Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Browns’ best head coach otherwise occupied

Mike Holmgren said it. He really did.

In a news conference recently, the Browns’ president was asked if he would walk away from his job when new owner Jimmy Haslam III arrives.

“I’ve never quit on anything in my life,” he declared.

Asked if he intended to fulfill his contract, he replied, “I hope so. That’s what the plan is.”

Of course Holmgren is not walking away when National Football League owners approve Haslam as the new boss of the Browns. He’s in the middle of a five-year contract that pays him roughly $8 million a year.

Why would he walk away from something like that? They’d have to fit him with a straitjacket if he even thought about something like that.

Holmgren is in the uniquely uncomfortable position of having to dance as fast as he can to cover the fact he most likely will be without a job in the very near future. When Haslam finally has the words principle and owner affixed in front of his name, Holmgren is history.

What’s probably going to happen is Haslam, as reported months ago out of Philadelphia, will bring in former Philadelphia Eagles President Joe Banner to run his team. Haslam will then shove Holmgren out and allow him to pull the ripcord of his shiny golden parachute.

Before that happens, and as he whistles his way past the graveyard, Holmgren is free to pontificate on what he believes will happen to – and with – the Browns this season.

“We see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said, and did not add “and it’s not an oncoming train.”  But he did add, “We’ll see what happens.”

A nice generic way of saying “I have no idea where this team is going, but I can’t say that even though I might not be around here much longer.”

He did, however, have an interesting take on the man he chose last year to run his team. “I’m still learning his coaching style,” he said of coach Pat Shurmur. “When he calls the team together, they listen to him.”

That is a classic example of damning with faint praise.

After one full season and two training camps, Holmgren still hasn’t fully absorbed Shurmur’s coaching style? Really?

He hasn’t noticed how maddeningly conservative Shurmur’s offensive approach is? Or his inept handling of time management? Or his failure to think well ahead of his coaching rivals?

“When he calls the team together, they listen to him.” Of course they listen to him. Is Holmgren joking? What an inane statement to make.

The game plays out much slower than it should in Shurmur’s mind. Thinking quickly on your feet is a trait found among most of the successful head coaches in the NFL.

Holmgren should know this. He lived it for 17 seasons as a head coach. He knows what it takes to be successful in this league. If (probably when) he’s enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it’ll be that attention to every detail that helped pave the way.

Too bad it will eventually turn out this way for Holmgren in Cleveland. He didn’t know it, but as it turns out, the best head coach the Browns have has another title: President.


  1. Yeah, I caught the "learning his coaching style" comment. A deaf man could hear Holmgren's disappointment in Shurmur and basically admitting it was a mistake to hire him. Or maybe Holmgren is throwing Shurmur under the bus to save his own face in anticipation of a tough season ahead.

    What say you about the coming season? As the pre-season has progressed, I've gotten more pessimistic. Maybe I drank the kool-aid early in training camp and with the mini-camps. But the youth/inexperience coupled with questionable coaching and a brutal schedule has disaster written all over it, doesn't it?

    I think one of the major misfires of the Holmgren/Heckert leadership has been their philosophy of building the defense first. We shouldn't be in year 3 of a rebuilding project and only now trying to develop a franchise QB plus playmakers at WR. That should have started in year 1. Most NFL offenses are more complicated than defenses and take longer to master. Plus it's obvious that offenses win championships. Your defense only needs to get some pass rush and play some man coverage sometimes. You don't need much more from your D anymore.

    While it's an after-thought that Holmgren is gone, I'd be shocked if Heckert and especially Shurmur survive beyond the last second of the last game of the season. They may be gone sooner. Joe Banner already has a short list or maybe even a GM in hand right now.


    Paul from Seattle

  2. I don't drink Kool-Aid, Paul. Used to when I was much younger, but the passing years have a way of bringing things more clearly into focus.

    That said, if the Browns win six games this season, consider it a minor miracle. I, too, was enthused by the infusion of young talent, but after watching some of that talent, that enthusiasm has waned a lot.

    The coaching has a lot to do with that. Shurmur has proven way too conservative for me. And you are dead on about the amount of time it takes to develop an offense vs. a defense.

    But I disagree that offense wins championships. Offense wins games; defense wins championships. There have been exceptions to that down through the years, but mostf Super Bowls have been won by teams with excellent defenses.

    Don't be surprised that once Banner arrives, some big-time names will be thrown around. Names like Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher and Andy Reid. Yes, Andy Reid, but only if the Eagles perform as they did last season. His job is definitely on the line in Philly.

    Barring any unforeseen circumstances (like the Browns making the playoffs), Browns fans will finally get a solid coach. About damn time.