RENTON, Wash. -- This is Mike Holmgren's final season coaching the Seahawks. It's a fact he, his players and the team are trying hard to downplay, to avoid a protracted farewell tour.
There may be no need for the sappy stuff, anyway.
It is looking increasingly like this won't be the 60-year-old's last season in the NFL.
Holmgren has been hinting since the January day he decided to return to fulfill only the final season of his contract with Seattle that he may return later, perhaps as an executive for another team. Now he says 2009 will be his "sabbatical" from football, while current defensive backs coach and former Falcons head man Jim Mora takes his job.
"Jimmy's going to be the head coach next year. I'm going to take some time off and I made that promise to my family. I'm looking at it as a kind of sabbatical leave," Holmgren said this week in a conference call with reporters in San Francisco, where he was a quarterback and later assistant coach at Lincoln High School before he began his NFL coaching career there in 1986 under Bill Walsh.
The grandfather of six almost quit after last season while taking a long, introspective weekend at his winter home in Arizona with his wife. He's often joked he'd love a cushy, front-office job like the one Bill Parcells, his friend and former coach, has with the Miami Dolphins.
"I'm going to take some time off and see how I feel. I don't know how I'm going to react to that," he said. "But, see how I feel -- and make some decisions after that."
Holmgren, who needs one victory to tie Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs for 10th on the NFL's career wins list with 171, said he does not have any noncompete agreements with the Seahawks that would limit where he could resurface.
He still has a home in Northern California, near Santa Cruz, and is building a second one there. That's where he will be when Mora takes over.
The Seahawks are believed to be the first team to have their next coach already under contract, with a known start date, while the outgoing coach remains on the job. The Indianapolis Colts have announced Jim Caldwell as the replacement for Tony Dungy, whenever Dungy decides to retire.
"Like I said, it is business as usual. I didn't want it to be different than it was in the past, so I addressed the team that way," Holmgren said. "The coaches are handling it well; the players are handling it well. It's a little bit of a unique situation. The reason I did it was so it wouldn't be a distraction to this team.
"We made the decision, Kathy and I, to come back one more year. And I'm at peace with that."
The Seahawks admittedly embarrassed themselves with a 34-10 loss at Buffalo last week, their second-worst margin of defeat in 33 season openers. That loss, injuries to his top four wide receivers and the starting right guard and right tackle had Holmgren addressing this week whether he already regrets his choice to return.
"No," he said flatly. "The one thing that I absolutely know is that I did the right thing."