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This is the sixth and final edition of our series highlighting game-changing moves that have occurred since the end of last season. The first one was about keeping KR Joshua Cribbs a member of the Browns; the second one was about the new look to the secondary this year; the third one was about the removal of quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson; the fourth one was about the Browns allowing head coach Eric Mangini to stay in charge for another season; and the fifth one was about the addition of TE Ben Watson to the roster.
For last, I've saved what I consider to be an obvious choice: Mike Holmgren becoming the president of the Cleveland Browns.
Game-Changing Offseason Move #6: Mike Holmgren Takes Control of the Organization
Although Holmgren was named team president with a couple of games remaining last season, he didn't really begin his actual work until after the season, so for all intents and purposes, it should be counted as an offseason move.
I saved the Holmgren piece for last because he has played a major role in shaping the make-up of the Cleveland Browns. In fact, Holmgren had a direct influence or impact on at least three of our game-changing offseason moves:
- Maybe things would have worked out under any new front office, but keeping Joshua Cribbs as a member of the Browns tested Holmgren from Day 1. After Dawn Aponte's ridiculous "take it or leave it offer" to Cribbs, Holmgren didn't overreact. He made it clear that he would take a careful look at the situation after a general manager was hired. Sure enough, after Tom Heckert came on board, the Cribbs situation went from "I'll never play a down again for the Browns" to seeing Aponte transferred and negotiations progressing smoothly. Not long after, Cribbs had a new deal in place and the team now has plans for him to be actively involved in the offense.
- The removal of quarterbacks Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn was another decision that Holmgren had to make. It was one of the first things Holmgren wanted to address, as he referred to the final decision on a quarterback being "the most important decision on a football team." I originally wanted to give Quinn another shot, but as it stands now, I'm already over the fact that we traded him to the Denver Broncos.
Jake Delhomme isn't going to sell tickets, but he's a fresh face to the team who Holmgren was willing to give another shot to when other teams weren't willing to. In the mean time, we can take time in developing a quarterback like Colt McCoy. Under Holmgren, there is no quarterback controversy either. If another front office had been here, we might be talking about Quinn vs. Anderson, Quinn vs. McCoy, or some other wacky quarterback competition this camp.
- By allowing head coach Eric Mangini to stay in charge for another season, Holmgren is recognizing the progress the team made toward the end of last season, winning four straight amidst a stretch when the Steelers and Jaguars were still competing for playoff spots. The Browns were making positive headlines for the play of the defense (i.e. sacks on Roethlisberger) and the play of the running game (Jerome Harrison). Many of the players who started having success (Matt Roth, Jason Trusnik) were players that fit the Mangini mold.
It would've been easy to just start over, but as a fan I appreciate the fact that last season wasn't a complete waste. Mangini has appeared to accept his new role well and seems receptive to the extra ears that he has. George Kokinis didn't do a thing, so it has gone from Mangini running the ship to having guys like Holmgren, Heckert, and Gil Haskell having their say as well. Besides being grateful to retain the head coaching job, I think Mangini has appreciated the respect that they have shown him by not trying to change the way he wants to coach the team -- he was allowed to keep his offensive and defensive coordinators and assistant coaches to maintain continuity heading into year two.
Holmgren might be the "czar" or captain of the ship, but he has delegated responsibilities to the right people, knowing that he's the "team president" and not the "head coach." Our situation is much better than cherry picking a member of the Ravens' organization with no credible general manager experience.
The Browns have made some pretty solid offseason moves to upgrade a few of our positions too.
- Take a look at LB Scott Fujita, who comes over from the Super Bowl winning New Orleans Saints. He might not be an All-Pro player, but he knows how to be a leader of the linebacker unit and is also involved with the community and the player's association.
- Ben Watson, featured in our last game-changing piece, offers the pass-catching threat at tight end that the team didn't have last year.
- Tony Pashos, while not a major upgrade, should be noticeably better than John St. Clair at right tackle.
- Sheldon Brown and Joe Haden add a million times more depth to the cornerback position.
The only position that might have taken a hit is at safety since we fell short of drafting Eric Berry and lost starter Brodney Pool. Pool wasn't close to being a dominant safety though, so there's probably not a big dropoff in taking a chance on two rookies to compete for his role.
Holmgren has a calming presence about him, and for the first time since returning to the league it seems like we actually have people in the front office with experience. Holmgren might not be on the sidelines yelling at players on Sundays, but the decisions he has made since taking over have no doubt been or have led to game-changing offseason moves.