ORLANDO, Fla. – Nearly two months after his Seattle Seahawks lost the Super Bowl, Mike Holmgren is still feeling the pain.
Especially about the officiating.
"To have the story of the Super Bowl be the officials, that is crazy," Holmgren said today.
Holmgren wasn't pounding-the-table angry. He was his normal self: calm, rational, even a little laid-back. But he said he still is stung by the 21-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, in part because he knows his team didn't play very well; in part because of a series of calls that went against the Seahawks at critical times in the game.
Holmgren, entering the last year of his contract with the Seahawks, also said today he will decide in the next month or so whether he wants to extend the deal. "I wanted us to win the Super Bowl and ride off on a white horse," he said, adding that his wife Kathy would have a say in the decision.
"She's always concerned about my health," he said, adding "I'm feeling good right now."
Holmgren has complained about the Super Bowl officiating before.
At a rally at Qwest Field after the team returned from the game in Detroit, he told the fans: "We knew it was going to be tough going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I didn't know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts, as well."
Holmgren was not fined by the league for those remarks, even though most coaches are disciplined when they publicly criticize officiating.
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said today that he had a letter from his staff sitting on his desk informing Holmgren that he was being fined. But, remembering Holmgren's contributions to the league during his 14 seasons in Green Bay and Seattle — and how much Holmgren helped Tagliabue do his job — the commissioner never mailed it.
"So I adhered to a rule that I learned long ago that the first draft of a letter is better put in the trash can," the commissioner said. "The issue is resolved."
Holmgren said that as he watched the Super Bowl unfold, he kept thinking: "We're due (for a call)."
"It was an unusual game and I don't think you ever really get over it," he added. "You think about it for years. It was devastating."
There were four critical calls that went against the Seahawks, starting with offensive interference in the end zone against Darrell Jackson in the first quarter, negating what would have been the game's first touchdown. Replays showed that Jackson's arms made contact with Pittsburgh safety Chris Hope before they separated — technically pass interference, but often a "no call."
• The first touchdown came on a third-down run by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the second quarter. He appeared to come down short of the goal line, but instant replay was inconclusive, so referee Bill Leavy upheld the call of a touchdown.
• A holding call on Sean Locklear in the fourth quarter erased an 18-yard completion from Matt Hasselbeck to Jerramy Stevens to the Pittsburgh 1. That would have put the Seahawks in position to go ahead 17-14 with around 12 minutes left. It was a close call that was difficult to see on replay.
• Soon after the Locklear penalty, Hasselbeck threw an interception to Pittsburgh's Ike Taylor, then made the tackle, but was called for a block below the waist, giving the Steelers an extra 15 yards. They scored soon afterward on a pass from Antwaan Randle El to Hines Ward.
The NFL later acknowledged that the call on the interception was wrong, but said the other three were legitimate.
Mike Pereira, the league's supervisor of officials, reiterated that again today, although he acknowledged the NFL is trying hard to standardize how offensive holding is called.
Pereira, one of the more enlightened NFL executives, not surprisingly doesn't share Holmgren's view of postseason officiating.
"I refuse to buy into that mistake we had in the playoffs are an indictment to the officiating system," Pereira said Wednesday. "I refuse to let a few bad things unravel the whole organization."
But he also acknowledged the urgency for consistent work by his crews.
"It's a hard game to officiate and we have to continue to get better," he added. "We had some mistakes in the playoffs and we have to suffer the consequences. We have to make sure we bring our A game and keep our officiating elevated."