Former Cleveland Browns team president Mike Holmgren joined Dave 'Softy' Mahler on Sports Radio KJR in Seattle on Thursday to talk about a variety of topics, including his departure from Cleveland, moving back to the Seattle area, his thoughts on Russell Wilson, and more. You can download the entire interview here (20 minutes in length), but I went ahead and transcribed the parts related to the Browns below.
Dave: "What happened in Cleveland?"
Mike Holmgren: "Well, the team was sold is what happened. We were on a 5-year contract and most of the guys I hired in the front office, like Tom Heckert the general manager, we were all looking at it that way. During the summer, I got a call from the owner, Randy Lerner, and he said, 'Listen, I got a chance to sell the team, I think I'm going to do it.'
Everything happened so fast. Normally that's about a year process, at least in my experience in the league it's been about a year. This all happened very, very quickly, and then Jimmy Haslam, who bought the team and is a tremendous guy, clearly had someone in mind to be the president when he bought the team.
I was doing a lot of things for Randy Lerner that he quite honestly didn't want to do. I went to the Owner's Meetings representing him, representing the club, things like that, and Jimmy Haslam wants to do those things, so really I understood it. It was just the hard part was that I think we had built a pretty good foundation. We didn't produce on the field like I would have liked, but I think moving forward...keep an eye on them, I think they are going to be fine."
Dave: "Is there anything that you would have done differently? Are you content with the job that you did out there?"
Mike Holmgren: "Well, you know, this might sound a little strange, but I went in to my role as president to support the coach and the general manager in every way possible. As a coach myself, I didn't want people telling me how to do stuff on the field. I was bound and determined to try and handle that properly that way. Also, in dealing with the media, you kind of stay in the background a little bit and not overshadow my coach or my general manager.
In retrospect, I don't think that's what the folks wanted. I think they wanted me out there a little bit more. I just did not know how to do that without stepping on the toes of the guys I hired and tried to support. My last year I held a press conference and said, 'OK, it seems to me that this is what people would like me to do, so I'm going to do it a little bit more.' I had talks with Pat and Tom saying, look nothing is going to change between us, but I gotta be out there a little bit more, but by that time, the team had already been sold."
Dave: "Do you still have that itch to walk that sideline again?"
Mike Holmgren: "[laughs] I don't know. We've talked about this a few times. I don't know if that ever just flat leaves you, I really don't. One of the hardest things for me was watching the game from upstairs. I knew it was going to be a challenge. I went in with my eyes open, but I wasn't sure -- I guess it was harder than I thought it was going to be.
I don't know if I answered your question, but once you're a coach, you're a coach. I miss the sideline. I would be watching the game from upstairs, I ever had to wear a tie sometimes [joking]. I would be like a fan, saying, 'Why are they doing that, they should be doing this,' and that's not fair in my role. I always thought that when I was coaching, no matter what was happening, I could kind of fix it. When you don't get the chance to do that, it's a challenge."
Dave: "Do you at this time sit at home and envision yourself coaching again?"
Mike Holmgren: "You know what, it would be a big surprise to be honest. I think I've said that before to you and look what happened. Right now, we've been back here [in Seattle] for about a month and a half. We were out for a little walk and someone stopped me on the street. He got me talking about how good it is to be back -- my kids are here, my grandkids are here, I have friends here, it's a great city, and you know, right now, I'm feeling pretty good about stuff.
Now, what happens is after about a month or month and a half, pretty soon Kathy's not going to want my around the house. Then you say, 'OK, where do I go?' I could walk down to the street to the barber shop and hang out there. So that I'm sure is coming down the horn, so we'll just have to see and take it a day at a time."
Dave: "What impressed you the most about Russell Wilson? What surprised you the most about him that maybe you did not think you would see when he was drafted?"
Mike Holmgren: "Well actually, and I think everybody and his brother will say they liked Wilson coming out of the draft. Now, we [the Browns] really liked Russell Wilson as an organization. But, I said, 'You know what, I think his size might be hard and might create some problems.' Now, it didn't, and obviously he plays the game a certain way and I think he's with the perfect team. I think they are really good running the ball and they have a great defensive team. What impressed me more than anything are in big games -- his poise for a rookie was remarkable, I mean just unbelievable. That's the thing that would surprise me about any young player. Those playoff games, he just played -- it just looks like it doesn't affect him, and that's tough to get a veteran to do quite honestly."