Mike Holmgren, Where Are You????

Who else is tired of this? You all have to be don’t you? How much more futility are we supposed to take?

I feel like I write this piece once a year.

Its 2011 and it might as well be 1999. Nothing has changed other than the faces in the front office and on the sidelines. The one constant is losing and boring football, save for the mirage of 2007. And even that season did more harm than good.

The Carmen Policy/Dwight Clark regime was a disaster. The Butch Davis: Man In Charge regime produced one winning season and the only playoff appearance “The New Browns” have produced. And even that season ended in classic Cleveland fashion with the infamous prevent defense fourth quarter collapse/Dennis Northcutt drop loss to the Steelers in the 2003 AFC Wild Card game. Butch got too big for his britches and was run out of town. In came first time GM Phil Savage riding his White Horse, wearing his ball-cap, looking like Ron Howard, and the reputation as the “college scouting guru.” We all would learn soon what Savage didn’t realize when he took the job; General Manager is a lot more than just flying around week to week watching College Football games.

So absentee owner Randy Lerner decided to get involved for the first time, and came to the conclusion  that Eric Mangini, recently fired as coach of the New York Jets, was the guy to not only be his head coach, but the ultimate decision maker in the organization. Then in a completely backwards move, Mangini and Lerner hired a GM, George Kokinis, another Baltimore player personnel guy. That marriage barely lasted a half season, with the Cleveland media wondering what Kokinis even did when he was here. Mangini was clearly the face of the franchise. What a great idea that was.

That arrangement essentially last less than a year. That’s because Lerner decided that he needed a real “Football Czar” running the franchise. He found his man in Mike Holmgren, a Super Bowl winning head coach who would now try his hand at running things. Holmgren’s hire coupled with the hiring of GM Tom Heckert spelled doom for Mangini, considering Holmgren believes in the West Coast offense (Mangini didn’t) and the 4-3 defense (Mangini is  3-4 guy to his core). Mangini managed to stave off a firing when his team won four straight to finish the 2009 season 5-11. But a second straight 5-11 season in 2010 sent him out the door. But you knew it would. Holmgren seemed to want one of two things, either hiring his own hand-picked guy, or to coach the Browns himself. That is what the 2010 season was about – deciding if he still had the itch to still coach. Holmgren didn’t, and instead hired unproven, first time Head Coach Pat Shurmur to lead his team.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Shurmur experience is five games in and thus far the circus hasn’t left town. The Browns have looked disorganized both on and off the field. The Peyton Hillis contract situation has been a botch job from the jump. Holmgren made the mistake of going on ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike in the Morning show and spilling the beans that the team was working on a contract extension with their feature back before the opener. Going public with this put undo pressure on Hillis and when he struggled early, everyone blamed the contract talks. Then the strep throat debacle arrived with both Hillis and his agent taking turns putting their feet in their mouths with the media. While this was all going on, it was Shurmur who was out front answering the questions. This is a guy who clearly is showing how green he is in dealing with the local scribes and talking heads. He kept going to the “I was told” card in terms of Hillis’ sickness. He couldn’t be less definitive and opened the door for the media to scrutinize the situation even more.

Shurmur’s move to defuse the situation  and prove it had blown over, was to make it a point to tell everyone listening that his starting Running Back who get “20-25 touches “ against the Raiders on Sunday and that we could bank on that happening. Meanwhile, Hillis never got going, carrying the ball six times in first half. As the second half in Oakland began, Hillis was sending on the sidelines while Montario Hardesty was toting the rock. Later we would learn that the big dog from Arkansas had a hamstring injury. If that is indeed the case, then why did Hillis return in the fourth quarter for a few plays, essentially as a decoy?

After the game, another loss where the team looked completely disorganized offensively in particular, Shurmur once again made the mistake of saying “I was told he had a hamstring issue.” Someone clearly got to him about his choice of words, because in yesterday’s media session, the Browns Head Coach said not once but twice “I can assure you Hillis has a hamstring problem.”

Throughout this whole bad start to the season which has watched the Browns lose the home opener to the Bengals and their rookie QB Andy Dalton, beat the now 0-6 Indianapolis Colts, sans Peyton Manning, get smoked by both the Tennessee Titans and Raiders (sorry, that score was not indicative of the game), and need a last minute TD to beat another winless team, the Miami Dolphins at home, Holmgren has been nowhere to be found.

I know he wants to sit back and let his coaches coach and his players play, but with the way things are going, shouldn’t the Football Czar be saying something to ease the fans pain? As my good friend Les Levine said to me yesterday “say what you want about Mark Shapiro, but he would be out there front and center right now.”

Apathy is here. The fans are used to the losing. That is not a good thing.

I’ve been a Browns fans my entire life. When the NFL and Art Modell took our team away from us, things changed for me. “The New Browns” have never really been the same to me, but I have continued to support the team. They will always be my team, but I am as close to completely not caring as I have ever been. I never thought I would get to this level.

This new era of Browns football has been disgraceful. Every NFL team seems to turn things around in a relatively short period of time. The Browns have been through one regime change after another and have had two winning seasons in 13 years, one of those was a gift 9-7.

Cleveland fans are amazing. We deserve better than this. The Browns are still selling tickets at an incredible rate, the local TV ratings are consistently high, yet year after year, the product on the field is subpar. We supposedly now have this big, important, well respected, “Football Czar” running things and a solid GM picking the players, yet once again, the team looks to be bottom of the barrel and amateurish. Where is Mike Holmgren to tell us to stay the course and tell us things are moving in the right direction? It’s time for him to get out in front of all of this b.s.

Again, I ask you, how much more of this as fans are we supposed to take?

  • Billy Thomas

    Pat is a clown.

  • Nobody

    As long as a ton of tickets are sold and TV ratings are high, there is little reason for the team to improve. Especially in Cleveland, where that team just has to show hope of .500 football to be talked about year round…

  • stin4u

    What is Mike Holmgren going to say to make us feel better?

    -We’re continuing to try and agree on a contract for Hillis.

    -Peyton was hurt and couldn’t play.

    -I’m behind Pat and his play calling. We speak regularly about it.

    -We need to do a better job here and there blah blah blah.

    It’s makes no difference to me what the FO comes out and says. Let them handle it behind the scenes. Holmgren speaking would just be another reason for the media around here to micro-analyze his tone and stoke the fires a bit.

  • Harv 21

    won’t paste my long coment yesterday on this subject. Will just say: Holmgren is a proven football head coach. He is not an established football chief of ops, and he apparently is in his own learning curve for that job. We hope. It better not be that at this stage he’s just swimming in hubris, or thinking that this position is a cushy reward for a fine career.

  • Vengeful Pat

    @1 – I resent that implication.

  • I am not looking to hear from Mike Holmgren. I don’t expect to hear anything from him until halfway through the season or so. Throughout training camp you could tell how much he respects Shurmur and wanted him to do well. He won’t do anything to undermine this guy so early on in his first season. His willingness to give Mangini a second season should tell you all you need to know about his caution in respecting the position of head coach as a former one himself.

  • humboldt

    Great stuff, TD.

    Reflecting on the ineptitude of the “new Browns” sort of reminds me of what Gary Baxter said (post-patella injury) about the player perception that Cleveland is a cursed sports town. Obviously, there is no “hex” on us, but why has Berea become such a Bermuda Triangle from 1999-2011?

    Your point about Holmgren is spot on. He has a bully pulpit and needs to use it to exact some direction on the franchise and calm and reassure a restive fan base. Not only are fans defaulting to the apathy and self-deprecation so endemic to northeast Ohio, you can tell there are the beginnings of dissension in the locker room as well, and rightfully so.

  • BrownsFanBrad

    It all starts at the top with Randy Lerner and it’s just another example of how our absentee/uninterested owner hurts this franchise. It’s great that Lerner recognizes he’s not a football guy and has turned over football operations to Holmgren. It’s been about the only right decision he’s made as Browns owner. But if you as the owner recognize a PR mess then you get out in front of it and fix it. In the case of the Browns, it means Lerner needs to get on the phone with Holmgren. Randy, you pay Holmgren $10 million per year. He is your employee. Take charge of the situation. This is how the owner of ANY business would operate. It makes me wonder how the hell Lerner was able to run MNBA.

  • Hamfist

    Sadly, I’m in the same boat. Used to be a rabid fan, now, I’m more of a casual fan of the Browns. I’ll watch, but I don’t get all hepped up if they win, or down if they lose.

    And, even more sadly, I don’t see myself going back to how I used to be in regards to the team.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    I don’t really care if Holmgren talks to us, but he needs to be talking to Shurmur, Hillis, and any malcontents in the locker room and put these issues to bed. Maybe he is, but it sure doesn’t seem like it.

  • Ben

    You see a picture of Mike Holmgren. I see Keith Hernandez.

  • Jack

    And now two first round picks for the Bengals because the Browns broke Jason Campbell’s collar-bone…


  • PNR

    It’s not just that it would be nice if Holmgren was the face of the organization — that’s his frickin’ job! After his hire, I remember reading tons of discussion about how Lerner was such a recluse and now the franchise would have someone who could speak to the media, liaise between the coaching staff and ownership, etc.

    In fact, there was much relief because Mangini was as bad as Lerner with reporters. And there was this — aha! now we’ve got a guy who can let the coach coach, let the GM do GM stuff, and let Lerner do…whatever it is he does.

    That’s why TD’s article is so spot-on. Holmgren would not be undermining anything or anybody if he spoke to the media. He’d simply be doing his job.

  • Kingdiesel

    Any perspective buyers out there? Berea needs a facelift.

  • Chris

    There is hope, because our drafting has been fantastic.

    Right now we just see the difference between what a decent coach and a new (I won’t say bad… yet) coach is. The talent is about the same but the product sucks.

    Personally, I think Shurmur is just in over his head. The offense looks uninspired and unorganized, and Shurmur seems to not even know what personel is on the field at any given time, or how best to use them.

    Why are we running Hardesty up the middle and Hillis around the edge?

    Why aren’t we using Moore?

    So many questions, and it all points back to a coach who is very green.

  • ben

    There’s nothing for Holmgren to say. He’s not the coach. He’s not the GM. He’s not the owner. Anything he would do would only serve to make a bad situation worse by undermining whatever authority Shurmur has left.

    Obviously, making Shurmur HC/OC was probably a bad idea, but whatever, we’re stuck with it. We can’t keep rolling over into a new team every 3 years.

    We just need to ride this season out. Hopefully hire an OC in the off-season, and go through next year. It stinks, but that’s what it is.

    Also, the Browns were an 8-8 team at the begining of the season at their absolute BEST. It’s been so frustrating to watch, but that’s about where they are right now. It has been ugly and uninspiring, but they’ve been in games. That says something…i don’t know what it is though.

  • stin4u

    Major kudos ben and chris. I couldn’t say it any better myself. The product has been underwhelming to say the least but people have been to quick to the trigger because of the Peyton Hillis thing. There is a learning curve for a new HC and were def seeing that right now.

  • Boomhauertjs

    I wish all Browns season tickets would cancel their tickets after the season and put that money towards Tribe tickets in 2012. Hello Prince Fielder and the AL Central pennant!

  • Brad in ATL

    Zero speed on offense equals not many wins in the NFL I don’t care who is coaching. There is not one guy on that team when def coordinators watch tape think “man we have to stop that guy”. Please don’t confuse Hillis with being that type of player.

  • B-bo

    Does Holmgren have to step up and speak? No. But given the fanfare surrounding his arrival and presence, I would think he would want to. He positioned himself as the man in charge, here to clean up he operation. As such, I would think he would want to be more visible/vocal now. I believe the reason he hasn’t (at least not yet) is that he doesn’t want to be seen as meddling or stepping on his rookie head coach’s toes. At some point, though, he may need to if he hopes to maintain support from the ticket-buying public.

    As for the Lerner “issue”, I can’t possibly find that argument more useless or foolish. There are 32 owners in the NFL: how many can you name? Remember, Al Davis is no longer with us. How anyone can really believe an owner should be responsible for calming fans nerves or settling on-field or locker room issues is simply beyond me. That’s what a PR department and a head coach are for, folks. This is my least favorite part about some Browns fans. Just because it’s your favorite team doesn’t mean you get to assign people roles or that you get or deserve to have your every question or concern addressed personally by any member of the organization you see fit. But since we were robbed of our team, we now somehow get our own rules or say when it comes to team operations. Yes a team needs its fans. No, a team is not beholden to the every wish, whim, or mood swing of those fans. Lerner signs the checks and gets out of the way. Asking an owner to realistically do much else is a level of ridiculous rarely seen.

  • Greg

    @19—perfect comment. What the fascination is in this town with Hillis is beyond me…ok, guy had 1100 yds last year and caught some passes–unitl the final 4-5 weeks when he was a non-factor. Reuben Droughns had 1100 yds one year too and I don’t think we want to sign him to a long term deal right? Hillis is a decent RB, probably middle of pack at best. The rest of the offense is stuck in mud, zero speed. We seem to have all forgotten what “good” football is and we compare our current players only to those we’ve had since ’99. We need to compare our talent to the top 10 teams in the league and strive to get those types of players. Instead we think McCoy, et al, are good compared to what we had previously. That may be true, but these guys are still in the bottom 6 in the league in terms of overall talent.

  • Max

    can Holmgren be the OC? If Shurmur is the coach, fine and dandy, but then just be the coach.

    If Shurmur later proves he is up to the task of being a coach and wants to branch out his impact on the team and take over play calling duties, then opk. But only after he has proven he is capable of doing the job he has been hired for…being the head coach.

    Its all an ego trip. Thats all the NFL is anymore from a business perspective. All sorts of coaches and GM’s and gurus wanting to prove how great they are, how much they know, how many diamonds they can find in the rough, etc…

    I want guys that have a set role, have the requisite experience to fufill said role at a high level, and who aren’t hell bent on showing how awesome they are.

    Its amazing what you can accomplish wen no one cares who gets the credit. And it seems to me a whole lot of coaches, GM’s etc are only concerned with getting the football media circus to fawn all over them and their “genius”.

    Until this changes, 8-8 is the best case scenario

  • Scotty

    Madden curse?

  • Lyon

    Jesus himself could talk about the Browns & it wouldnt change things for me. all we ever hear is this is going to change/we’ll play him more/ we’re improving. I want to actually see these things happen on the field before I believe them.

    I’m not at TD’s level, but Sunday made me really reconsider how much time/thought I put into caring for this team. I’ll still watch/root for them, but I might be done reading every little story about them signing a 3rd RB (Hi Obonnaya!), atleast until the team actually performs like the FO says they will every week.

  • Jackson

    Its really crazy how awful this organization has been in a league built on parity. I get so tired of hearing “it will take 3-5 years” to turn this around when teams get turned around in one year all the time in this league. Look at SF right now, new HC, same roster as prior year that produced 6-10 record, but are now playing great ball. The Bengals have a rookie QB playing good ball.

    This team always looks slow. Outside of Thomas/Mack/Hillis, I can’t think of one player on this offense that would start for 90% of the league. Drafting as high as we do each year, that is pathetic.

    The one constant since ’99 has been the Lerner family. Its obvious the guy has no clue or doesn’t care when it comes to making football decisions. Quicker he sells the team the better.

  • matt tag

    #15 stole my thunder – the one difference I can see in the current organization is that we’re hitting on draft picks now. And that’s VERY important.

    Shurmur looks a bit lost right now, but it’s his first year and he had to deal with the lockout and such. You can say “what about Harbaugh in SanFran?”, but he was a head coach at another level and has experience with all the stuff HCs do that coordinators don’t (esp. dealing with the media).

    I look at it like this – by next year or the year after we’ll have the pieces in place for a real football team, assuming Heckert continues to draft as well as he has so far. And if Shurmur is still stumbling around, our team will be good enough to attract a “big name” HC (whomever that turns out to be).

  • Eric G


  • mgbode

    Only in Cleveland can a football team knock out the opposing team’s starting QB early, manage to still lose the game, and then have that team hand a division opponent 2 1st round picks for essentially nothing because of that injury (from this year’s team at least).

  • Joe

    I was at the Backer’s Presidents’ breakfast this summer… I heard more from the big guy during that breakfast than I have in his collective this season through the media…Easy to talk when the audience is going to cheer whatever you say….Hard when you’re 2-3 and the city is calling for heads to roll.

  • JM

    Someone needs to get this team in order. When players speak out, there are problems. Especially when those players haven’t done much of anything all year and yes I’m including Cribbs in that category.

  • Black 27

    Worst organization in the NFL. We used to have Detroit to look down on. But no longer.

    In fact, the Browns may be pushing the Pittsburgh Pirates and LA Clippers for the distinction of being the most inept organization in major sports. Almost impressive when you consider that both of those teams are more or less out-and-out scams (put NOTHING into payroll and fatten the owners’ pockets off revenue-sharing.)

  • K magic

    It is still ridiculously early in the season to be calling for heads… There could still be a 9-7 team hiding in this start. Minus the Tennessee game, this team is closer than we all think to pulling off a nice winning streak

  • ClemJax

    There could still be a 9-7 team hiding in this start.

    Thankfully I’m removed from watching this team every week, but I’ve got to jump in here…can you please pass along whatever your smoking, because that has to be some of the best stuff on the planet.

    9-7 means they win 7 games from here on out? When they’re 2-3 on the “easy” part of the schedule? Where in the world do you see 7 games? I count 3 where they *might* be able to keep it competitive (Rams, Jags, Cards). I don’t mean to be overly harsh here, but seriously…4 of the last 5 are against Pitt and Baltimore (if you think Cincy is sort of for real, make that 5 of the last 6 against teams in the division that will spank them). At best they go 2-4 through that stretch, which means you have them sweeping the rest of the season. Unless there’s a HUGE turnaround, at best we’re looking at the 3rd consecutive 5-11 season. Hooray consistency!

  • OhioMike

    Im a very pessimistic person. But…….i firmly believe if the offensive line would give the BEST college football quarterback in recent history a chance to throw the ball with a little longer than 1 1/2 seconds….we might be looking a little better here! Dominos being what they are, WRS might be catching the ball better and hillis might not be acheing as often! Hell, hardesty might even hold onto the ball better!!! Just a little more time for McCoy to think and look around instead of running for his life every single play and who knows!!!!!

  • OhioMike

    That being said…its CLEVELAND….what did we expect?

  • TobaccoRoad

    My thing is, what do you want Holmgren to say? And is anything he says going to make you feel better about the product you’re watching every Sunday?

    The Browns are struggling, but fans are acting like they’re 0-5. And they should stop. I mean seriously, this organization and roster are SO far ahead of where they were even just 2 years ago. What made you think this wasn’t a rebuilding project? I just don’t get it.

    The more comments I read, the more I believe Browns fans were mesmerized by our offense in the preseason. You saw Colt slinging it against prevent defenses that didnt’ even gameplan for us, and thought “10-6”..

  • Amanda

    OhioMike – I agree with you. McCoy has no time to get the ball in the air. I was at the game on 10/2 and the missed tackles were awful! It seems to get harder every year to be a Browns fan, and I was born and raised to be a die hard fan. It’s just not fun anymore..seems like there’s no reason to be proud of anything. I used to be glued to every play, every Sunday. Now, I put the radio on and go about my business around the house, and I’ll run to the TV to see a replay if something “good” happens. I miss being 8 years old and getting to scream with excitement and jump up and down because the games were that good. It felt like we were one big family with the team – I don’t really feel that unity anymore. 🙁

  • K magic

    I do see a very plausible 8-8 and yes, a chance for 9-7

  • K magic

    SeattLe, st. Louis, jax, cinci, Zona, Split with Balt, and a possible split with Pittsburgh. All winnable games. And who knows if the 49ers won’t turn into the team that has been here for years. Is harbaugh really that good of a coach to turn the same talent into a winner, in just one year.

  • Scottyb224

    I share your emotion since ’99.  It has been hard to wear orange and brown for a long time now.  We use to call the bad teams “cupcakes.”  I now feel like “brownie” is the new cupcake.