On Jan 14, 2012 Browns GM Tom Heckert said, “The way to build a team is through the draft.” One day later I read a chapter in Ron Wolf’s book “The Packer Way” that stated”
“Clubs hide behind the lame lament, “We build through the Draft”, so they won’t be revealed for what they are: afraid to be good. There are franchises that have been nothing other than ordinary for years…even when they are faced with still another .500 or worse season.” Ron Wolf
Of course you need strong drafts consistently like the Patriots and that team in Western PA. There is no denying the crappy drafts the Browns have had have set them back year after year since their return.
Ron Wolf’s task in Green Bay was to find a way to turn around a franchise that had been stagnant for 20+ years. Stay with me as we look at a few differences and a few similarities between what he did with the Packers and what Mike Holmgren is doing with the Browns.
Wolf became Executive VP and GM in November 1991. He then analyzed every aspect of the franchise, from Office help to Head Coach. He ran into a lot of “Oh well we are a small market team and .500 is OK”. In other words there was an attitude of losing that had infected every employee. (Browns?) His first move was to fire former Browns OC Lindy Infante, a very popular coach with his players. (Mangini? He had brought many of his own players in).
That off season Holmgren was THE hot coach. The thing that impressed Wolf was Holmgren’s attitude during his interview and when Wolf’s previous team (Raiders) went up against the 49ers. He summed it up by stating of Holmgren; that no matter what or who he was up against he was going to beat you. He signed an offense minded coach in Holmgren (difference here: Jim Harbaugh was the hot coach this past off season but we weren’t in the running, our President went for familiarity, we’ll see if it pans out.)
“What’s the one position that can change the fortunes of your team the quickest? Quarterback. If you find a good one you can compete. If you find a great one you have a chance to be great.” Ron Wolf
He goes on to say how amazed he is that teams try to compete without strengthening the QB position. That same statement says if you have an average QB your team will be average, if you have a poor one, you get the picture. Heck we have lived it for almost 20 years.
He had his coach now he needed his Quarterback.
Favre was drafted by Atlanta in the 2nd round, 33rd overall in 1991. Wolf wanted him from the moment he saw him in college. In 1992 Wolf pulled the trigger on a QB that threw 4 passes in the NFL and had 2 of those picked and no completions. He sent Green Bay’s first round pick, 19th overall to Atlanta. (Atlanta used their pick on Tony Smith).
Wolf had his QB, but he needed more. Remember he was trying to change a mindset about GB, the Packers, the Community and the Organization. He pulled out all the stops for the best Free Agent available. In 1993 he signed Reggie White. With that move Green Bay was making a statement. And the rest is History.
Remember that Wolf was a mentor to Holmgren. He saw the successful moves that were made. How those moves resurrected a franchise.
Get that QB at all costs, no matter if everyone thinks you are overpaying. The same goes for Impact Free Agents. At some point, and I am hoping it is this year, it has to be, Holmgren has to roll the dice, pull the trigger, drop the bomb and all those other goofy cliché’s.
He has the pedigree; he has seen it work in the past. Now can history repeat itself in another small market town?
Thanks for reading, it’s my first Fan Post.
Side note: In Jan 2004 the Browns hired Ron Wolf as “Personnel Specialist”. That lasted all of 4 months as he resigned in April of 2004 when Carmen Policy resigned. It would have been nice having a voice like that somewhere in the Front Office.