Browns CEO Joe Banner responded to Mike Holmgren’s criticism of the Trent Richardson trade this morning on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike.”
The Browns shocked the NFL by dealing Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts Wednesday in exchange for a first-round pick in next year’s draft.
In an interview Thursday with Sports Radio 950 KJR in Seattle, Holmgren, the former President of the Browns who traded up one spot to draft Richardson third overall last year, ripped Banner and the new regime for the move. Holmgren said if he were in Browns coach Rob Chudzinski’s shoes, he would quit because of the trade.
“Philosophically, if I’m the coach and someone came in anywhere and did that, said, ‘We’re going to do this,’ my response would be, ‘Fire me or I’m going to quit or we’re both going to go into the owner and talk about this and then we’ll see who’s standing,’” said Holmgren, a Super Bowl-winning coach. “I’d shake hands and walk. I would quit on the spot. If I disagreed with it and I couldn’t buy in, I would. I’m not saying I’m right. That’s just what I would do. You have to be true to yourself in this business.”
Banner countered by pointing out that Holmgren has already had a chance to run the Browns. Hired by Randy Lerner, Holmgren signed a five-year contract worth about $40 million on Jan. 5, 2010, to lead the Browns, who went 12-31 during his time with the organization.
After Jimmy Haslam bought the Browns last year, he replaced Holmgren with Banner. Holmgren spent his last day with the organization Nov. 30. Haslam and Banner then fired General Manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur on Dec. 31.
“Mike’s entitled to his opinion,” Banner said. “He ran the team for three years and was able to do what he believed in. It’s our turn trying to do what we think is right. Obviously we wouldn’t have done this if we agreed with his comments.
“I think the most important thing for me to say is we don’t do anything with Chud not right in the middle of every discussion, every evaluation. Every single time I got off the phone with [Colts General Manager] Ryan Grigson I went down, reported to him where we’re at. He’s a very strong believer in where we’re at and where we’re headed and how this is going to help us.
“I think the most important thing is for people to realize we’re all on the same page. This is a collaborative decision that everybody in the organization, from the owner, myself, the head coach, everybody involved felt very strongly was a good thing to do.”
Chudzinski also responded to Holmgren's comments today during his post-practice news conference. He also emphasized the importance of getting his players ready for their road game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings (0-2) despite the fallout from the Richardson deal.
"I love Cleveland," Chudzinski said. "I love these fans. I love this team. I feel strongly that I absolutely agree with our plan, what we've done to this point, in bringing a winner to Cleveland. I'm focused on this game and playing in Minnesota and getting our guys ready to play and win and focused on that alone."
Chudzinski said he was involved in the trade talks the entire time.
"We talked about it all along the way. I was supportive and we had great discussions on it, and I'm confident and I feel great about our plan of getting better."
Holmgren said he couldn’t believe the trade actually happened when his daughter called him on the phone to alert him about it.
“It’s just too wild,” Holmgren said. “This sort of thing doesn’t happened, and it happened.”
Holmgren watched the news conference Banner and Chudzinski conducted Wednesday night to explain the trade. Holmgren believes the new regime overreacted to the team’s 0-2 record.
“It appears after seeing the press conference that they aren’t coming right out and saying it, but they are preparing for next year and next year’s draft,” Holmgren said. “If I listen to the coach [Chudzinski], who said, ‘We want to be competitive,’ they don’t know who’s going to be the running back this week. How do you make your team better by trading your best player? He’s their best offensive player. He’s a valuable, valuable guy. To me, they are putting all their eggs into next season. They started off 0-2 and they couldn’t score any points, and I think it was a knee-jerk reaction.”
Banner conceded the players were stunned, but he doesn’t think that means they won’t be competitive the rest of this season.
“I think it surprised everybody, but surprise shouldn’t be turned into an assumption that the players aren’t just as fired up, aren’t going to work as hard and do everything they can to win the games as we go forward,” Banner said. “Players are used to the transition of the roster as you go through the season, more frequently due to injury obviously than trade. But these kinds of things happen. Players are very resilient. They’re very, very competitive. I think we’ve added some guys in the offseason that added to a core of really com guys that want to win, play hard and work hard. I’m very confident that people are going to see the team continue to do its best and play as hard as it can and do the best it can to win these games.”
All signs point to the new regime using the ammunition they have in next year’s draft to their quarterback of the future. They have 10 picks, including two in the first, third and fourth rounds.
“I think we have to look at what it is that winning teams have been doing, where they’re strong, maybe why the Browns haven’t been more successful in the past,” Banner said. “I think as we look at kind of reconstructing the roster, I think you see on the defense, the defense played OK last year and had some talent on it. But we really reconfigured the whole roster, the whole mindset, the whole approach that the team’s going to use to play defense. I think we’ll be doing the same thing with the offense going forward, and I think this was an important thing to do to get us where we want to be.
“The best thing that could happen for us is that it turns out that the quarterback that we need to lead us going forward is already on the roster and we have all these assets and opportunities to improve the people around him. But we’ll evaluate that as we go through the season and see what we think is best to do for next year.”