Since December of 2009, Browns fans have continually asked for team president Mike Holmgren to get more involved. Whether it be as a coach acting as a member of the front office, or as the head coach, himself, fans wanted him to be “all in”.
And while it might not have been in his job description, Holmgren is now realizing that winning a Super Bowl at a previous stop is not reason enough for fans to accept a long, painful rebuilding process.
“I understand that, and it’s a taken me a little bit of time to understand that,” Holmgren told Kiley and Booms as he joined them in studio on Friday morning. Could I have done a couple things differently? Perhaps.”
He came into Cleveland with the idea that he would align a coach with the team that could do everything that he did as a coach, while staying out of the way in the process.
“Going through that as a coach, having the president going through your room, I didn’t like it,” Holmgren said. “There is a learning curve in this job, there’s no doubt about it.”
Now entering his third season with the franchise, Holmgren has taken advice from those closest to him and decided that his input is need now more than ever.
“They don’t have a choice,” Holmgren said, laughingly, when asked if the Browns coaches are willing to listen to his advice. “I’m going to be more involved. I’m going to be more proactive. I don’t go in there and bang the table, but I will say ‘hey, think about this’. If I can help, I’m going to help”
Following a 4-12 season in which Pat Shurmur was heavily criticized by fans and media alike both in how he managed games and how he approached the roster, Holmgren realized even more that stepping in might be somewhat of a necessity.
“I think last year with Pat, there are situations there that he will absolutely not do again,” Holmgren said. “You saw it. I saw it. Everyone that cares about football saw it.”
The struggles were evident, and still fans remain uncertain as to how much improvement anyone can expect from a roster that widely viewed as one of the least talented in the entire NFL.
“You live through the bumps, the hard times, the pain of it all,” Holmgren says. “It’s going to change.”
And change is something this franchise has become all too familiar with, except the kind that comes with on-field performance, although, Holmgren remains convinced, at least in speaking to the fans, that the worst has passed.
“I expect a big jump this year and not lose games like last year,” he said. “We’re a more talented football team than we were last year, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.”
The main two reasons for optimism, obviously, include first round draft picks Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden. Throw in a seemingly physically-transformed Greg Little and a finally healthy Mohamed Massaquoi, and the offense can’t help but improve on its 13.6 points/game from a year ago.
“Guys like Little, guys like Mo, I think they’re better than what they’ve shown,” Holmgren said. “We have not gotten them the ball. The offense we run, it’s more route running and position than out and out speed.”
The ever-popular controversy at the quarterback position has been become the center of attention and while Holmgren and the organization look as though they are totally committed to Weeden, they haven’t ignored the need for help at the wide receiver position, an area the team didn’t plan to ignore in free agency.
“We were in the hunt on a couple of wide receivers,” Holmgren said. “We just got outbid, just flat-out outbid…by a lot”
But Holmgren knows there’s not just one position that will get this team over the hump, despite the additions made in the draft and through free agency. He remains adamant that this organization is sticking with a plan.
“Philosophically, what we’re trying to do is build a team through the draft, and then spend our money wisely,” he said. “We’re building it that way. In Green Bay and Seattle it took five years to get to the Super Bowl.”
The obvious difference in those situations was that Holmgren was the head coach, the man calling the shots, not overseeing the whole operation like he is now. But he won’t give you the impression that he feels any different about the direction he intends to lead this franchise in, even if Shurmur is wearing the headset.
“He’s going to be fine,” Holmgren said. “I told them (coaches) don’t get your feathers ruffled. No one is going to give you the run around to get to me. It’s just keeping a group together, keeping the coach with them, keeping the system.”
So while he feels comfortable enough to at least sell the fan base that results are on their way and change is coming, the Browns are certainly hoping that change is a different “change” than everyone is used to, a transformation on the field.
“I’m a football coach, I’m a teacher,” Holmgren said. “I’m not a superstar.”
Unfortunately for Holmgren, he has been viewed as the superstar ever since coming in ’09. The end product of that has, still, yet to be seen.