Favre, Holmgren Meet Again Sunday
RENTON, Wash. (AP) -- Brett Favre walked past his private jet at the Green Bay airport three winters ago and sneaked onto the Seahawks' team plane parked next to it. He sat down next to a startled Mike Holmgren and told his old coach and friend he was retiring.
Now it's Holmgren's turn.
"After the game, I'm going to hop on their plane and tell him I'm coming back," Holmgren said with a laugh before Favre's AFC East-co-leading New York Jets play on Sunday in Holmgren's home finale as Seattle's coach.
Favre laughed, too, when asked Wednesday what he'd do if Holmgren wandered onto the Jets' chartered plane to confide in him about the coach's planned sabbatical in 2009.
A day earlier he was chosen to his 10th Pro Bowl instead of being three years into retirement.
"It's odd, because a couple of years ago I thought it was going to be my last game in Green Bay. I really, really thought that was going to be it," he said. "I remember telling him, 'It's only fitting that you are here for my last game.'
"I'm honored. I'm honored to have played for him. I'm honored to be there."
They met in Green Bay 17 years ago, an intimidating mentor scolding a frightened student. Favre still remembers the first team meeting the 43-year-old first-time head coach freshly in from San Francisco had with those Packers. Holmgren told half the players he'd soon run them out of town.
"He scared not only me, but he scared our team," Favre said.
The demanding taskmaster spawned Favre's legend. Through sheer stubbornness, Holmgren molded the rebel to authority and the former option quarterback from Southern Mississippi into the NFL's only three-time MVP and a Super Bowl champion.
Now, they are great friends. They dote on each others' families and have six daughters between them. And they keep intersecting at the supposed ends to their careers.
"I would not be here today -- I truly believe that I would not be sitting here talking to you guys today, still playing professional football -- had it not been for that guy," the 39-year-old Favre said, admiringly.
The NFL's leader among active coaches with 173 victories, 10th all-time, thought Favre was retired after any of three different, heartfelt talks with him, including that one on the Seahawks' jet on New Year's night of 2006.
So is he done after this one season in New York?
"I've given up predicting that one," Holmgren said. "I thought I had that nailed down a couple years ago, and it didn't happen."
Through 17 years, 12 postseasons, three Super Bowls and one league championship, Holmgren has been a constant confidant for Favre. Through the struggles of a young NFL quarterback on a mediocre team. Through the butting of egos when Favre thought he knew better. Through Favre's addiction to prescription painkillers in the mid-1990s, and Holmgren deserting him for a bigger role and paycheck as coach and general manager in Seattle a day after the 1998 season ended.
"He just was one of the more enjoyable guys I've ever coached," Holmgren said. "He has a wonderful personality. He's funny, a great leader.
"We went through the bumps in the road, too. Watching him being as successful as he's been in the last 10 years, on and off the field, puts a smile on my face."
Yes, Holmgren facing Favre for perhaps the final time is fitting. As fitting as the rare, Lambeau-like snow expected on Sunday in Seattle.
"That's awesome!" Favre said of the forecast.
Favre's was just as animated at the thought of this: Sunday not being Holmgren's coaching finale, that perhaps someday Holmgren returns to coach Favre for one more glorious season after he leaves Seattle.
"That would be awesome -- but he better hurry up. I'm running out of time," Favre said, laughing. "That would definitely be another chapter for the book, but the odds of that happening are very slim."
Yet not impossible.
Last week Holmgren told reporters in St. Louis on a conference call that he was "99 percent" sure he was coming back to football after the '09 hiatus he has promised his wife. That this last, lost season with the Seahawks (3-11) makes him want to come back even more.
"I don't think I've worked my last day at the end of the season," he said.
Wednesday, when told Favre said it would be "awesome" to have Holmgren coach him one more time, the 60-year-old said with a wry smile: "Yeah, it would be. I mean, we went through all the hard stuff. I think now would just be all the fun stuff."
Holmgren also reiterated his desire for a second chance at being an NFL general manager. The Seahawks relieved him of the GM half of his dual role in Seattle following the 2002 season.
Holmgren called it "that little itch I can't scratch. It's still there. Maybe someday."
But doesn't this failed season in Seattle make you want to coach again, instead of being just a GM?
"I'm not getting into specifics," he said. "We're just talking about itches here."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)