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Super Bowl XLV: Mike McCarthy Can Learn A Lot From The Mike Holmgren Era

Packer Head Coach Mike McCarthy has a chance to mimic Mike Holmgren on Sunday, by leading Green Bay to their fourth Super Bowl ring.
Packer Head Coach Mike McCarthy has a chance to mimic Mike Holmgren on Sunday, by leading Green Bay to their fourth Super Bowl ring.

Analysis normally paints a firm favorite for Super Bowl Sunday.  This time around, even Carnac "The Magnificent" would have trouble placing an envelope to his head and predicting a winner between Pittsburgh and Green Bay.

Realistically, though, the striking similarities between the two make life tough for us all.

Maybe it's because the Packers and Steelers are acclimatized to the snow, making the thick layer of ice on top of Jerry World no match.

Maybe it's because the Packers and Steelers both portray two classic pieces of fan memorabilia - the cheesehead and the Terrible Towel.

Maybe it's because defensive coordinators Dick LeBeau and Dom Capers are like two peas in a pod, even though it may not always seem that way.

Maybe it's because both teams feature a head coach named Mike, and a home stadium that chooses to stay away from the cheerleader phenomenon.

Or maybe it's a totally different scenario entirely. 

Maybe it comes down to the past that these two history rich teams bear, or more importantly the classic examples of head coaches that fill the books.

The Packers franchise became famous for their intimidating precision under coach Vince Lombardi.  While the intelligent draft selections of Chuck Noll set the Steelers up for a Hall of Fame class like no other several years down the track.

Then there is a man that saved the Packers franchise from the gloom and doom.  His name funnily enough isn't Brett Favre, it is Mike Holmgren.

Something about a man with a mustache always implements some optimism.  A chrome dome on top and a Hells Angels 'stache to go with it, Holmgren never looked the role of a whiny head coach.  Rather, a guy that would fit in well with the World Series of Poker.

Go ahead and tell that to Andy Reid as well.

But at heart, Holmgren is one of a kind.  At the age of 12 he fell in love with his now wife, Kathy, and received an engagement ring at the age of 15.

Turns out that ring was one of two Holmgren would place on his left hand throughout his career.

Super Bowl XXXI was Holmgren's 15 minutes of fame.  The seemingly no-name New England Patriots met the Packers in the Superdome - Green Bay won 35-21 thanks to Brett Favre's 266 yards and two touchdown passes.

Now the Packers are a different unit entirely.

However, what McCarthy can learn from Holmgren may be pivotal in two days time against a young coach like Mike Tomlin. 

For the most part, Holmgren and McCarthy are just as similar as Pittsburgh and Green Bay.  Holmgren was met with a challenge in his early days of coaching, losing quarterback Don Majkowski in 1992 to injury.  A pat on the back from Favre offered a 17 year answer.

McCarthy on the other hand hasn't faced the same scenario, yet.  But he has had to make the most of Rodgers' brilliance this year, with no Ryan Grant to rely on in the run game and a mildly quiet season from wide receiver Donald Driver.

Don't forget backup Matt Flynn's display in Week 15 against New England, either.

Of course, then there are the many other examples to consider.

Following the Packers third Super Bowl trophy in 1997, the Packers made the big dance for the second time in '98.  Green Bay lost 31-24 against a veteran John Elway.

McCarthy?  Well he hasn't tasted Super Bowl defeat.  Although the Packers NFC Wildcard loss in 2009 left Green Bay's coach bitter like Clint Eastwood in "Gran Torino",  losing 51-45 against the Arizona Cardinals.

One could also refer to the 2007 NFC Championship and draw upon the same answer.

Holmgren was the successor of Ron Wolf.  McCarthy is the successor of Ted Thompson, but some Packer fans mightn't see it that way.

Holmgren liked to keep it simple, relishing in the old school environment that Lombardi set up thirty years prior.  McCarthy does the same, as the Packers never look likely to attempt the Wildcat formation anytime soon.

Holmgren rode a Harley, McCarthy likes to sip tea during the cold Wiscosnin mornings.

Holmgren was accompanied by a stellar line up of assistant coaches (Andy Reid, Steve Mariucci, Dick Jauron, Ray Rhodes and Jon Gruden) all of which went on to head coach opposing teams.  McCarthy has Capers, Kevin Greene and Darren Perry.  Three men who are drawing serious interest as the offseason approaches.

Holmgren had Favre, McCarthy has Aaron Rodgers.

Holmgren had a 67.0% regular season record.  McCarthy currently stands at 60.0%.

And lastly, Holmgren won a Super Bowl.  McCarthy is one game away from the same feat if he can defeat the Steelers on Sunday.

The similarities are present, but maybe McCarthy's rise to the top will fade out if the Packers should fall in Dallas.  This game is huge for all Green Bay fans involved, as this kind of success hasn't been felt since the days of Reggie White.

The field goal posts will remain upright no matter what happens in two days time, unlike the 1960's.  Fans will be disallowed from on-field access due to security, much of which likely contributes to paying for Jerry Jones' over-priced pizza's.

Still, McCarthy can look back at Holmgren's success and ponder the circumstances that lay before him.  Maybe then McCarthy can be included amongst the Curly Lambeau's, Lombardi's and Holmgren's of the green and gold.

Mr. Myagi once approached Favre and said "I bet you thought I was taller than this?".  The height of the Packers franchise will be tested against one of the NFL's top dogs soon enough.


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Ryan Cook is an Australian author for Acme Packing Company, and a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also a guest writer on PackerChatters, and a contributing writer for Gack Sports.