The Seahawks are headed back to Green Bay this weekend to renew one of the best non-division rivalries in the NFL — the fifth time in five years they will have faced each other.
While the Hawks (8-3-1) fight to hold on to the No. 2 seed in the NFC, the Pack (6-6) is trying to get back in the hunt. It’s just the latest dramatic meeting between the two franchises, which have been deeply intertwined since 1999.
Newer Seahawks fans might think the Packers-Seahawks series consists of three games: the Hawks’ infamous Fail Mary victory on a Monday night in 2012, Seattle’s 20-point win in the opening game of 2014 and Seattle’s miracle comeback in a 28-22 overtime win in the NFC title game.
But this series was full of great matchups back when Mike Holmgren and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck were leading the Hawks against their old team — led by Brett Favre — and this will be the 13th meeting since 1999.
In 1999, after Holmgren ended a successful seven-year run with the Packers to run the entire show in Seattle, the league made the no-brainer move to send him and his new team to Green Bay for “Monday Night Football.” Seattle’s 27-7 win was the first of six meetings between Holmgren and Favre’s Packers over nine seasons — thanks largely to the Seahawks being shifted back to the NFC in 2002.
In the meantime, the pipeline between Green Bay and Seattle remained wide open for players, coaches and front-office execs.
The year after Holmgren left Green Bay for Seattle, his offensive coordinator, Mike Sherman, turned around and went back to Green Bay, where he went on to coach from 2000 to 2005 and go 3-0 against Holmgren. A big factor in those games was Ahman Green, who turned into Green Bay’s career rushing leader after Holmgren sent him to the Packers in 2000.
In 2001, Holmgren acquired his old backup QB in Green Bay, Hasselbeck, who became Holmgren’s quarterback for five reunion meetings with their former team, including two playoff games.
The most infamous was the wild-card game in January 2004, when Hasselbeck dueled with Favre to a 27-27 tie at the end of regulation. The Seahawks won the overtime coin toss, and Hasselbeck had some fun with his former Packers teammates, saying, “We want the ball, and we’re gonna score!”
As it turned out, the Packers picked off a pass on a poor route by Alex Bannister on Seattle’s second possession and returned it for a touchdown to knock the Seahawks out of the playoffs.
In 2005, Holmgren’s right-hand exec, vice president Ted Thompson, went back to Green Bay to run the Packers. He missed out on the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run that season, but he was already laying the groundwork for his own Super Bowl title.
He drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005 and replaced Sherman with Mike McCarthy the next year. After a messy divorce from Favre in 2008, the Packers won the Super Bowl with Rodgers at QB in 2010.
Meanwhile, just as Thompson had jumped Seattle’s ship before its Super season, Schneider left Green Bay in 2010 to join Carroll in Seattle, where Schneider had worked in 2000 under Holmgren and Thompson.
Schneider and Carroll’s first year in Seattle was Hasselbeck’s last, and Schneider and Carroll brought another former Packers backup QB, Matt Flynn, to Seattle in 2012. Of course, they also drafted Wilson that year, and the rest is history.
He beat the Packers as a rookie on the fortuitous call on his last-play Hail Mary, and he handed Rodgers and the Packers bookend losses in 2014, a surprisingly easy 36-16 win in the opener and a stunning 28-22 overtime win in the NFC title game.
That three-game winning streak ended early last season in Green Bay as the Packers sent the Seahawks to an 0-2 start.
As they prepare to play again (in the snow, just like the Packers’ 42-20 playoff win in the 2007 season), the player pipeline is still open: The Packers picked up Christine Michael after the Seahawks waived him last month.
It also is yet another significant game for both teams — the Hawks trying to fend off Detroit for a first-round bye and the Packers trying to run the table to make the playoffs. It’s as close to a playoff game as it gets four weeks before the postseason actually arrives.
“We’ve played in big games, so we have history,” McCarthy said this week. “The teams definitely know one another very well. I think our veteran players are very much in tune with Seattle’s veteran players. We have great respect for their roster and coaching staff.
“I guess if you want to put it in a rivalry category, I’m all for it. … We’ve had some great games and we’ve played in some big games, and I think this one will be the same. I think it’s going to be a heck of a game.”