BEREA—Mike Holmgren addressed the media for the first time since Jimmy Haslam announced at the NFL owners meetings last week that Holmgren would be stepping down and retiring as president of the Browns at the end of the season.
Haslam and Joe Banner officially are to take over ownership on Thursday after the NFL owners approved the sale last week.
The Browns are 10-29 since Holmgren became the team president. In the first year, the team finished 5-11 under Eric Mangini, including winning their last four games. In 2011, under first year coach Pat Shurmur, the Browns were 4-12. Thus far in 2012, the Browns are a dismal 1-6.
Holmgren answered questions for about 45 minutes on a variety of topics. During the time, Holmgren said he toyed with coaching the team after the decision to fire Mangini took place, but ultimately decided against it.
Holmgren was asked if he regrets becoming the coach at that time.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I know this. I learned a lot of things in the last three years and I do miss the coaching part. I thought about (coaching) and when we were compiling a list of candidates, I asked Tom (Heckert) and I told him you don’t have to say yes, tell me should I be on the list? I don’t know if they were afraid but it gave me a chance to think about it a little more.”
There was levity in the session when FoxSportsOhio.com’s Pat McMannamon asked Holmgren about his statement regarding coming to him for playoff tickets, referring to Holmgren’s statement to the media last year when Holmgren met with the media and went on a diatribe saying this wasn’t the ‘same old Browns’ and ‘don’t come calling me for extra playoff tickets’.
“When I was preparing for this, we talked about someone is going to ask about that,” Holmgren said. “I will say I choose most often not to look back, but on that particular issue I broke Holmgren’s Rule No. 5 and I came into the press conference angry having just met with attorneys and the league. It wasn’t my proudest moment and I pride myself in having more poise than that.
“But I want to know if I can phone you for playoff tickets?”
Holmgren did express regrets that the Browns weren’t able to turn it around in the win/loss record under his leadership.
“I was asked to and we did fix a number of things,” he said. “Our won/ loss record--the reason the team exists-- hasn’t been good. I hope if the team has success, people will feel better about our time here. It’s been a three year period of changing things, but I think there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
Holmgren was asked if he leaves filling unfilled?
“I think so,” he said. “I so much wanted to put a product on the field for Randy Lerner and I wish we’d won a few more games. I believe now when you see the quarterback and if the team can stay together I think they can win.”
Holmgren was asked if he will follow the Browns and feel he helped turn the team around.
“If and when the team does well I’m going to be the team’s biggest fan,” he said. “I’ve won a lot of games in this league as a coach. I’ll feel good for (the media), the owners, the players, the coaches, I’ll feel good about that and feel like maybe we had something to do with that.”
Here are some of the other topics covered in the Q & A:
Q: Are you going to be around the rest of the season?:
Holmgren: “Jimmy (Haslam) and I have talked about a transition period and don’t know how that will play out. My contribution will be on the football side of it as I don’t have to do the business side anymore.”
Q: What was your reaction when you heard the Browns were going to be sold?:
Holmgren: “I remember distinctly I was sitting on my deck in California and I was getting ready to come back here. I was initially surprised because historically these types of transactions don’t take place at that time. My initial reaction was surprise.”
Q: Do you think the Browns are on the right track?:
Holmgren: “I think we’re close. I think it’s going to be OK. No one has a crystal ball and the way I look at it Eric was here a year and this is Pat’s second year. It’s still very early and Tom has done a great job in the draft. If you think you’ve found your quarterback.”
Q: Do you feel being around you might be in the way?:
Holmgren: “I thought about that and have talked to Jimmy and he has my assurance that I’m not going to get in anybody’s way. I have my office, my lunch ticket and parking space.”
Q: Would you lobby to have Haslam and Banner keep Heckert and Shurmur?:
Holmgren: “I’ve talked to Joe and Jimmy not so much about keeping them, but because he wants to learn. We have talked about both of them but it’s up to him up to them what they want to do. He’s been very clear on how he intends to handle it. I don’t think you can get a better GM than Tom Heckert. He’s very, very good. Pat is a bright new coach who has had to go through some stuff that not all have had to.”
Q: The won/loss record is not very good under your tenure, how do you want to be remembered as president?:
Holmgren: “Well, that’s not very good. I know what we tried to do, but the record speaks for itself and ultimately you’re judged on your wins and losses.”
Q: Do you regret keeping Mangini the first year?:
Holmgren: “I don’t think so. I’ve been asked that before, but when I made the decision to keep Eric, I just felt it wasn’t fair to give the guy one year. Hopefully, I’ll always make decisions with a sense of fairness. Eric was a good man and I didn’t think it was fair (to give him just one year).”
Q: How much input on bringing in Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden?:
Holmgren: “That’s a fair question. I don’t think my imprint was anymore at that position than any other. Tom Heckert was our GM and I had input, but they made the decisions. I had been through that before. You experiment and then you find the guy. I was fairly certain the quarterbacks that were here couldn’t get it done and then we were without a quarterback and felt it was important to get an established one and we got Jake and it started off alright. Seneca was with me and thought as a backup you couldn’t do better. We were going to try and draft one every year and that is how we got Colt and now we’re here with (Brandon) Weeden. I contributed to selection, but I was just a small part of it.”
Q: Do you think Weeden is the franchise quarterback?:
Holmgren: “I really do. Brandon is off to a good start. He’s an excellent passer and I like how he leads. People don’t give him too much slack because he’s 29 but I think he’s done well. I think the organization has found their quarterback.”
Q: Will you get back into football?:
Holmgren: “I’m leaving it open. I said this was my last great adventure, although I thought it would be longer. I’ll probably ride my motorcycle some. I’ll take it one step at a time. If can help this team this season, I want to, and then I’ll sit back and catch my breath.”
Q: Do you think it was unfair that your work ethic was criticized?:
Holmgren: “I don’t know where it came from. I don’t think it’s fair. The only thing I changed my workday (while coaching) was when Kathy had her cancer, I changed my schedule, but I always thought if you have real capable people you hired that want to get up at 5 am they can talk to me at 9 am when I get in. I’ve never slept at the office, but try to get home and that’s how I chose to do it. When I was here 100 percent of me was here and I don’t feel I have to apologize for that.”
Q: How close did you come to deciding to coach?:
Holmgren: “I thought about it, what I was willing to do , what I wasn’t willing to do and thought I would be short changing the organization. I made the decision and moved on.”
Q: If changes are made with the GM and coach, will the Browns be able to avoid starting all over?:
Holmgren: “I think any time you have change, dramatic change, any momentum you have is stalled for a little bit, but ultimately it’s about the players and I think we have a core of good young players. If they can deal with the changes, you can do it. The teams that are most successful have continuity on their coaching staff and in their organization. I heard Joe and jimmy say that they agree with that too. The more continuity you have the better chance you have (to be successful).”
Q: Do you wish your departure from football would be on a higher note?:
Holmgren: “That’s everyone’s wish, but I’m not sure how many people get to do that. We’re going take some time after the season and go some place warm and think about (my future). I want to make good decisions moving forward.”