Even Holmgren can't resist appeal of total control

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It might be called Parcellsian or Reevesian -- the desire for coaches to have complete control of their organizations.

The quest for that control recently led Bill Parcells to the New York Jets and Dan Reeves to Atlanta.

The last coach you'd think would suffer from that ailment is Mike Holmgren, the low-key leader of the Green Bay Packers.

The former high school coach won the Super Bowl while working with personnel chief Ron Wolf in what seems to be one of the better relationships in the league.

Bob Harlan, the team's president, was so pleased with the situation that he offered to extend Holmgren's contract, which had been extended once already and has three years to run, until the year 2002. He already had offered Wolf an extension.

That would be the kind of security most coaches would love, but Holmgren turned it down.

"It's going to sound stupid, but I don't want to sign something and have either side become unhappy with the situation in three years," Holmgren said. "That's not going to happen, but I can't see myself signing for another five years, not right at this point.

"I'm just saying that right now I'm so doggone tired I couldn't think about that. The idea of signing something and having it last another five or six years or whatever, while very flattering, I just couldn't even think about that."

Holmgren tried to downplay the significance of his decision and said he could remain in Green Bay indefinitely. "That might happen. That might be the greatest thing that ever happens to me in my life," he said.

But then he conceded he might like to listen to a club that would offer him a dual GM-coach position.

"That's the thing. If something came up that was one of those deals. I've told both of them [Harlan and Wolf] I'd want to talk to somebody about that. That appeals to me. According to them, they understand that. No one's trying to lock anybody. It's a pretty good working relationship I have with these guys," he said.

Of course, this could turn out to be a false alarm and Holmgren might settle in Green Bay.

But the Packers have to worry that three years from now, Holmgren could be lured from Titletown.

The era when a Tom Landry or a Chuck Noll could make a career with one team could be ending.

The ghost

It turns out it wasn't the ghost of Vince Lombardi watching the team's victory parade.

When a Milwaukee newspaper published a picture of buses snaking through the crowds, a lot of fans noticed a figure with his back to a camera standing by himself wearing a hat and a brown coat. From the back he looked like, well, yes, Lombardi. Fans flooded the paper with calls saying that, like Elvis, he had returned.

But a 67-year-old semiretired data processor who said he attends the same church as Lombardi did spoiled all the fun by saying he was the guy in the picture.

He says he was by himself because, "I was trying to get on top of a little pile of snow for a better look. I guess it was sort of hard to stand on and that's why no one is near me."

Free agency file

Don't be surprised if Gilbert Brown, the defensive lineman of the Green Bay Packers, follows the Pittsburgh Steelers' Chad Brown as the first two big signings in free agency.

Gilbert Brown is negotiating a deal with Jacksonville that would pay him $3 million a year.

Although the Packers are resigned to losing Brown, it would be frustrating for them to lose him to Jacksonville because Wolf has been complaining the last two years that the expansion teams shouldn't have been given a full cap number at the start to raid other teams.

Pittsburgh, a big loser the past two years in free agency, lost linebacker Chad Brown late Friday to the Seattle Seahawks.

Meanwhile, the most interesting negotiations may be going on in Pittsburgh between Jerome Bettis and the Steelers. Bettis had indicated he wanted $3.3 million a year, but when the Steelers matched that demand on Friday with a 4-year, $13.2 million deal with a $3.5 million signing bonus, he still rejected it.

Bettis wants the first-year base salary of $1.8 million raised and wants a five-year deal with a bigger signing bonus. The Steelers want it to increase in the second year, in 1998, when a new television contract will likely result in the cap taking a big jump.

Bettis might be able to get what he wants with another team, but risks winding up in another situation like he had in St. Louis.

Here's one reason the number of free agents switching teams may continue to decline: Last year, the free agents who went to other teams received 45 percent raises. The ones who stayed received 60 percent raises.

Celebration

Parcells finally got what he wanted from the Jets last week -- complete control and a $2.4 million salary that is the highest in league history for a coach.

But once he looks at the team's salary cap numbers, he'll realize this is his toughest job yet. The Jets are in worse shape than the Ravens under the cap.

They have about $20 million tied up in 1997 on just eight players -- led by Neil O'Donnell's $4.6 million figure. When you factor in the four draft picks the Jets gave up to get Parcells, turning this club around won't be easy.

It's also puzzling why owner Leon Hess felt he had to pay Parcells more than the $2 million Jimmy Johnson is getting from the Miami Dolphins. It's not as if Parcells had any other options.

Short stay

Bill Belichick, who lasted six days as the Jets' head coach, won't be making any more comments now that he's back being an assistant. Parcells doesn't let his assistants speak to the media.

In Belichick's last remarks before his demotion, the usually dour Belichick said, "I'm stepping down with an undefeated record, untied, unscored upon, no kickoff returns allowed for touchdowns and no PATs blocked."

By Belichick standards, that was a good sound bite.

On the road

You need a program these days to keep track of where NFL teams might be playing.

If a San Diego judge rules Thursday that opponents of a stadium renovation project can put the measure on the ballot, the Chargers will wind up playing their games in the Rose Bowl this fall.

The Super Bowl will be moved there, too, because the renovation already has begun and the games can't be played there if it's halted.

Imagine what a San Diego team would draw in the Rose Bowl, where seating capacity is 102,083.

And the Houston Oilers are attempting to buy their way out of the final year of their lease. But since their new Nashville stadium won't be ready until 1999, they would have to play at the small Vanderbilt Stadium or in Memphis if they escape Houston.

And then there's the 49ers. You can't imagine them leaving San Francisco, can you? Guess again.

Team president Carmen Policy says if voters reject a proposal to kick in $100 million in public funds toward the cost of a stadium/shopping center complex, the 49ers can't play in San Francisco when their lease expires in 2006.

Giving public funds to shopping center magnate Eddie DeBartolo is not exactly an idea being greeted with much enthusiasm in San Francisco. If Jack Kent Cooke can build his own stadium, San Francisco voters may wonder why DeBartolo can't do the same.

Pub Date: 2/16/97

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