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Originally published Wednesday, January 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Steve Kelley

Holmgren says extension possible beyond 2008

After exposing his soul for more than a half-hour Tuesday in a news conference that often felt and sounded more like a therapy session...

Seattle Times staff columnist

KIRKLAND — After exposing his soul for more than a half-hour Tuesday in a news conference that often felt and sounded more like a therapy session, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren offered a third option for his future that nobody in the room had considered.

If we thought Holmgren's only options were staying for the final year of his contract, or retiring to a life away from the sideline, Holmgren suggested another idea — a contract extension past next season.

"I'm open, maybe, to a third option," Holmgren said to a standing-room-only crowd of about 40 reporters and camera people.

Everybody in the room wanted to know what was going on inside his head. We all wanted answers. But Holmgren had no definitive answer, because he hasn't made a decision.

He admitted that the shelf life of coaches is short. He conceded the end was near, even teared-up when he talked about it.

Maybe this is it. Maybe not. But on Tuesday, it was impossible to get a true read of him.

Holmgren leaves for Arizona today, with his wife Kathy, where they will take long walks and have serious discussions about his future, as a football coach and their futures as life partners.

But by subtly offering up a third option, Holmgren let us know he isn't just leaving town to decide if the energy in his tank is on empty. He's also letting the franchise know he is open to the idea of staying past 2008.

"It's not going to be long," Holmgren said of the timetable for his decision. "That's not fair to the Seahawks, or my coaches. They are in a little bit of limbo themselves."

Holmgren may well be the most grounded coach in the NFL. He understands his good fortune in life. He knows he has exceeded the career span of most coaches. He knows the clock is ticking and he won't outstay his welcome in Seattle.

But there is much he still loves about coaching.

He loves practices. Loves teaching. Loves the camaraderie, the coaching staff.

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It's the other stuff, the ancillary duties, the late nights and the pressures of coaching that Holmgren will weigh as he decides his future.

"It just takes a lot out of you," said Holmgren, who, at 59, is the league's fourth-oldest coach. "So at the end of the season, you're tired. It takes some time to bounce back.

"I remember talking to coaches in the league who have gone through this process and, when they finally made the decision, they just could not imagine themselves going through another training camp and eating in the dorm and that kind of stuff. They couldn't do that anymore. It wasn't the football. We'll all love football forever. It's kind of the other stuff."

Some day, whether it is this year, or three years from now, there will be many options outside of football for him. Jobs in the private sector. Opportunities to get involved, as his wife has done, in humanitarian projects.

"I'm hoping," Holmgren said. "I've had a number of my good friends say to me, 'Are you nuts? What else are you gonna do? You've been doing this your whole life.' But I think if you make the decision [to retire] then you're open to anything.

"The adventure of doing something else and to being open to being led in a certain direction, I think there's something to that. That's kind of intriguing to me. Whether it's in football, or out of football. There's no limits. Let's just see. I used to be decent at golf. I'm not anymore. I like to ride my motorcycle. I'm pretty active. I like to do stuff, but as my wife says, 'You must have meaningful work.' "

In an era of preprogrammed, prepackaged responses, in the era of spin, Holmgren's news conference was extraordinary.

Wearing a black short-sleeve shirt and slacks instead of his usual in-season blue sweat jacket and shorts, he was willing to share this very personal process.

"We've done this before," Holmgren said. "I wouldn't say it's a business meeting, but the whole thing, everyone is free to voice an opinion, first of all. I think it's important and we've always done this, so when the decision is made, we both can feel good about it and share the other person's feelings for whatever we do.

"I trust [Kathy] a lot. She knows me better than anybody. What we said to each other is that we're going to keep an open mind and then we're going to go down there [to Arizona] and take some time and do this. I think she worries about my health. She'd like to see me a little bit more on holidays, Christmas and so on. ... I feel good, but there's a lot that goes into a decision like this."

At one point in the news conference, Holmgren jokingly said, "I kind of feel like you guys are moving me toward the door."

No, this difficult, most personal decision belongs to Mike and Kathy Holmgren.

And the answer to the only question that really mattered Tuesday won't be coming for another week.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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