Ever since the bye-week, when George Kokinis left the team and Randy Lerner promised changes, there has been countless rumors about dozens of possible leaders for the Browns' front office. But one name seems to have gone beyond rumor and speculation to a bonafide candidate and, now, the favorite to lead the franchise's future.
As reported by the Akron Beacon Journal and ESPN, Mike Holmgren is in the middle of a two-day visit/interview/sell-job with Randy Lerner and the Cleveland Browns. The position at issue is neither for coach nor GM. Instead, it is for be the head/president/czar of the football operations of the Cleveland Browns. Holmgren has met with Lerner and has also met with Mangini over the last 2 days.
In short, Holmgren would have the final say on the hiring of a new GM, on Mangini's future, and on Mangini's replacement or staff changes. Without doubt, he would have serious input in any future trades, drafts, and would dictate the personnel and football strategies and cultures of the team.
Mike Holmgren is a quarterback guru and offensive genius. From BYU in the 80s to the 49ers in the 90s to Green Bay and finally, Seattle, he has helped design explosive offenses and develop some of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game of football. He learned from a couple of the game's greatest innovators this side of Paul Brown and lead two different teams to Super Bowls, including a Super Bowl victory in Green Bay.
Tony Grossi is now reporting that Holmgren's agent, Bob LaMonte, is also in town and that is an almost sure sign that a deal is close:
That means the Browns likely are negotiating to wrap up a deal to make Holmgren the Browns' head of football operations.
LaMonte is known to get involved with his many coaching and executive clients only when a deal is near.
While this is still heavy on the speculation, this is more certainty than we have had with other rumors. Still, this could all be Holmgren using the Browns to get more money and interest in his services from another team, such as the Seahawks, who want him back as GM.
Homgren was reportedly the number 1 choice of Lerner, even going back to last year, but Holmgren wanted to take 2009 off. It is easy to see why:
The case for Mike Holmgren
The easiest way to argue for Mike Holmgren is to detail his resume. Holmgren was a QB at USC, but a career backup. After a few years at the High School level and a year at San Francisco State, he started his coaching career in earnest in 1981 at BYU:
1982-1985- Quarterbacks Coach, BYU. The team was coached by LaVell Edwards, who is credited for bringing a dynamic passing game to major college football in the 1980's, and is credited for changing the college game forever. In just four seasons at BYU, he helped develop the most explosive offense in the nation, developed two great college quarterbacks: Robbie Bosco and Steve Young, win the national championship in 1984, and mentored a young grad assistant starting his coaching career: Andy Reid. Wow.
1986-1991- Quarterbacks Coach and then Offensive Coordinator, San Francisco 49ers. During this time, the team was coached by Bill Walsh and George Seifert. Walsh is considered the developers of the West Coast Offense. Walsh has one of the most impressive coaching trees in the sport and is considered one of the greatest coaches ever. While in San Francisco, Holmgren was the position coach for Joe Montana, already established and Steve Young, revitalizing his career which became one of the most effective and efficient of all time. As offensive coordinator, Holmgren led one of the most effective offenses in league history. In 1989, the 49ers lead the league in every offensive category culminating in a historically dominating performance in Super Bowl XXIV, where the 49ers beat the Broncos 55-10.
1992-1998- Head Coach, Green Bay Packers. 75-37 in the regular season, 9-5 in the playoffs A great run by any measure. He had a winning record in each of 7 years in Green Bay, won a playoff game in 6 straight seasons, won the NFC Championship twice and the Super Bowl once. He mentored the most prolific and, in my mind, best, QB in NFL History: Brett Favre. He chose Favre over Ty Detmer, against popular opinion in 1992. What followed was a great run by both Favre and the Packers, including an absurd 3 MVP awards.
1999-2002- Head Coach and General Manager, Seattle Seahawks. Took Seattle to their first playoff berth in 11 years in 1999. But overall, he was ineffective with "full control". My opinion, it was a complete rebuild and he was focusing on personnel more than coaching. Something that we are seeing with Mangini currently. Overall 31-33 with just the one playoff appearance (a first round loss).
2003-2008- Head Coach, Seattle Seahawks. Focusing just on coaching, Holmgren dominated the NFC west, coming in second in 2003 and winning the division in 04, 05, 06, and 07. He was a solid 4-5 in the playoffs during this run, including a Conference title and corresponding Super Bowl XL appearance. He showed some versatility in his offensive system, as he coached another NFL MVP, but this time form the running back position: Shaun Alexander during his record breaking 2005 season. And he didn't forget how to develop QBs either. He brought former Favre backup, Matt Hasselbeck to Seattle in 2001. By 2003, Hasselbeck was a Pro Bowler and one of the most effective QBs in the league. He has now been to 3 Pro Bowls, holds just about every franchise passing record in Seahawk history, and even after awful an awful (injury filled) 2008 has completed 60% of his passes, has a rating over 84 for his career and about 60 more TDs than INTs in his career. 2008 saw a team ravaged by injuries and Holmgren was looking forward to taking a year off. Even with that terrible last year, he was 55-41 as "just" the Head Coach in Seattle.
I'll try another post looking at his moves as GM in Seattle. It was clear he had some huge successes though. For example see this story on our Seattle sister site just a couple weeks ago. http://www.fieldgulls.com/2009/12/2/1183348/mike-holmgrens-greatest-managerial