'Tis better to be thought a fool . . .
Mike Holmgren, it seems, has a tough time leaving well enough alone.
The ex-Browns president was on the cusp of being a distant bad memory to Cleveland professional football when he chose to revisit the past recently.
At first blush, it was a seemingly-harmless one-sentence quote that appeared in Peter King’s Quotes of the Week section in last Monday’s MMQB on SI.com. King dismissed it with a simple one-sentence entry. Upon further review, it was anything but harmless.
“I really just should have coached the team, but (owner Randy Lerner) didn’t want me to,” Holmgren said in reference to his rocky stay with the Browns a few years ago.
Now Holmgren is either the weakest-backbone executive the Browns have ever hired or one sensational revisionist prevaricator.
He was an outstanding National Football League coach as his 161-111 record attests. He took his teams to the playoffs in 12 of his 17 seasons and is 1-1 as a Super Bowl coach.
When he was hired in 2009 to run the Browns, his first major decision was what to do with coach Eric Mangini. Retaining Mangini was his first and, as it turned out, most egregious mistake.
All he had to do at the time was what came naturally to him – coach. But no, he said.
“At this stage of my life, that’s not what my first priority is,” Holmgren said after finally firing Mangini shortly after the end of the 2010 season. “I’m relishing the role Randy Lerner had confidence to give me.”
Later, he said, “At that particular time, I wasn’t ready to do it again. I thought I’d be shortchanging the organization.” He said absolutely nothing at the time about Lerner’s preference for someone other than him to coach the team.
Reading between the lines back then, what Holmgren really meant was he liked the whole idea of not putting in the long hours required to coach an NFL team. In no way and at no time did Lerner enter the discussion stage.
Holmgren wanted to live the easy life. The rigorous grind of coaching, as well as managing the front office, was not for him anymore.
Now, he ducks behind the cover of Lerner and blames him for not returning to coaching. We are being led to believe he is second-guessing himself. What gall.
We’ll never know it, of course, but somehow I could never see Lerner preventing Holmgren from to returning to coaching if it meant improving the team.
As bad an owner as Lerner was, I find it extremely hard to believe he would stand in the way of anyone capable of improving the franchise. That makes no sense whatsoever.
Now I’ll buy the notion that Holmgren’s wife, not Lerner, was against him returning to the sidelines. That one makes a lot more sense than Lerner saying uh no, you stay right where you are.
Holmgren was first and foremost a terrific coach. All you have to do is see what he did in Green Bay and Seattle to reach that conclusion.
He had the opportunity to step up in Cleveland and turn that franchise in a direction it hasn’t been since, well, since Cleveland left the NFL in the mid-1990s. But no. He got lazy. It’s much easier to sit back, remain in the background and collect all those millions.
It appears right now as though Holmgren is suffering from a bad case of diarrhea of the mouth. He is proving that if you open up your mouth enough times, you eventually wind up contradicting yourself somewhere along the way.
I know. I’ve done it.
Here’s some free advice for Holmgren as he enjoys his retirement out in Washington state: When people ask you questions about your time in Cleveland with the Browns, ignore them. Move on. Some things are better left unsaid.
The more you talk about it, the deeper you shove both of your feet inside your mouth and wind up looking like a fool.
That little quote in King’s column is proof positive.