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

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Mike Holmgren’s Legacy

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 21:  Cleveland Browns ...

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/.

 

Why has Bill Belichick’s coaching tree as been so barren?

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Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England P...
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As I predicted months ago, Bronco Owner Bowlen fired HC Josh McDaniels this week. This is what I said on this site on March 17, 2009:

The key story is that Bowlen blew it when he fired Mike Shanahan and blew it again in hiring the 32 year old McDaniels. McDaniels is not mature enough to be a head coach in the NFL. It was a bad hire and this is only the first screwup for which McD will be responsible.

That was written before the Broncos went 6-0 to start the 09 season. That start was followed by a 2-8 record to end 09 and a 3-9 start to the 2010 schedule.

It was obvious to me that McD was not nearly ready for the head job. But that is only the latest example of the failures of the Belichick disciples. Here is the major list of NFL head coaches that have come from the Belichick system:

Josh McDaniels – Fired after less than 2 years

Eric Mangini Browns (2009-?) – Was so bad at judging talent that he lost his GM control after a year and now is on the hot seat again.

Romeo Crennel Browns (2005-2008) – You would have thought that after the Crennel disaster the Browns owner would have had more sense than to hire another Beilchick clone.

Al Groh, New York Jets (2000) – Groh was lucky to survive a year.

Nick Saban, Miami Dolphins (2005–2006) – A much better college coach than pro.

Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions (2009–?) – Schwartz is on the hot seat and will probably go after the season.

Something that should be noted is that after going 36-44 as HC of the Browns, it took Belichick 4 seasons to be named HC of the Patriots. That team was in such disarray that they were looking for someone with some experience that would actually take the job.

The question becomes why does one of the most successful coaches in the history of the league have such a meager coaching tree?

There are a couple of major reasons. The greatest is “Belichick attitude.” The Belichick clones come in with the Hoodie Attitude. That is an attitude of secrecy and take a dictatorial control over the locker room and the players. They are unwilling (or unable) to accept others ideas or adjust their “system” to the current talent available.

That may work with 18-20 year old boys but very quickly loses an NFL locker room filled with veteran players. They will not put up with being treated like children. The attitude only works if you have 5 Super Bowl rings as head coach.

One result of the attitude is the desire by the clone to dump talented veterans that refuse to buy into the system. Both McDaniels and Mangini have done that recently. The result is a steep decline in talent on the roster and generates losses. The NFL stands for Not For Long if you don’t win.

The attitude of “do it my way or else” also inhibits making half time adjustments. Because they are convinced that their system is perfect, they will continue to do the things that have not worked in the second half. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is one definition of insanity.

When a clone is questioned by the media or the ownership, they tend to stand firm and refuse to make changes. That tends to irritate the owners and hasten the firing.

Another reason is the lack of preparation. Belichick is by nature a control freak. He is not willing to take the time to teach his underlings. He dictates the game plan and they are only a middle man between him and the team to execute it. The assistants don’t participate in the formulation of the plan or even the research of the opponent upon which it is based. Because they are not involved, they do not learn the reasons behind the strategy.

That’s what I think. Tell me 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 is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. His first non-fiction work is at the publisher now and he has also published several novels on

and edits .

Technorati Tags: NFL,Patriots,Belichick,McDaniels,Saban,Mangini,Belichick coaching tree,Broncos,2011 Draft,Browns,Jets,Dolphins,coaching change
  • “Bill Belichick Empathizes With Josh McDaniels, Other Fired Coaches” and related posts (nesn.com)
  • Leading Off: Under the Hoodie, the Patriots Hum (nytimes.com)
  • No shock: Lightning rod Belichick better than ever (cbssports.com)
  • You: Josh McDaniels Fired: Where Will Wonder Boy Coach in 2011? (bleacherreport.com)
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  • Author:
  • Published: May 7th, 2009
  • Category: NFL Football
  • Comments: Comments Off on Brett Favre is messing with his legacy.

Brett Favre is messing with his legacy.

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By Bill Smith

Several sources are reporting that Brett Favre is going to meet with the Minnesota Vikings coaching staff this week. It is a stupid move for Favre because it is the one thing he could do that will damage his reputation. Favre has seen Dr. Andrews and is considering surgery that would enable him to be ready to play in training camp. This is another signal that he is considering a comeback.

If he decides to come back and play, he will have again un-retired. But this time it is different. At the beginning of the 2008 season, it was the Packers and not Favre that decided that his services were no longer required. If he come back to play again, he will have broken his word to his fans and the media. His greatest fans will be hurt but will forgive him. The media will be less forgiving.

When he came back he hurt the Jets and it took a gift by Cleveland to get the team out of the mess that signing Favre created. The Jets had a QB that fit Coach Mangini’s offense perfectly. Chad Pennington was extremely accurate in the short and medium throws that the game plan was based on. Against the advice of Mangini, ownership decided to make a splash by signing Favre. Then salary cap considerations forced the team to cut Pennington. Pennington was signed by division foe Miami and the rest is history. After a disastrous last 5 games of the season, Favre was history as well and the Jets fired Mangini. After all, even ownership needs a scape goat.

Favre was injured in the last half of the season and for that reason gets some forgiveness for his poor performance.

Sports fans have a short memory. Like most humans, it is what happened last that sticks in our minds. It will be hard to forget how Favre looked during the collapse of the Jets, particularly in the game against Miami and Pennington. Had the Jets not been able to get the bargain basement price to move up from 17 to 5 in the draft from their former HC, the team would have been sucking bilge water for years. Favre’s availability would have been the cause.

Then there is his legacy in Green Bay. Right now, the Packer fans would welcome Favre back to retire his jersey and put him into the Packer Hall of Fame. If, however, Favre ever plays for the rival Vikings, that love will will turn to hate. Favre would irreparably damage his legacy with any fans of the Pack.

However, if he comes back and plays for the Vikings, he had better be very good. If he is not much better than he played for the Jets in that 5 game run, he will destroy his legacy. The Vikes would have been the second team in 2 years that he disrupted and failed to lead to the playoffs. The Vikes are now ready to win. They have one of the top defenses in the league, an outstanding running game and enough talent on the O line to protect a passer. There will be no excuse for failing to win with the Vikes.

He will also turn any camp he goes to will make the Raiders camp look organized. Like the Jets, he will divide the locker room, draw reporters like mosquitoes to a camping trip, and make getting things done impossible.

Favre is a Hall of Fame player. But with another disaster like the Jets Favre risks no longer be automatically be mentioned with the great QBs in league history. That means a lot to players like While some player like Jim Brown quit at the height of their careers, others stay too long. We all remember those great athletes that are a joke at the end of their careers. Favre’s time is over. Let’s hope that he realizes that.

That’s what I think. Tell me 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 is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

My email is [email protected]

Technorati Tags: Favre,nfl,Packers,Vikings,Jets,Mangini,Pennington,Hall of Fame,Browns

Niblets from around the net for 4/4/09

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Fryingpan Sports

Niblets from around the net for 4/4/09

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By Bill Smith

Best comment of the last week: from fantasy basketball on Fantasy Baseball Fans—Beware of the WBC players in your drafts.

Great advice, WBC isn’t at ALL on par with MLB. I was actually having this discussion with a friend of mine last night as we were scoping out each others lineups (different leagues of course). He hadn’t even thought of that so I had to fill him in, I think he owes me a beer or two.

As you have seen, I am never shy about sharing my opinion. However, I think the MLB season will prove me right overall. And yes, I think he does owe you a beer or two. By the way, I do have a Pay-pal account if you wish to donate.

Updates on previous columns:

Kentucky is no longer THE basketball power—GET OVER IT!

John Calipari, the former head coach of Memphis, has accepted the Kentucky job and the 31 million dollars they offered. He said “Kentucky in basketball is like Notre Dame in football.”

My analysis: He is EXACTLY right. The fans and supporters of both of those teams live in their teams’ past successes and believe that their history entitles them to championships every year.

Bronco Owner Bowlen shoots his team in the leg

I was wrong about how much Denver would get for Cutler. I over estimated the intelligence of the NFL general managers. I will have more to say about that Monday.

Fresh Niblets:

The Browns are turning a little green around the edges.

New HC Eric Mangini has brought a lot of Jets to Cleveland particularly on D. That wouldn’t be a bad idea had the Jets been better than the Browns. Last year the Jets gave up more points than Cleveland. See my full story of this on the Browns page on NFLDraftDog.com.

Overview of the Offensive 2009 Draft Class

This year’s crop of WR prospects is making the NFL scouts smile. It isn’t all that good but looks great compared to the last couple of classes. The running backs this year are R E A L L Y S L O W. To see my entire article, check out Profootballcentral.com.

Stupid is as stupid does”

The Giants cut Plaxico Burress yesterday. When you shoot your friend in the foot, that is bad. When you shoot yourself in the leg, that is stupid enough to deserve whatever you get.

My analysis: He will get jail time and if he is available at all in 09 or 2010, he will face at least a 4 or 6 game suspension by the league. TO Plax’s agent—Call the Raiders. Your guy will fit right in.

Drugs and college football

Rick Serritella, of NFLDraftBible.com, reports Southern California LBs Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing tested positive for steroids at the NFL Scouting Combine, according to various sources, including one NFL team. In addition, Serritella reported that Florida WR Percy Harvin, Illinois CB Vontae Davis, and Texas-El Paso PK Jose Martinez each failed a drug test for marijuana. Boston College DT B.J. Raji had a positive test for an undisclosed drug.

My analysis: When is the NCAA going to get serious about addressing steroids? Maybe it should be a little more focused on testing for illegal substances and a little less on an extra call to a prospect.

That’s what I think. Tell me 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 is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

My email is [email protected]

Technorati Tags: NFL Football,NFL Draft,Broncos,NFL,Burress,USC,Boston College,Cutler,Browns,Mangini,Illinois,College football,NCAA,Jets,MLB,Fantasy Baseball,Kentucky,College Basketball
  • Author:
  • Published: Apr 3rd, 2009
  • Category: NFL Football
  • Comments: Comments Off on The Browns need to cut ties with Stallworth.

The Browns need to cut ties with Stallworth.

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Fryingpan Sports

The Browns need to cut ties with Stallworth.

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By Bill Smith

Donte Stallworth is a problem and it is time that the Browns take a stand and cut the player. On the morning of March 14th in Miami, Stallworth was driving under the influence of alcohol. He hit and killed a pedestrian. He was charged with vehicular manslaughter. Yesterday, he surrendered to the police and was granted bail. While there are a number of questions around this tragedy, there is little doubt that the receiver was driving and was tested by police and found to be well over the legal limit.

The accident happened the day after the Browns honored a $4.875 million roster bonus for Stallworth.

There is usually a reason that a player that has some skills like Stallworth ends up playing for 4 teams in 4 years. Stallworth has never been known as a great locker room guy. However, it would not matter if he was the best WR in the NFL, he has to go.

The NFL is now holding franchises responsible for the bad acts of their players. The Commissioner is cracking down on player‘s that fail to respect the league enough to act responsibly. It is critical that players and other team personnel realize that being part of the NFL is a privilege not a right.

Last year, Stallworth hurt the team more than he helped it. Starting 11 games, he had only 17 passes. It was Stallworth that was horsing around in training camp with Braylon Edwards. He was chasing Edwards and stepped on Edwards’ stocking foot causing a gash. That was a contributing factor to Edwards’ very slow start. Stallworth was supposed to start the 08 season opener but hurt himself in the pre-game warm-ups. He missed the first 3 games with that injury.

Cutting Stallworth would send a message to both the other players and to the fans. It would tell other players that even a starter in a position of need on the team is subject to the laws of the people and that the team will not put up with irresponsible actions like driving drunk. It would send a very important message to the fans that the days of horse play and total lack of team discipline permitted under the far too lenient previous administration are over.

Head coach Eric Mangini has talked a good deal about running a tight ship. It is now time for him to fish or cut bait.

That’s what I think. Tell me 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 is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

My email is [email protected]

Technorati Tags: Stallworth,Browns,NFL,Mangini,accident,cut,Edwards
  • Author:
  • Published: Dec 31st, 2008
  • Category: NFL Football
  • Comments: Comments Off on Before you fire your head coach…

Before you fire your head coach…

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Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher at ...

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher at the White House- Cropped from original image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Bill Smith

There are a lot more open coaching positions in the NFL than there are qualified candidates. On average, about 8 of the 32 coaches are fired every year. Last year only 6 got the ax so you can look for a few more before too long.

NFL stands for “Not For Long” as far as coaches and players are concerned. “Mangenious” last year turned into one of the dismissed coaches this year after the Jets jettisoned Eric Mangini and his staff. Team management totally ignored the fact that the problem this year was the QB Bret Favre and that was a move that Mangini did not support. He also did not support the release of QB Chad Pennington. Farve did not at all fit the Mangini system which was ball control/low turnovers. Pennington doesn’t have the arm to throw deep but that is not part of the Mangini offense. If management had done the right thing, it would have fired itself. Don’t hold your breath for that.

Management faces a huge problem when the expectations far exceed the results. Just before the fans form a mob and storm the castle with burning torches, the management decides to throw the head coach out the 8th story window. They do that in hopes that the act placates the mob below. But the mob will just move out of the way of the falling bodies and continue to charge. Usually however, the problem is not the coach but the lack of talent that management has collected. But you can’t fire a whole team—can you?

The question is do you take the hot coordinator flavor of the month and hope (and if you are the GM pray) he develops into a Bill Cowher or do you hire a formerly fired head coach and hope the second, third or in some cases sixth time is the charm that turns him into the next genius. Then there is the option of selecting the hot college head coach. Each of the approaches have worked great in some cases and failed miserably in others.

For those that take the coordinator of the month path. While former assistant coach hires John Harbaugh (Baltimore) and Mike Smith (Atlanta) might have worked out well, I remind you that Romeo Crennel was the hottest coordinator in the market just 4 years ago. That certainly worked out great for the Browns, didn’t it?

Retreads usually don’t work out either. Bill Belichick that learned by driving the Browns into the ground and then turned genius in New England. For every Bilichick there are dozens of second time around failures. Most coaches were fired for losing. Since the team that fires a coach is already good at that, why would they want to hire someone that lost someplace before?

Then there are the college coaches. Few college coaches bring the credentials that Butch Davis brought to Cleveland. As defensive coordinator in Dallas, he contributed to the championships won under head coach Jimmy Johnson. At Miami he turned around a program under NCAA sanction and laid the basis for a national championship under his successor Larry Coker. Even with all that, he failed miserably at Cleveland. It was so bad he quit with 5 games left in the 2004 season. College coach Bobby Petrino was hired by the Falcons and things went down hill so fast he didn’t last an entire season. He quit after 13 games.

So what is a beleaguered GM to do? There are a few—very few—coaches out there that left on their own. The name that everyone wants is Bill Cowher. But he isn’t excited about giving up a reportedly 2 million a year TV gig that takes less than 30 days of his time. The second most sought after guy is Mike Shanahan who was just fired from Denver. He was really good at coaching but picking players—not so much. Mike Holmgren agreed to retire after the 08 season but is having “Favre-like second thoughts.” Seattle has moved on so he is a good choice for someone. He also had the GM function there and may be looking more for a GM job, his weakness, rather than a coaching job, his strength. Mike, stick with what you do best!

Marty Schottenheimer is available after being drummed out of San Diego and he has won everywhere he has been. But with him there is that playoff game problem. He just can’t seem to win enough to get to the Super Bowl. Other retreads looking for a second or third chance include former Raven Brian Billick, and former 49er coach Mike Nolan. Former Rams head coach Mike Martz is available after being fired by SF from his offensive coordinator job. Anyone that hires him better be really deep at QB because his system tends to use them up like facial tissue. Reports about former Giant HC Jim Fassel indicate he is so desperate he would consider the Oakland job if it comes open.

There are several hot prospects from the coordinator group including Jet assistant head coach Bill Callahan, Brian Schottenheimer the Jet OC, New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, and Cowboy offensive coordinator Jason Garrett (I thought he was the coach in waiting for the Cowboys).

Here is a hint for those owners that want a yes man as head coach. Call Jerry Jones. He will trade you Wade Phillips for a future draft choice and a player…. Well you had better talk to him.

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 is a senior writer for NFLDraftDog.com and edits fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

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