BEREA: God help Cleveland sports fans if outgoing Browns President Mike Holmgren coaches the Dallas Cowboys or any other NFL team next season.
Of course, such a scenario might never come to fruition. But if it does, the joke would be on the Browns’ faithful who hoped Holmgren would guide their favorite team from the sideline.
The discussion of Holmgren coaching again returned to the forefront Sunday when Jason La Canfora of CBS reported on NFL Today that Holmgren “has serious interest” in coaching the Cowboys if the job opens. Holmgren stopped by the media center in the Browns’ headquarters Monday and insisted that he hasn’t expressed interest in the job. Still, he never denied he would be interested if the door opened, and he didn’t rule out a return to coaching during his farewell Cleveland news conference Oct. 23.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones commented on the speculation swirling around Holmgren on Sunday and Tuesday during interviews with the team’s flagship radio station. Jones voiced support for Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, but he spent much more time praising Holmgren and explaining his theory that their long-standing friendship would allow them to work together if they chose to do so.
“He’s everything that you would want as far as a coach is concerned,” Jones said.
The Browns (2-7) will visit the Cowboys (4-5) on Sunday, and Holmgren said he will make the trip. If Holmgren, 64, has one more coaching stint left in him, the Cowboys seem to be the most logical landing spot, and Jones seems to be the most logical suitor.
With owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner in charge of the Browns, Holmgren will part ways from the organization at the end of this season at the latest. He has every right to pursue another job, including a return to coaching, but he also should realize why the zealots in Northeast Ohio would feel slighted and snubbed.
Holmgren has worked for four NFL teams — the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks and Browns.
The 49ers won two Super Bowls while he served as one of their assistant coaches. The Packers appeared in two Super Bowls and won one with him as their head coach, and the Seahawks earned a trip to the Super Bowl with Holmgren in the same role.
To borrow a phrase from Holmgren, the Browns are the “Lone Ranger” because they never fully benefited from his true expertise — coaching. Randy Lerner hired Holmgren as his top executive, not a coach, giving him a five-year contract worth about $40 million.
The results weren’t what anyone had hoped. The Browns are 11-30 since Holmgren took control as team president in January 2010.
Holmgren’s list of mistakes with the Browns includes keeping Eric Mangini as coach for the 2010 season when he knew deep, down inside that the marriage would never last because of philosophical differences. Then Holmgren hired Pat Shurmur and allowed him to spend his first season as an NFL coach without an offensive coordinator in a lockout year. He then encouraged Shurmur to hire offensive coordinator Brad Childress this year, only to allow them to collaborate on the play calling.
But the decision that stings the most is Holmgren’s choice to eliminate himself as a candidate to coach the Browns after he fired Mangini. He considered coaching the team and asked other members of the front office if they would object to it. Holmgren said his lieutenants didn’t reject him, but he ultimately decided the time wasn’t right.
He thought he would be shortchanging the organization. In reality, he might have been able to turn it around had he patrolled the sidelines again. Browns fans will never know.
Some believe Haslam and Banner should hire Holmgren to coach the Browns, but that’s not realistic. Banner wants the coach to wield plenty of authority and have final say on the 53-man roster. It wouldn’t make any sense for him to give such power to the man he’s succeeding.
Although Holmgren’s window of opportunity to coach the Browns has closed, he might get a chance to make one final run at what he does best. If he jumps right in with another team, I wouldn’t blame Browns fans for feeling like they had been slapped in the face.
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