When Mike Holmgren took over as President of the Cleveland Browns, the thought was that he would be the guy to finally turn the Browns around and get them going in the right direction. Since the team came back in 1999, there have been numerous different regimes that have tried to bring the Browns out of the basement and all of them failed. Cleveland has been the NFL’s punch line for more than a decade. Even though Holmgren has the best resume of the group, the jury is still very much out on him and his 9-23 record in the first two seasons has taken a little shine off him and should not be tolerated no matter the circumstances.
If the Browns are going to take steps forward and crawl out of the basement, this past year’s draft may be the turning point. It was clear after trotting out the worst offense in franchise history, an offense that averaged just 13.6 points per game in the NFL, that the Browns needed a dramatic makeover on that side of the ball. The wide receivers dropped a ton of passes last year, the running game was non-existent at times, the offensive line was shaky and the starting quarterback, Colt McCoy, should be an NFL backup. With their first three picks of the draft in April, the Browns addressed three of those four issues. The arrival of Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden and Mitchell Schwartz gives Browns fans a reason to believe the team’s offense will actually resemble one that belongs in the NFL. So far Mike Holmgren’s tenure in Cleveland has left a lot to be desired and frustration has built up, but if the 2012 draft turns out the way the Browns believe it will, a .500 record and return to NFL relevance could finally be on the horizon.
Mike Holmgren joined ESPN 850 WKNR in Cleveland with the Really Big Show to talk about why the team failed to address the wide receiver position earlier in the draft, if it was his call to trade up for Richardson and draft Weeden at number 22, what he liked about Weeden, on the future of Colt McCoy, if he regrets on missing out on Robert Griffin III, what his own future is in Cleveland and the expectations in 2012.
Why the team failed to address the wide receiver position with more urgency this offseason:
“We went into the draft, particularly in the first round with picks four and 22 and we included pick 37 with a plan of trying to come out of there with three players at the different positions. Like most drafts it didn’t quite happen that way so we went to Plan B which we talked about and we weren’t going to wait on Weeden so we picked him at 22 and really by that time we didn’t want to lose the tackle which was very important so it kind of evolved that way. Having said that, there’s a chance between now and the time the season we tee up that there will be an addition to the wide receiver group but if there isn’t then honestly I feel pretty good about our guys. I said this last year and I will say it again, I think (Greg) Little proved he can play in the league and he’s going to get nothing but better after his first year. The wildcard to me is Mo (Massaquoi). Mohamed has to come in and I believe in that young man, I really do. I think he’s finally gotten over that concussion thing he’s had, and it kind of changed his game just a little a bit in my opinion, but he is a talented guy and I’ve had great talks with him and I think he can be a really, really fine player. So we will see. If that happens and with the addition of (Travis) Benjamin who is fast on fast, I mean he can really run, I think we’re going to be okay there. Did we go into the draft thinking we could pick up another one? Yes we did but it didn’t happen.”
If he was the one who made the decision to take Brandon Weeden at number 22 and trade up for Trent Richardson at number three:
“It didn’t really happen that way Tony (Rizzo). Here’s how we do this: (General Manager) Tom (Heckert) and I first and then we bring Pat (Shurmur) in a little bit later because he’s doing other things too with the team, we talk about how we think the draft is going to go and we get our players all lined up and things like that. We have our contingency plans as well. Everyone was on the same page about Weeden. I didn’t have to bang the table and I didn’t have to do anything. Tom was fully on board, particularly after the receivers that we kind of coveted went. We always knew we liked Weeden now how do we do this? If Brandon would’ve been younger, people kind of got off him a little bit I think because of his age, because he’s 28-years-old. He’s in great shape and as he said to me in my interview with him, ‘Coach I’m not hurt or I haven’t done anything. I’ve got ten years in me good.’ By the time he’s got his ten years I’m 75-years-old and I will be okay.”
What he liked about Brandon Weeden:
“His play in college speaks for itself. They were a passing offense and he threw a million passes and was very productive. That’s the first thing. You watch him throw and he’s got a great throwing motion, he’s strong, he’s got good size and all those things but I think the thing that puts you over the top with him is his maturity and of course he’s older. His maturity stands out and that’s impressive. You say if anyone can come in, and I told him this, ‘we’re not just going to hand it to you. You have to earn it.’ We have good quarterbacks here in my opinion already but you have to earn this. He’s 28-years-old, he has that maturity and he gets it. When we realized that or felt that then it was an easy call. I think he’s got a bright future.”
On the future of Colt McCoy:
“I just saw him downstairs and he’s in our program right now, our offseason program working like crazy and I would agree with the people that felt that. I thought it wasn’t fair necessarily for him last year. I think he got the heck beat out of him for one thing, we did not have a good running game and a young quarterback needs that. There was a lockout and all those things that people talk about, those are real. That was true. I love Colt McCoy and I always will and I always have but it’s also my obligation to strengthen the team if I see a chance to strengthen the team. That’s what we did. What does the future hold? Time will tell. Right now he’s competing and it’s wide open and that’s the way it is. If something happens down the road then something happens down the road but he’s a great young man and he did a lot of great things last year and he’s handling it like I would expect him to handle it. He knows this is a competitive business and he knows what he has to do. We have one ball so here’s the ball and let’s see what happens.”
If Trent Richardson was a no brainer for the Browns:
“I’m not going to say it’s a no-brainer. I’m going to say when we evaluated, when we had our meetings, there were two or three players that we thought we were capable of taking at four, but based on what we need as a team then it became pretty evident and obvious that the running back was the best choice for us. That’s taking nothing away from the other guys that we looked at because they went very high as well. I think with Trent Richardson, you heard his story, this young man is special. I think he’s special for a lot of reasons. Now we just have to keep him healthy, give him the ball, let him run, block for him a little bit and I think the fans here are going to love him. Good players make good coaches.”
Whether Andrew Luck was number one on the Browns’ board:
“Yeah we did. (Host: Was RG3 next?) Yup. (Host: Was Richardson third?) Yeah. (Host: I got one two and three correct?) You did.”
If he regrets missing out on Robert Griffin III:
“I choose not to look back. We went into that thing and tried and it didn’t happen. He’s a special young guy too and I think he’s going to make the Redskins much better right away but you go in and give it your best shot and with the weapons we had and the things I thought we needed to do in the draft then we had reached a point where we couldn’t go any farther in that particular negotiation. We didn’t get him so now all of the sudden you can take you ball and go home and cry or you just go okay it didn’t happen so what do we do now? That’s what we did.”
On his future in Cleveland:
“I told Randy Lerner, our owner, this and he is great with me and as I said in ten years I will be 75 so my 65th birthday is coming up here pretty soon. First of all, I’m a man of my word and a contract to me is a contract. That’s the first thing I want to say. The second thing is I would, in a perfect world, I don’t want to go anywhere. First of all there’s no other place that I want to go, that’s the first thing. Second thing is I would like to be here to enjoy the turnaround, to enjoy when we said okay we’ve got it in the right place, there are good times ahead, I’ve contributed a little bit to that and then I can feel good if I were to back away.”
On the expectations for the team in 2012:
“I’ve talked this over with Pat and the players, coaches and everybody and I expect us to take a pretty good jump this year. I would not be particularly happy if we had the same record or close to it. Every season is its own season and there are reasons and I know this, I believe in my coach, I believe in the people here and you just have to persevere and get through the tough stuff when you’re building it. I know that the people in Cleveland and you guys and everybody have heard this before and it’s hard, it’s really hard but I believe in this group and I think we’re on track, I really do. I think if you look at last season as an example the record was what it was but we had if you remember say the snaps from center, kicked field goals, or PAT’s, if we had made three of those instead of missed three of those we would’ve won seven or eight games or something like that. Now you’re 5-11, 8-8, then you take the next step and boom in the fourth year you are where you should be. That’s what I’m thinking. I would hope and I would be very disappointed if we didn’t take a pretty good jump this year.”