Sure, the massive salary held considerable appeal. At $32 million over eight years, it exceeded every other NFL coach's deal.
And nobody could short-sell the attraction of working for a multi-billionaire owner. The Seattle Seahawks were a team so loaded with talent and so perennially underachieving that the new coach would not have to endure a rebuilding process to be an instant hero.
But the prime lure for Mike Holmgren, when he left the Green Bay Packers for Seattle, could be summarized in two words:
Aside from simply money-whipping Holmgren away from the Packers, Seahawks owner Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, granted the total organizational control Holmgren sought.
Allen didn't hire Holmgren as much as he crowned him: head coach/general manager/executive vice president of football operations. Holmgren became Coach Slash. And in the eight months since powering up, Holmgren has had a system-wide impact.
Shortly after being hired in January, Holmgren called a meeting. Not just front office. Not just football staff. But everybody who worked for the team. Custodians and clerks who never had met a head coach were told that by doing their job correctly, they might contribute to a Super Bowl appearance. All the while, Holmgren gestured with his right hand. And if the employees of a franchise that had not been to the playoffs since 1988 just happened to notice the sparkle of his diamond-heavy Super Bowl ring, well, he didn't mind.
With gaudy jewelry as visible cachet, he preached a doctrine of details to his subjects. Success was in details, details, details. The scouting staff was realigned, the front office restructured. Even the team's headquarters were rebuilt.
Then, when players took the field at training camp at Eastern Washington University, they couldn't escape a several-story high likeness of Holmgren hanging on a nearby building. Holmgren said he was a little embarrassed by the gargantuan picture, a product of the promotions department. But it was symbolic in the way it loomed over the practice field. Monolithic and unblinking. Only slightly more so than the real Holmgren.
During one practice, when repeated small mistakes made him cranky, Holmgren offered pointed instructions to players, assistants, the man who spotted the balls during a drill and the kid who blew the horn signaling the end of a period.
Players who had been given considerable leeway under previous coach Dennis Erickson were told they must have their jerseys tucked in at all times. And no tank tops were allowed at the dining hall.
"It's not that big a deal," Holmgren said. "I just don't think anybody wants to eat with somebody's big, hairy armpit hanging over his plate."
There have been no complaints from the players. "These coaches have been there and they know how to get there again," defensive end Michael Sinclair said. "They've been to the Super Bowl and they know how to get us to the Super Bowl. . . . So, if you're as hungry to win as I am, you're going to buy into the whole thing."
And if you don't? Well, you won't have difficulty interpreting Holmgren's response. Wide receiver Joey Galloway, seeking a long-term contract extension that matches the salaries of the game's elite players, held out the entire training camp.
Holmgren put the team's final offer on the table, but Galloway balked. Holmgren's response was to trade for wide receiver Derrick Mayes and inform Galloway that the offer would diminish as the holdout continued.
"I think I have to kind of establish how we're going to do business here," Holmgren explained. "We're going to be fair. If I say something, that's the way it's going to be."
As an example, Holmgren pointed to Sinclair, who has been to three Pro Bowls -- Galloway has been to none. Sinclair's salary was farther below the market than Galloway's. But he showed up to camp, played hard, and Holmgren rewarded him with a rich contract extension, all the while praising his loyalty.
The name "Galloway" was not mentioned during the news conference to announce Sinclair's new deal. But if anyone chose to draw a contrast to Sinclair, well, again, Holmgren didn't mind.
The most dramatic changes have been on the field, where a usually talented, but sloppy, team has realized that Holmgren has a zero-tolerance policy on mistakes.
"Everyone told me since I got the job that this is a very talented team," Holmgren said. "Unfor-tunately, they were 27th in the league in defense and they were 8-8. Talent, in and of itself, is good to have. But what does it mean if you're 8-8?"
Having taken Green Bay to Super Bowls in the 1996 and 1997 seasons, Holmgren has had to recalibrate his expectations with the Seahawks.
"My biggest challenge is remaining as patient as I can be while they're learning it," he said. "That's a challenge I talk to myself every day about it. For the last several years I've been with a group that knew what we wanted them to do. Here, we're starting from Ground Zero and teaching them step by step, and I have to understand that it takes some time."
But season-ticket packages have been moving at about 500 a week. And the promotional campaign featuring the slogan "It's NOW time!" leaves Holmgren with little room for interpretation: Seattle wants a winner, and wants it quickly.
"If they're talking Super Bowl immediately, that's not realistic," Holmgren said. "We have a chance to be a pretty good football team, but that's a big jump. That's a huge jump. But we have set our team goals very high. Very high."