Can Philadelphia Eagles Lead Chip Kelly Down Mike Holmgren’s Trail?

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January 17, 2015; Carson, CA, USA; National head coach Mike Holmgren watches game action against American during the first half of the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Holmgren

Mike Holmgren took over for the Seattle Seahawks in 1999.  When he arrived, the press saturated the story of a former Superbowl winning head coach coming to take over the football team of the Seattle Seahawks.  In his first season, Holmgren coaxed Seattle to make the playoffs, which contributed to the problem.

Building a team to contend for a Superbowl takes time.  The instant success of Holmgren elevated expectations upon the man and the team beyond the point of reason.   But having the titles of executive vice president, general manager, and head coach, Mike Holmgren was the solely responsible person for all matters in football.  And his first four seasons with the team were mixed.  After the surprise playoff appearance with a 9-7 record , the team finished 6-10, 9-7, and 7-9.   That meant Holmgren’s record was 31-33, the same four year total as his predecessor, Dennis Erickson, had achieved.

So in 2002, the team’s owner Paul Allen and president Bob Whittsitt asked Holmgren to relinquish his general manager responsibilities and focus exclusively on coaching the team.  Holmgren considered leaving the team, but carefully considered that he had built a foundation for a contender, and had placed many of his former Green Bay staff in the front office of Seattle.  So in 2002, Bob Ferguson was given the title of general manager, but his role was limited.  The real power of personnel decisions then ran through the office of president Bob Whittsitt.  Whittsitt was way over his head, and a series of misses from the personnel office began.  Eventually, Holmgren went to Allen and demanded a change – either Whittsitt or Holmgren had to go.

Allen elected to retain Holmgren.

"I felt that the best approach, at this point, was to take a change of direction and bring in somebody with a deep background in football to run the football side of our organization,” Allen said. “That was a very significant decision. I didn’t take it lightly at all, but I think it is the right decision for the franchise.”"

Following Whittsitt’s departure, the team hired Tim Ruskell as president.   The Seahawks restructured the front office, placing Ruskell in charge of football, and CEO Tod Leiweke in charge of the business side.  In the aftermath, Holmgren talked about his experience wearing so many hats for the Seahawks.

"“I think we did some good things, but I messed up on some things. And if you don’t learn from them, then you’re really not being real honest with yourself,” he said. “When my role changed in Seattle and they took the general manager thing away and I was just coaching, I said it at that time — don’t know if I said it to anybody, but I certainly said it to myself — if I ever get a chance to do that sort of thing again, put a team together and run a team, aside from the coaching part, I kind of made a list of what I would do again.”"

With the Seahawks, Holmgren regrets not immediately dismantling the scouting department and hiring a new staff that understood his vision. That mistake led to a poor draft in 1999.

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