Mike Holmgren’s legacy has been hurt by his job in Cleveland

Mike Holmgren’s Legacy

NEW ORLEANS, LA – MARCH 21: Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren speaks briefly with San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner while attending the NFL Annual Meetings at the Roosevelt HotelÊon March 21, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite a NFL owners imposed lockout in effect since March 12, the league is conducting it’s annual owners meeting in New Orleans. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

When he went to Seattle he insisted on being both the GM and head coach.  In 2002 he was relieved of those powers.

On Dec. 20, 2009 prior to Mike Holmgren being named team president, I wrote an article entitled Is Holmgren the answer to the Browns problems?  I started the article this way:

Discussions of the Cleveland football guru position have reminded me of the movie “Joe and the Volcano.” The boss of a very young Tom Hanks is on the phone discussing a potential hire.

“I know he can get the job, but can he do the job?” I have exactly the same question about Mike Holmgren as the “football guru” of the Browns or any other team for that matter.

I went on to outline the draft picks that GM Holmgren made and how in 2002 he was relieved of his GM duties.  While there were indications that Holmgren might be able to do the GM job for the Seahawks, there were more reasons to relieve him of those duties.

His legacy in Cleveland will be based on the decisions he has made here as well as the results or lack of results that have been produced by those decisions.  The record of 10-28 under Holmgren is a black mark without question.  But beyond the record, there have been decisions that will impact the Browns and Holmgren’s legacy for years.

Team president is a very different position from that of GM.  A review of Holmgren’s primary decisions is necessary to see if he should be the second to go or not.

  1. The      first major decision by Holmgren was to give Eric Mangini one more year as      head coach.  It is possible that      Holmgren had already decided that Pat Shurmur was to be the HC of the      future.  But at the time Shurmur had      been the OC for the Rams for one less that successful season.  I have to wonder if Holmgren kept      Mangini to let Shurmur strengthen his resume?

I am sure that it was just a coincidence that Shurmur was represented by Bob Lamonte, same agent that Holmgren uses.  No matter what was the basis of the decision, Mangini failed and was fired at the end of the year.  The year was wasted and the team was worse off after than before.

  1. Holmgren      hired Tom Heckert as GM.  In my      opinion the grade for this decision is incomplete.  I have mixed feelings about Heckert and      will describe them in detail in a future post.
  1. The      next critical decision was the hire of Pat Shurmur as head coach.  I have already written about my view of      that decision.  In my opinion this      choice was a disaster.  It also      points out a major failing of Holmgren.

Hiring a young coach to lead the team is not necessarily bad.  However, Shurmur had very little experience at the job of OC and no previous head coaching background.  Given that, I expected Holmgren to spend a lot of time mentoring his young choice.  The lack of development exhibited by Shurmur was frightening.  If there was mentoring going on, it was not effective.  If not, Holmgren was not earning the millions the team was paying him.

  1. The      decision to allow Shurmur to be OC and head coach was a disaster from the      first snap.  It was a poor choice      because anyone new to head coaching in the NFL would be overwhelmed.  When Shurmur was appointed both as HC      and OC, he hid behind the OC function to the detriment of the HC position.
  2. The      next decision was the naming of the defensive coordinator Dick      Jauron.  He is the bright spot of      the coaching staff.  He has proven      his ability to hide weaknesses in the defense and overall has done very      well with the players he was given.
  3. The      next decision was the remainder of the coaching staff.  While some of these picks like Ray      Rhodes were fine, others have been disasters.  This group included weak points WR coach      Mike Wilson and special teams coach Chris Tabor.

By far the most damaging part of Holmgren’s Cleveland legacy is the total lack of urgency to win by him and his entire regime.  He seemed to care less about the long suffering Browns fans.  He also was willing to take full advantage of a disinterested owner.  In my opinion Holmgren stole the millions of dollars that he was paid by not doing his job.

I have been an opponent of any Hall of Fame consideration for former Browns owner Art Modell because of the theft of the Browns to Baltimore.  Because of the decisions Holmgren made, I will campaign against his election to the Hall as well.

That’s what I think.  Tell us what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He edits https://fryingpansports.com.  He has also published several novels on and a non-fiction work at http://www.merriam-press.com/.

He edits . Also listen to the best Sports Talk anywhere on the Internet and hear his sports show Monday-Thursday 6-7:30 PM EST on or http://mooheadradio.com/2.5/?page_id=21.  You can catch any interviews you missed on https://fryingpansports.com/radio-show/.


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