Tuesday, November 18, 2008 Updated: November 19, 10:24 AM ET
After 17 years in NFL, Holmgren preparing to go out without playoff run
RENTON, Wash. -- For the first time in 17 years as an NFL head coach, Mike Holmgren doesn't have an answer.
For the first time since the early 1970s, before he began coaching high school freshmen in San Francisco, he doesn't need one.
It's an odd, unknown world for the 60-year-old Holmgren. He realizes he has no say in the Seahawks' evaluation of these final six games, with Seattle out of the postseason chase for the first time since 2002.
"Those decisions are no longer going to be my decisions to make, or to even be involved in those decisions, really," Holmgren said.
It's a jarring first step in the transition to his self-described sabbatical from football in 2009. He is weeks away from leaving the organization he turned around soon after he arrived as coach and general manager in 1999. He led Seattle to five consecutive playoff appearances and its only Super Bowl in 2006.
Jim Mora, the defensive backs coach and former head coach of the Falcons, is already signed to replace Holmgren following the season finale on Dec. 28 at Arizona.
Holmgren, the league's winningest active coach and 10th all time with 172 victories, believes fundamental changes may be needed to this 2-8 team to rebound next season.
He said he believes injuries to quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and 13 other starters are the primary reason Seattle has fallen so far, so fast.
"But that's not the only thing, now. We've got to look hard at this thing -- people are going to have to look hard at this," Holmgren said, referring to Mora and the staff of team president Tim Ruskell. "And be real honest about it, like I asked the players to be when they looked at the film, and see: Do we have enough? Is it good enough? If it is, let's go. If it isn't, you make changes."
Holmgren said flatly there will not be an early transition period in which Mora assumes more responsibility over the final six games.
The players see Holmgren is still in charge, just with a rapidly approaching expiration date.
"We don't look at him any different," fullback Leonard Weaver said. "I don't think that is a big ordeal or drama. We all know that Mike is leaving. We all know that Jim is coming in. We are all mature enough to handle the situation."
Yet Holmgren knows his players are watching to see if he will figuratively take his sabbatical early. They know he has never been in this situation: leading a team that had Super Bowl aspirations through six somber weeks of merely trying to be a spoiler.
They say instead of being the same yelling task master he's been for 17 years and through three Super Bowls appearances with Green Bay and Seattle, he's been sympathetic to his battered team.
The father of four grown daughters and the grandfather of six is turning to his paternal side more than he ever has in a locker room or on a practice field.
"I think the way he has handled it, it has been a little different," Weaver said. "You are used to the yelling Holmgren. But he has really handled it well in the sense of understanding where we are as players. How frustrated we are, as well. I think the way he has come in every week with the intensity and fire -- but the calm intensity and fire -- is a testament to [him]."
Holmgren met with his coaches and players on Monday following the loss to the first-place Arizona Cardinals. And he appealed to their pride.
"There are a lot of reasons you play football, from the time you were small and young to the time you're a professional," he said. "One of them is you're getting paid to do a job. I think anytime you have a season like we're having, down the stretch there are some ramifications that will be the result of how you play now, for next year. I think that's a consideration.
"Everybody in the room -- including coaches -- we're very fortunate to be able to do what we do. If you think about all the young people that you played football with when you were in high school and all the way up that don't get a chance to sit in this room and earn your living playing football, providing for your family probably for a long time ... we're fortunate.
"And to cheapen that, or to take anything away from that opportunity by not giving it everything you have every week, regardless of how the team's doing, I would be very disappointed if the guys handled it that way. I don't think they will."
That message hit Hasselbeck.
"He's a great leader and a great coach," Hasselbeck said. "If people were listening [Monday], then we all learned a lot. There was the opportunity to miss it, though. Hopefully, they didn't miss it.
"Hopefully, everyone's taking advantage of him being around."