BEREA: Browns President Mike Holmgren has not ruled out leaving the organization before the end of this season, working for another NFL team in the future or even resurrecting his storied coaching career.
But no matter what lies ahead, Holmgren wishes he would have experienced more success in Cleveland. The team has a record of 10-29 since he took control as its top executive in January 2010 after then-majority owner Randy Lerner hired him.
“The tough part and the part I’ll feel bad about is for Randy, I wasn’t able to help enough [to] put a winning product on the field, at least enough yet,” Holmgren said Tuesday during a 45-minute farewell news conference. “He certainly deserved that. While we fixed a number of things, that was one thing we haven’t been able to fix yet.”
Although Holmgren will leave the Browns, he made it clear that he’s not necessarily ready to retire. His message contradicts the announcement Jimmy Haslam made Oct. 16 after he was unanimously approved as the new owner of the Browns. Haslam said Holmgren would assist new CEO Joe Banner for the rest of this season and then retire.
“When Jimmy and I talked about this, we talked about a transition period,” Holmgren said. “How that actually sorts itself out moving forward, I can’t define it so much right now. I want to feel like I’m contributing. My emphasis is going to be on the football side of it. I don’t have to do the business stuff anymore. If I can help one player be a little bit better this season or one coach be a little bit better — some of the things I know how to do — and I feel like I’m contributing, then that could happen. So we’re just going to take it a day at a time and see how it goes.”
Holmgren said Haslam has not offered him a job with the new management regime. Still, Holmgren believes he has a future in the NFL.
“Yeah, I would think so,” Holmgren said. “But right now, I want to take one step at a time here, one day at a time. My first goal is, if I can, help this team and these coaches this season. Then I’m going to sit back and catch my breath and look around a little bit and see what happens.”
Holmgren, 64, went to two Super Bowls and won one as coach of the Green Bay Packers before taking the Seattle Seahawks to the big game as well.
He hasn’t patrolled the sidelines since the 2008 season, but does he have one more coaching stint in him?
“I don’t know,” Holmgren said. “I know this: I learned a lot of things in the last three years. One of the things that I thought I knew and now I’m sure, I do miss the coaching part of it.”
Holmgren considered coaching the Browns after he fired Eric Mangini after the 2010 season, though he hired Pat Shurmur instead.
“I thought a lot about it, what I was willing to do, what I wasn’t willing to do, who I thought I could hire,” Holmgren said. “At that particular time, I wasn’t ready to do it again. I didn’t want to do it. I thought I’d be short-changing the organization.”
If Holmgren remains with the Browns for the rest of this season, he’s confident he would be able to assist Haslam and Banner without interfering.
“I’m not going to rock the boat,” Holmgren said. “I’m not going to get in anybody’s way that way. I still have my office. I’ve got my lunch ticket and my parking space still. … I think I can help a little bit, but if it gets cumbersome or uncomfortable for anybody, then, heck, I don’t want that to happen.”
Either way, Holmgren won’t finish his contract, which pays him about $8 million a year and runs through 2014.
“It was always my intention to honor my contract, if not more,” Holmgren said. “But in this business, at times, things happen, and the sale of a football team certainly changes the dynamic, and it changed the dynamic for me. My time was shorter than I had hoped, but I understand what happened.”
Holmgren conceded that he will leave the Browns unfulfilled.
“We did not win enough games,” he said. “But I’m hoping the table is set for the future.”
Rookie Brandon Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft, is one reason for optimism in Holmgren’s mind.
“He’s an excellent passer,” Holmgren said. “I like how he leads. People don’t cut him quite as much slack because he’s 29, but he’s still a rookie. … I think he’s done very well. I just think there’s a bright future because I think the organization has found [its] quarterback.”
Holmgren also said he has faith in his top lieutenants. He said “I don’t think you can get a better general manager” than Tom Heckert, and Shurmur is “a bright, young coach.” Their futures are uncertain with the arrival of Haslam and Banner, who will begin his new job on Thursday.
“I feel bad that we weren’t able to deliver more on the field while I was here,” Holmgren said. “But I also honest-to-goodness feel there is good times ahead — soon — and I’ll be rooting hard for this group from wherever I am in the next couple of years because I think it will happen.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj.