes of new acquisitions such as linebacker Jamie Sharper, wide receiver Joe Jurevicius and cornerbacks Andre Dyson and Kelly Herndon. He sees potential in this team.

But his sunny demeanor could be only a loss or two away from turning gray this fall.

“I’m not going to change,” he said. “I just hope we can win a few more games so we don’t have to deal with that so much.”