When Mike Holmgren became the President of the Cleveland Browns he vowed to turn the franchise around and make the Browns a winner. While Holmgren inherited a mess and walked into the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL thanks to the decision making of an ill-equipped owner, the Big Show is just 9-23 in his first two seasons running things in Cleveland. Coming off a 4-12 season, the Browns have three draft picks in the first 37 selections, and it will be an offseason that could shape the future of the franchise for years to come. Holmgren has preached patience to the restless fan base in Cleveland and has repeatedly talked about building the franchise the right way. The Browns defense has some solid pieces and showed growth this season, but the offense is a complete disaster.
The Browns have said they plan to build the foundation of the team through the draft as opposed to free agency. Mike Holmgren has a ton of credibility as a head coach, he can flash his Super Bowl ring, and he looks to have a competent GM in Cleveland with Tom Heckert, but Holmgren still has not identified the most important piece in a rebuilding process — the quarterback. Until he figures out that is, it’s tough to say he has the Browns headed in the right direction.
Mike Holmgren joined KJR in Seattle with Dave “Softy” Mahler to talk about how the city of Cleveland has treated him since joining the Browns franchise, what the philosophy is in Cleveland in terms of his rebuilding process, what he thinks about Colt McCoy as his quarterback of the future, what he thinks about playing a quarterback right away nowadays, and what the team plans to do with Peyton Hillis this offseason.
How he likes Cleveland:
“Cleveland is great. The city here and the people are tremendous. We’re working like crazy to give them a better product on the field. Pat Shurmur had his press conference on Tuesday and then Tom Heckert, my general manager and I, had one. I assured them yesterday we’re working like crazy to do this properly. The problem is, and you guys know this better than anybody, when you struggle on the field like we have the last few years, they so desperately want their team to do better and they’re great fans here. So to ask them to be patient, that’s a tough ask. I assured them yesterday, I said look we’re not gonna do this for the quick fix, we’re gonna set this foundation properly. I want this place to be a good place for a long, long time to come. We have a plan and we’re gonna do it this way and people might be a little mad at me about it, but we’re sticking with it. I trust the guys I’m working with and that’s how we’re gonna do it.”
What the philosophy is in Cleveland:
“There’s a certain way I believe you build the team in the National Football League. You build it through the draft and Tom Heckert has done a great job here in two drafts and we have a lot of picks coming up in this draft. We have a lot of young players playing a lot and as a result we play young at times. We build it in the draft, try not to make too many mistakes there and then selectively go into free agency. I think we all saw teams last season, the spectacular free agent offseasons don’t necessarily guarantee success so we have to use our money properly, make good decisions, but that’s how we’re building our football team. That along with finding the quarterback which is the key to the whole deal.”
What he thinks of Colt McCoy:
“I love Colt McCoy for all the reasons that we all like Colt McCoy. He’s a great young man, he’s tough. If there’s one thing I know it’s hers tough, he got banged around a little bit. But this last season I had to learn some things and give him a real shot to play. Kinda handed the position to him and Seneca handled that beautifully in my opinion so we went through the season, of course it’s well documented that Colt got banged around at the end of the season, but I just made the statement this next year that we’re gonna open up all the positions to some really healthy competition as well as the quarterback position. I had that conversation with Colt and of course I had the conversation with Pat Shurmur because he’s the coach before I talked to Colt, but Colt knows. He’s not afraid of competition. He’s been competing his whole life. It’s always been my philosophy when dealing with the players to shoot straight with them. They may not necessarily like the conversation but at least they know you’re shooting straight, you’re honest with them, and then they go on from there and do what they have to do.”
Whether or not he thinks it is a good thing to play a young QB early like Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton:
“I will stick by my statement. I think it’s one of the hardest things to do in sports and I do think it does take some time and you look at the teams that go to and what those teams do. In the case of Flacco and Dalton both of them had a big stud running back and a good running game and this year Cincinnati really came on and Baltimore is there and they have a good defensive team. So if you’re gonna have a young quarterback and thrust a young quarterback into a situation like that and have him play it really helps and he’s gonna show better if he has those guys around him. We went in this year, and heck it happens to everybody, but we lost our number one running back to injury and our number two running back, our running game which we were counting on, we needed that to do what we wanted to do in this offense and we got stunned early. It’s part of the game but we got stunned early. That put a little more pressure on Colt than I wanted to have on him early. That was real. I still think it takes a little while to do this.”
What the status is of Peyton Hillis:
“Here’s where I have to tell you what I told the guys here otherwise I don’t know what would happen. Peyton is a free agent and how we handle our free agents we’re not ready to discuss that right now. We were counting on Peyton a lot. He’s a really fine football player and then he got hurt. This thing got blown out of proportion in a lot of ways but he was injured. Then he came back in the last three or four games of the season and you saw the glimpses of what he had hoped we would have all season long and it was just too bad. It’s a frustration for a new, young head coach in Pat Shurmur but it was what it was.”