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The Boss Speaks: Mike Holmgren on Hiring an OC, Peyton Hillis, and More

I was surprised yesterday to hear that Cleveland Browns team president Mike Holmgren was going to talk to the media. It might have been easy to forget that Holmgren was part of the organization, simply because we have not heard from the guy in quite awhile, something that seemed to be a sharp contrast from last year. Holmgren admitted that he has intentionally remained silent.

"This year, purposefully, I’ve really tried to back away from those types of things and allow Tom (Heckert) and Pat (Shurmur) to speak for the football team and that was just what I thought was the right thing to do and moving forward it should be more like that," said Holmgren.  "The head coach is the spokesman for the football team and he’s good at it and that’s the way it should be done."

This is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you agree with Holmgren that the impression should be that the head coach has control of the team, especially when people first thought of Shurmur as a puppet hire. On the other hand, we know that Holmgren is kind of a big deal when trying to change the fact of this organization. He is still the guy when it comes to delivering a message of the state of the team, and I think people believe him when he talks 100 times more than they would believe Shurmur or any of the players. That is not a negative toward Shurmur, but more so the candidness with which Holmgren speaks and the respect he commandeers.

Regarding running back Peyton Hillis, which would undoubtedly be one of the first things the media asked about, what he said was almost verbatim to what I've predicted here on Dawgs By Nature: the media has blown things way out of proportion to the point where these "rumors" are so far from the truth.

"Unfortunately, the added drama of the sickness and injuries and all that other stuff and really I’m serious about this, a lot of things have been written and said that are so far from the truth and it really presents road blocks for the development of our team.  I’m not placing blame here, I’m just saying that it’s kind of the nature of the beast at times.  Peyton was sick in that first game and couldn’t play, okay.  All sorts of stuff was said about that and in this day in age there’s a lot of activity where there’s talk radio, there’s just a lot of activity.  He couldn’t play, he was sick and then most recently he pulled a hamstring and I found out that everyone was concerned during the football game on Sunday, ‘What’s happening he’s not in there.’ 

It’s not this major conspiracy deal going on, it’s just he had an injury, he tried to go again, he couldn’t go and it’s something that happens every Sunday with any number of teams all the time, but because of the previous stuff that had happened with Peyton I suppose it became more newsworthy, but that’s where it sits.  No one has called off negotiations, no one has said, ‘Let’s wait until the end.’  It’s still kind of in that floating area where you’re waiting for a phone call or you’re going to make a phone call or whatever."

Holmgren also added that there was no way the team was going to trade Hillis, one of their best players. The media then spun one of Holmgren's comments as if Hillis was likely going to become a free agent. That could very well be the case, but Holmgren only mentioned the possibility because it is common sense -- any player who does not sign a contract before the end of the year can become a free agent (not including the franchise tag rule).

The other "big news" that was revealed is that the team, wisely, plans to hire an offensive coordinator next season, although Shurmur would still handle the playcalling duties. One might ask why not let the new offensive coordinator call plays, but the whole purpose of bringing Shurmur in was that he knows how to call a West Coast Offense (the jury is still out, of course). If you take that away from him, I don't know what distinguishes him to be a "head coach."

(On after being five games in if he thinks having Shurmur call his own plays is too much)- "No, I don’t think so.  I think he wanted to do that and he’s done that.  I totally understand it.  There’s no way he’s ready to relinquish that type of control in his first job.  What I think he is learning, again we did not hire an offensive coordinator because we didn’t think the right person was there or the fit was right.  But, I think now as he goes through this season, I don’t expect him to change calling the game, but in all likelihood we’ll hire an offensive coordinator next year because that frees the head coach up and his preparation and how he can prepare for the game during the week.  A lot of the nuts and bolts that he’s doing now, he can kick to somebody else and still oversee that, that’s how I think it’s going to.  We’ll sit down at the end of the season and evaluate that, he and I, but I kind of think that’s where we’re going to go with it."

(On if Shurmur would still call plays in that scenario)- "I would think, we’ll evaluate it at the end of the year. I would think he’d want to, I always wanted to.  No one was as good as me (joking). It’s part of the fun and I would think he’d want to."

There were a ton of other goodies from Holmgren's press conference. You can read the entire transcript here, or watch the video on