I would not say Mike Holmgren makes an absolute, overwhelming case to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The former head coach of the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks will never be mentioned in the same breath as NFL head coaching legends such as Vince Lombardi, George Halas, or Bill Walsh. And Holmgren even gets lost amongst some of the greats of this era such as Bill Belichick.
But don’t make any mistake: if you analyze the resume closely, Holmgren belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He may not get in when in his first year eligible in 2014, but if justice is served we will eventually see Holmgren sporting one of those puke yellow jackets on the stage in Canton.
To begin, let’s place Holmgren in some historical perspective. The coach, of course won Super Bowl XXXI with the Packers. He also took the Packers to Super Bowl XXXII and the Seahawks to Super Bowl XL. In total, Holmgren went to three Super Bowls, winning one.
Now, get this. With the exception of Dan Reeves, there is no NFL head coach eligible for the Hall of Fame, whose entire coaching career was in the Super Bowl era eligible for the Hall of Fame, to have been to three Super Bowls not in the Hall of Fame. Reeves, of course lost four Super Bowls, three with the Denver Broncos and one with the Atlanta Falcons. Two coaches, Bud Grant and Marv Levy, are both in the Hall of Fame having been to four Super Bowls without winning.
Holmgren is also in some relatively elite company in that he is one of five coaches to have been to a Super Bowl with two different teams. Don Shula, Dick Vermiel, Bill Parcells, Holmgren and Reeves constitute that list. Shula and Parcells are both in.
Of course, Holmgren’s greatest work came during his seven-year stint in Green Bay from 1992-1998. And when Holmgren arrived in Green Bay, Titletown was well, Titletown in name only. The Packers had endured a miserable stretch after the departure of Lombardi in 1967. In fact, from 1968-1991, Green Bay had five winning seasons and a mere one playoff win.
The Packers would go 9-7 in Holmgren’s first season, as a young quarterback named Brett Favre broke into the lineup. That 1992 season would be the only time Holmgren’s Packers would miss the playoffs. Ultimately, the coach finished his tenure in Green Bay with an impressive 73-36 record, two Super Bowl appearances, three division titles, and the Super Bowl XXXI victory.
In short, Holmgren was the man who made Titletown, Titletwon again. But he would have a second act. And while it may not be as celebrated, it is arguably as impressive.
After the 1998 season, Holmgren took the Seahawks job, where he had the role of Executive Vice President/General Manager and Head Coach. After the 2002 season, he had the General Manager part of that title removed, but things were on the up and up for the downtrodden franchise. In total, the Seahawks would win five division titles, make seven playoff appearances, and earn one NFC Championship in Holmgren’s 10 years.
Thus, if you apply the relatively simple before and after standard, Holmgren took two downtrodden franchises and established them as legitimate year in-year out championship contenders. No, he doesn’t have multiple Super Bowl wins, but he has a track record in multiple locations of building title contending teams. Very few people can say that.
And don’t forget Holmgren’s work as an assistant coach. He was the offensive coordinator for two the Super Bowl XXIII and XXIV San Francisco 49ers teams. Plus, his work with quarterbacks such as Favre, Joe Montana and Steve Young cannot be understated. Remember, Holmgren was Young’s quarterback coach at BYU.
Ultimately, what you have with Holmgren is not a coach of the Lombardi or Walsh type legend but one who stands out in numerous, less apparent ways. And the fact he established two moribund franchises as perennial title contenders is something few coaches can boast.
Holmgren may not be enshrined next year, but he should be eventually.
Brian Carroccio is a Washington Redskins Blogger for Rant Sports.