Since the Browns came back to the NFL in 1999, Cleveland has been one of the worst NFL franchises. It has been a revolving door at quarterback, there have been a multitude of different regimes, and they have just one playoff appearance and two winning seasons since 1999. However, despite all the dysfunction that has surrounded the Browns, there is reason for optimism in Cleveland. After starting off the season at 1-11 and looking more like a UFL team than anything that resembled an NFL team, the Browns finished the season on a four-game winning streak and ended up with a record of 5-11. On top of that, Browns owner Randy Lerner went out and lured Mike Holmgren, one of the brightest football minds in the league to Cleveland to run the organization. Holmgren, not only brings the Browns a football mind in the front office that Cleveland has not really had over the past decade, but he brings instant credibility to a franchise that has been in doldrums since 1999. Mike Holmgren is a winner. He was won everywhere he has been and understands what it takes to build a successful NFL franchise. Browns fans are hoping he can do what nobody else has been able to do over the past 10 years…make the Browns relevant again.
Mike Holmgren joined Tony Rizzo on ESPN 850 WKNR in Cleveland to talk about adjusting to his new role, the quarterback situation in Cleveland, why he decided to keep Eric Mangini, and his message to Browns fans.
On how he is adjusting to a role that he’s never had in the NFL before.
“The days fly by and there’s not enough time really for everything that I would like to do. That’s a good thing. I feel really good about the people that we have in place and as that comes together now I can shift just slightly over to the football side of things which is what I want to do for the next couple of weeks.”
On any progress in the talks with Josh Cribbs:
“Nothing new other than the fact that I did have a nice, good conversation with Josh’s representatives about a week ago. From my side of the coin I just said look, whatever went on before, let’s just wipe the slate clean and just know that we would like him here. I believe Josh wants to be here in his heart. So let’s try and get something done. What it will take is an honest discussion on both sides. I’m hopeful we can get that thing done and they were very receptive so that’s where it sits. We will have those discussions in the next couple of weeks.”
On the decision to keep Eric Mangini:
“I didn’t know Eric very well so I really wanted to make a good decision as my first decision as club President. I really wanted to get to know Eric a little bit. We spent a lot of time together for a couple of weeks. The more I got to know him, the more I talked about philosophy and what he was trying to do, the more that I liked him. I think he has a good plan. I think in some respects, the cards that were dealt were a little bit light. I didn’t really want to make the change after one year. I was prepared to, but I didn’t want to. The more I’m around him, the more I like him. I’m saying that right now. Every day it gets better. I’m very happy and comfortable with the decision. The big thing that came of all that was that he appreciated that I was in the building and he could bounce things off of me and we could work together on the football part of it. I’m not gonna coach the team Tony. I’ve told everybody that, but I am a resource for all those guys and hopefully they’ll use me that way a little bit.”
On whether or not he will get the itch to coach again:
“I already know I’m gonna get the itch. That’ll be my biggest challenge Tony I think is to let the guys do it. I’m gonna enjoy it. I just hope that all of the sudden I see a play I don’t like, I don’t run out on the field. If I start doing that, someone grab me.”
On the quarterback position in Cleveland:
“Right now I don’t know the situation quite well enough. We’re gonna study that. I’ve been very busy doing other things, but we’re gonna study that. It’s important. Everyone knows that position is the most important position on the football team. Now is the quarterback of the Browns here already? Maybe. If he’s not than we will have to go free agency or draft, but we will see.”
Whether or not he has talked to Brett Favre since losing in the NFL Championship game:
“I have not talked to him and typically the way that we do that over the years is he is probably getting bombarded from a lot of people and I usually let the dust settle. I’ll probably give him a holler in about a month and just see where he is. I’m very proud of him and what he did this season. I think it’s remarkable what he’s done. That’ll be the thing. That’s really what I’m gonna tell him is that I’m proud of him. Then whether he plays anymore after this, I’ll tell you what? I stopped being surprised by that young man a long time ago.”
On the frustration of Browns fans:
“I think the frustration of the fans I understand. It makes all the sense in the world. We want to put a football team out on the field that our fans will be proud of. That’s my number one goal. All I can ask for is that the people believe a little bit. I know they’ve heard it before but this is not the same old same old. It’s not going to be the same. We have good people, we have a good football coach, we have some young players that e can build around but we need to get some more players in here. I would just ask to hang on with us and believe a little bit. Give us a chance to prove to you that we have the right formula here.”