GREEN BAY, Wis. -- These days, Mike Holmgren hears the term "changing the culture" all the time. He believes it's used liberally. In reality, each "culture" is different. Some are worse than others.
The one Holmgren inherited as coach in 1992 was downtrodden, lost. The Green Bay Packers were a dysfunctional franchise that reached the postseason only twice in 24 seasons. And in seven years, Holmgren helped mold the Packers into one of the National Football League's premier franchises.
For this accomplishment -- waking up a comatose organization -- Holmgren's place in team history is now secured. On July 21, the coach will be inducted to the team's Hall of Fame.
"I was a high school history teacher who got lucky," Holmgren said on a conference call Tuesday. "(General manager) Ron Wolf decided to take a chance on a guy who hadn't been in the league very long. To be a part of and be mentioned in the same breath with the greats of the Green Bay Packers, that's a special thing for anybody. It's an honor and I'm humbled by it."
Holmgren led the Packers to the playoffs in six of his seven seasons, compiling an overall record of 75-37. Green Bay won the NFC Central three times and NFC championship twice and also brought the Lombardi Trophy back home in 1996. Wolf, his co-architect, will present him at this summer's banquet.
Now the president of the Cleveland Browns, Holmgren said he distinctly remembers the scene inside the Superdome after the Packers beat the New England Patriots, 35-21. Inside an office, he asked other coaches to leave so he could be alone with his thoughts.
"I just thought of all the folks in the organization," Holmgren said, "not just players and coaches because we're on the frontlines, but all the people in the organization that had been there for a long time and were able to share in the Super Bowl victory. I think that in itself is something very special."
To reinvigorate the Packers, Holmgren said he had to do three things. First, he needed a system players could buy into. Second, early success was essential to give everybody a sense of hope. And last, Holmgren tried to "walk the building" and talk to as many people within the organization as possible.
Along the way, he helped tutor and tame three-time MVP quarterback Brett Favre. The two shared a unique relationship. Cameras and microphones often caught their tense moments.
Holmgren said one meeting after Favre's 24-interception season in 1993 helped the quarterback turn a corner.
"I said, 'Listen, your challenge next year I want you to try and, that these type of gambling-type plays, let's cut back on them because we're going to be better,' " Holmgren said. "He goes, 'Mike, that's just the way I play.' And he was being honest. . . .
"I said, 'OK, but if you play that way we're a 9-7 team. That's what we are. Now we want to be better than that and you want to be better than that.' And so to his credit he listened and he did that."
Of course, Holmgren's tenure in Green Bay could have lasted longer. His desire to be a head coach and general manager took him to Seattle in 1999. On Tuesday, Holmgren said he hasn't looked back at this decision. He has, however, looked back at his final game with the Packers.
Green Bay's 30-27 wild-card loss to San Francisco in the 1998 season still stings. On the 49ers' game-winning drive, officials missed Jerry Rice's apparent fumble.
Holmgren's wife, Kathy, has told him he has to let it go.
"And the hard part is you can't let some of them go," Holmgren said. "That was a tough game. At the time I thought our team was really peaking. You watch how the Giants are playing now, they had their moments during the season but now they seem to be peaking at the right time. You can look back historically on different Super Bowl teams that do that. I felt we were kind of doing that."
There's also the Super Bowl that got away. Holmgren said he believes the Packers team that lost to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII had a better season than the '96 championship club.
Big picture, though, he helped revive a franchise stuck in neutral. In the span between the Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren coaching eras the Packers went 146-201-9. Since Holmgren arrived, the Packers have won 63 percent of their games.
Now the man with a street named after him -- Holmgren Way is perpendicular to Lombardi Avenue -- will be enshrined next to team legends.
"You get people thinking, 'We can really do this' and it was different than it had been," Holmgren said. "I had to do the same thing in Seattle and we're attempting to do that here now in Cleveland. It's a process, but I think that's how you have to do it."