Wednesday, November 26, 2008

If you just stick with it, you can do most things

Mike Holmgrem, who has led three teams to the Super Bowl, is winding down his 17-year head coaching career this season in Seattle, which is 2-9 and losers of four straight.

It's only the third time in 17 seasons that a Holmgren-coached team will likely finish under .500.

Here's an excerpt from a recent story in the Seattle paper that demonstrates Coach Holmgren's persistence in a tough season:

An NFL coach is his franchise's spokesman. He has to explain... the reasons the team that has won four consecutive division titles hasn't won back-to-back games this year.

He also is the man in charge of motivating a locker room full of 53 adults, the one who must persuade them to keep sacrificing for the team's benefit, even as the playoff possibilities are about to flicker out in the autumn wind.

That's why Holmgren stood in front of his team on a Monday earlier this month, one day after a 20-point home loss to Philadelphia, and talked to them about perseverance.

"I told them a little story about my first job in construction," Holmgren said. "I'll tell you, it was just awful. I mean, the hardest thing I've ever done."

Holmgren was 15 and hired to a construction crew building an apartment complex. He was a high-school kid with new work boots who didn't want to let his dad down, so he spent his summer doing a grown man's work around grown men.

"They gave me the worst, as you can imagine," Holmgren said. "And it nearly broke me."

His hands bled and he said he considered quitting at least 25 times. He never followed through on that.

"It taught me a valuable lesson," Holmgren said. "One, I didn't want to disappoint my dad. Two, if you just kind of stick with it, you can do most things. You can kind of get through most things."

It was a crossroads for Holmgren, and he shared the experience with his players to emphasize that while the final two months of this season might not be enough time to save a season, there might be even more at stake.

"Everybody in the room has to make choices when it gets hard," Holmgren said. "You have to make decisions. What decision you make says a lot about you and really says a lot about your future."