Reporting Daryl Ruiter
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) - Mike Holmgren says he’s “all in” when it comes to the Cleveland Browns.
Fans have heard him say it but have also been waiting for him to prove it.
Since taking over as team president in late December of 2009, Holmgren has tried to remain out of the public eye and in the background.
While his motives were noble, it was not working.
His silence was puzzling to fans who’ve grown skeptical of the man who earned the nickname “The Big Show” for his larger than life personality while with Green Bay and Seattle.
Browns fans have viewed him more like “The No Show.”
He finally realized it and decided it was time for him to make a change in how he approached his role.
“I am going to be more available to you,” Holmgren said. “I have a great young coach and I have a tremendous general manager and my motives in setting up the things for the first couple of years, I think were the right ones. I have no regrets about that.”
He took an hour last Thursday for his own mea culpa in front of camera’s and microphones and then spent 40 minutes in studio with Kiley & Booms, who have been extremely critical of him, Friday morning on 92.3 The Fan.
Fans started to believe that Holmgren was just another carpetbagger here to collect a check before riding off into retirement or onto his next stop.
But Holmgren plans to call it quits and make Cleveland his last stop.
“I’m committed here,” Holmgren said. “But this is my last job. It’s my hope and what I really want to do is make sure this thing is turned around and going in the right direction.”
The likes of Carmen Policy, Dwight Clark, Butch Davis, Pete Garcia, John Collins, Phil Savage, Romeo Crennel, George Kokinis and Eric Mangini have all come to town and made similar promises only to leave with lots of losses and money to just go away.
Nine wins through the first two seasons as president, the skepticism surrounding Holmgren is understandable based on the organization’s past failed leadership but Holmgren wants to put any mistrust of him to rest.
“I don’t know, I hope not,” Holmgren said when asked if he felt fans didn’t trust him. “If they feel that way, then that’s probably a good reason for me to be out there a little bit more and let them get to know me a little bit, if they feel that way.
“Maybe a little bit of what I’m going to try to do is in reaction to that, because I felt bad about that.”
Surprisingly for a man of his stature and experience, Holmgren has had a multitude of PR gaffe’s which have been commonplace with the Browns since the team returned in 1999 but were supposed to stop when he took over.
He fired Jim Brown as a team adviser in 2010 but how he did it has caused a public spat between the two that is still ongoing.
Last week he extended an olive branch to Brown.
“Jim is one of my childhood heroes,” Holmgren said. “How the Browns view Jim Brown hasn’t changed and will never change. I would love to see Jim Brown walk in right now or come to the Legends thing, be a part of this. I would like Jim Brown to come and be a part of this and feel comfortable doing that and I would welcome him with open arms.”
He wasted a season by allowing Eric Mangini to return as coach despite the obvious indication that their philosophies blended as well as oil and water.
Last season there was the regular Seattle radio interviews while a local blackout of access to him continued.
“The Seattle radio controversy was one of the more amazing things I’ve been involved with in my whole life as a football coach or exec or whatever you want to call me right now,” Holmgren said. “That was just a friend of mine that used to work on the radio station. I had no idea it would cause the ripple effect it apparently did.”
The controversy had nothing to do with him doing the interviews or even using the phrase “their team” but that he was making him accessible to fans in a previous market while ignoring local media and Browns fans.
No none will ever forget this beauty that Holmgren dropped on the media as he addressed the team’s fumbling of Colt McCoy’s concussion.
“The problem is and the tough thing for you guys and our fans is it seems it’s business as usual, which is very easy to write and say, but I’m telling you that it’s not,” Holmgren said last December. “You can choose to believe me or you can say, ‘I’ve heard it before.’ That’s your choice, but when it does happen, don’t come to me for extra tickets to a playoff game or something. Don’t do that. You’re either with us or you’re not.”
Browns fans are always with the team no matter how disgruntled they become with the on-field product.
But their patience is wearing thin.
Holmgren, who acknowledged his mistakes and mishandling of situations, is aware and he has said repeatedly this offseason that he expects the team to make a “big jump” in 2012.
There will be no excuses either.
Tom Heckert has had three drafts and two full off seasons to rebuild the roster.
Pat Shurmur had a full off season of OTA’s as well as a rookie and veteran minicamp to teach and refine his system.
Shurmur also received some help coaching-wise with the additions of offensive coordinator Brad Childress and Nolan Cromwell who was added as a senior offensive assistant. Shurmur now has three former NFL head coaches on his staff including both coordinators.
No excuses yes, but the reality is that another difficult season is on the horizon and Holmgren likely knows it. That is why he is trying to mend fences with media and fans alike.
Despite a 4-12 campaign in 2011, the Browns will play the third-hardest schedule this season and the toughest one among non-playoff teams.
They will start a rookie quarterback in Brandon Weeden, who although 28 years old will still make rookie mistakes as he learns the NFL.
Their receivers remain unproven despite high expectations for Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi and they may end up running Trent Richardson into the ground out of necessity.
Regardless if Holmgren is available or not for interviews, local or otherwise, it will not win football games for the Cleveland Browns.
And that ultimately is what fans want.
Until the Browns start winning, being reassured that the team and plan remains is on track is just as important.
Holmgren would like to start this year with a clean slate.
Unfortunately for Holmgren, Heckert and Shurmur, previous years of mismanagement and losing make that nearly impossible.
But being more open and available is a display of leadership that was promised when he was hired and a solid first step in mending fences with a jaded fan base.