Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander is pictured with coach Mike Holmgren during practice last spring. Holmgren announced on Tuesday that next season will be his last as head coach of the Seahawks. Holmgren has been an NFL head coach for 16 seasons.AP file photo
KIRKLAND, Wash. — Mike Holmgren will return for a final season as coach of the Seattle Seahawks — but only a final season.
The 59-year-old veteran of 16 seasons as an NFL head coach announced his decision Tuesday to fulfill the final year of his contract, after spending the weekend with his wife at their offseason Arizona home.
“Kathy and I came to this decision to finish my contract,” said Holmgren, who had hinted at retirement for weeks. “This will be my last year. We are going to make it the best year ever.
“And then probably after that, I will take a little time off — but not yet. We are going to go after it hard.”
Two days after Seattle lost at Green Bay in the NFC divisional playoffs, Holmgren was asked if there was a third possibility beyond retiring or finishing the final season of his contract. He signed that extension soon after the Seahawks lost in the Super Bowl to Pittsburgh 23 months ago, at the end of a deal that was paying him about $7 million per season.
Holmgren said yes to the “longer, larger” option of another contract extension beyond 2008, but the Seahawks have never approached him about it.
Tuesday, Holmgren said his comments about an extension were overblown and “misinterpreted,” that the decision was always about working one more season or retiring.
The Seahawks have a likely heir to Holmgren in place in Jim Mora.
Soon after Mora was fired as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons on New Year’s Day 2007, Holmgren added him to the staff as the assistant head coach and defensive backs coach. Mora, 46, led Atlanta for three seasons and went to the NFC championship game in his first season there.
“The transition beyond this year should be really smooth. The organization is healthy,” Holmgren said.
He didn’t mention Mora by name, leaving talk of his successor “for another press conference. I won’t be there.”
Mora went to junior high and high school in the Seattle area while his father was an assistant at the University of Washington. Last week, as Holmgren was in Arizona contemplating his future, Mora removed himself from consideration for the vacant head coaching job with the Washington Redskins following two days of interviews.
Holmgren said Tuesday that Mora and all other defensive assistants will remain in their same roles in 2008.
A father to four daughters and grandfather to four more girls, Holmgren said he did not want next season to be “a farewell tour” that would take focus away from his team.
And he did not rule out a return to football in 2010 or beyond.
“Oh, I think you always have to say that’s a possibility,” he said, “but that’s very speculative at this point.”
Seattle won its fourth consecutive NFC West title this season and believes its window of opportunity for a Super Bowl title is still wide open with the core of the team returning next season. Five of the Seahawks’ six division titles have come under Holmgren.
“I want to do this because I want to give this one more shot with this team,” said Holmgren, who led the Packers to two Super Bowls, winning one at the end of the 1996 season.
Holmgren’s record with Green Bay and Seattle, where he arrived in 1999, is 170-110, one win behind former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs for 10th in NFL history. Holmgren is 86-68 in nine seasons with Seattle. He passed Chuck Knox this season for most victories by a Seahawks coach.
Holmgren said he will make some changes to his coaching staff on the offensive side.
Offensive line coach Bill Laveroni will not be back, a move not unexpected with the struggles Seattle had running effectively the last two seasons. Laveroni had been the Seahawks line coach since 2004.
Laveroni’s assistant, Keith Gilbertson is being shifted to receivers coach, after Nolan Cromwell left to become the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M for new Aggies’ coach Mike Sherman. Offensive assistant Gary Reynolds also is joining Sherman’s staff.