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Holmgren can block the way

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by Heatherthepackgirl, Jan 7, 2008.

  1. Heatherthepackgirl

    Heatherthepackgirl Cheesehead

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    By GREG A. BEDARD
    gbedard@journalsentinel.com
    Posted: Jan. 6, 2008

    Green Bay - Mike McCarthy doesn't need to be told about one of the main subplots for the National Football Conference divisional playoff game Saturday between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks.

    The Packers' coach drives it. At least he did before this week.

    One block east of Lambeau Field sits Holmgren Way, the street named after former Packers coach Mike Holmgren, who led the franchise to its last Super Bowl title in 1996. He'll be on the other sideline Saturday.

    "I think it's probably the most unique situation in pro football," McCarthy said Sunday. "I don't know if anybody else has had to do that.

    "Maybe I'll stay off Holmgren Way for a while, for at least the week."

    Rerouting his daily commute won't help McCarthy escape the shadow cast by Holmgren during his time with the Packers.

    After taking over a franchise that had just two winning campaigns in the previous 18 non-strike seasons, Holmgren, in concert with former general manager Ron Wolf, brought the Packers back to national prominence and recorded winning records in all seven years of his tenure, from 1992-'98. His 75-37 regular-season record trails Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi in franchise history.

    "I think he's clearly one of the greats in our business," McCarthy said. "I think what he's done speaks for itself."

    McCarthy has been no slouch in his first two seasons, either, going 21-11 and winning the NFC North division title this season at 13-3. McCarthy is tied with Mike Sherman for the best two-year record. Holmgren (18-14) is fourth, behind Lombardi.

    But impressive regular-season marks don't get streets named after you in Titletown, U.S.A. Championships are the only things that matter. So it's quite a twist of fate that Holmgren, who also took the Packers to the Super Bowl in 1997 before leaving for Seattle in 1999, will be McCarthy's first hurdle toward joining the exclusive club.

    "Anytime you have an opportunity to compete against a coach like Mike Holmgren, it's something you look forward to," said McCarthy, whose only interaction with Holmgren was a brief meeting before the teams' exhibition game this season.

    The chess match between the two coaches will be closely watched.

    Both run the West coast offense, although the offenses don't look similar. McCarthy has adopted a much more open attack that prominently features the shotgun and multiple receivers.

    Holmgren's approach, with two running backs in the backfield most of the time, is a stricter interpretation of the offense devised by former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh, who hired Holmgren out of the college ranks in 1986.

    Both McCarthy and Holmgren, however, call their own plays.

    Although McCarthy said he was "absolutely" looking forward to calling plays against Holmgren, he downplayed the significance.

    "I look at it more as our football team vs. his football team," McCarthy said. "Mike Holmgren calls plays for their offense and I call the plays for our offense. So as far as going up chess match-wise, there's not as much of that actually in the game. But as far as the week, preparation, getting your team ready to play, that's all part of it."

    McCarthy and Holmgren have a direct link in Packers quarterback Brett Favre. Holmgren developed the raw Favre into a three-time winner of the NFL's most valuable player award (1995-'97). McCarthy has had a hand in Favre's resurgent, MVP-caliber performance this season, his 17th.

    McCarthy was Favre's quarterbacks coach the first time he went against his former coach, on Nov. 1, 1999, when the Packers fell, 27-7, at home, with Favre completing just 14 of 35 passes and throwing four interceptions.

    "I think Brett really pressed in that game," McCarthy said. "But I think he's definitely a lot more mature today than he was back in the '90s."

    Come Saturday, McCarthy might be wise to heed the lessons learned in that game. Try to take on a ghost, you end up grabbing air.

    Or, in McCarthy's case, driving right by.

    Thompson chimes in: General manager Ted Thompson didn't take long to give his rundown on Seattle's roster. Thompson was Holmgren's right-hand man for personnel in Seattle from 2000-'04.

    "Ted gave his two cents. We had a little personnel meeting," McCarthy said. "He knows a lot of their players and has been around Holmgren and that staff, so I had a chance to visit with Ted about it."

    Short yardage: McCarthy said safety Atari Bigby, who missed practice Friday because he returned late from the four-day break, would start Saturday. "We have moved on and the discipline is in place," McCarthy said. . . . Guard Jason Spitz (thigh) and cornerback Will Blackmon (foot) will test their injuries today.
     

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