EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Sunday morning arrived a little cloudy, a little cool, no precip, no wind — a benign, Seattle-like start to what will be the longest day in the sports lives of the Seahawks and Denver Broncos. The wait before kickoff is agonizing, said a man who should know — Mike Holmgren.
The coach of the only other Seattle team to make a Super Bowl appearance (in XL in Detroit), Holmgren has three gaudy championship rings: two as offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers (SB XXIII and XXIV) and one as a head coach from Super Bowl XXXI when the Green Bay Packers defeated the New England Patriots 35-21.
"The Super Bowl is a season in itself," he said recently in a meeting with Seattle-area reporters in the Sportsradio 950 KJR studios. "Coaches like to talk that every game is the same, but the Super Bowl is different. Your emotions are different, your sleep is different. How you pet the dog is different.
"Human beings are in a very stressful situation with a lot at stake. The game starts at 6:30 p.m. (Eastern). That's one of the bigger challenges: When do we eat? How late do I sleep in? We're all used to game at 1 o'clock. Your clock is important, and it’s different."
If there were a coach who is acutely aware of Holmgren's message, it is Pete Carroll, Holmgren's Seattle successor once removed (Jim Mora, remember?). He has been vigilant in maintaining a constancy in words and deeds, making sure that a routine that is familiar and reliable to 53 large, amped young men who typically often lack discipline.
"Just trying to stay the same," he said this week. "We've had a strong couple of years here and have played with a really good mindset. I don't want that to change. We're really trying to do the things that we always do . . . Stay true to ourselves. If we do that, we'll be OK."
Carroll even bothered to choose the same uniform combo — white jerseys, blue pants — the Seahawks wore Dec. 15 when they beat the Giants 23-0 at MetLife Stadium, site of today's game.
The Seahawks are, by average age, the second-youngest Super Bowl entrant, and the first team since the 1990 Buffalo Bills to have no players with previous Super Bowl experience. Nor have the coaches — Pete Carroll sounded almost prideful when he said he has never attended a Super Bowl in person, saving it for the day when he took his team.
However, his quarterback, Russell Wilson, was at the Super Bowl last year at Indianapolis, one of dozens, if not hundreds, of non-participating players here to do media or just hang out in the intense energy that swirls around the event.
Wilson saw how the pre-game warm-ups start earlier, because of the long pre-game show. How long the halftime show took, which makes for more than 30 minutes in the locker rooms.
"Just noticing how long the day is," he said. "It's really a five-hour day. You've got to understand that your emotions, your energy, your adrenaline will be running wild. So you've got to make sure you calm down. Make sure that you time it up right.
"It's still going to come down to a two-minute drive before the half, and at the end of the game. Hopefully, I pull through and win the game for us."
The week prior to the game is probably the hardest thing to manage because of all the media obligations required by the NFL of the participants.
"You can’t let it intrude — the intrusion that organizations fight is you guys," Holmgren said, chuckling. "You need to talk, but as an organization, you try to control that and still do what you have to do to get your message across.
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