Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi
Extra Points …
Exit, stage left: If anyone doubted Mike Holmgren’s dominating presence, consider this: Who else merits two farewell press conferences 34 days apart, with an unannounced visit to the media room in between?
In the history of farewells, only the Von Trapp children had more.
So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night. Adieu. Au revoir. Goodbye.
We get it.
One week after his visit with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones turned into a pre-game sideshow, Holmgren has decided finally to depart the Browns. Everyone knew this day would come since Aug. 2 when Randy Lerner agreed to sell the Browns to Jimmy Haslam.
Friday will be Holmgren’s last day on the job. He and wife Kathy will be on a flight to their home in Phoenix on Saturday, beating the first Cleveland snowstorm of the season.
Holmgrem said originally he asked Haslam to stay on through the season, but recently he realized there was no more “transition” work left for him to do. He had made his pitches to Haslam and CEO Joe Banner on behalf of the good employees that he felt deserved to survive Banner’s inevitable ax.
A fifth wheel, that’s what it must have felt for Holmgren of late. And for those around him, many of whom had been hired by him, it was awkward at best to see their leader hulking around with, frankly, nothing for him to do.
Big Show in the Big D: Banner, who had nothing but complimentary things to say about Holmgren, indicated the public love-fest with Jones in Cowboys Stadium had nothing to do with the timing of Holmgren’s departure.
Holmgren said he phoned Jones before the trip and asked him, supposedly out of respect to current Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, if he should just stay home. By then, Holmgren’s name already had been linked to the Cowboys by CBS NFL Insider Jason LaCanfora.
“I phoned Jerry and said if this whole thing … if it caused any sort of problem for anybody, I apologize,” Holmgren said. “He said absolutely not. I said, listen, anytime we played against each other, and it’s been a number of times, I’ve always said hello. I said maybe I shouldn’t do that. He said if you don’t come and see me ... I said OK. (So) we talked about the things we always talk about. But I thought about it. I did. I said if we all handle it properly, it’s not a big deal.”
But there was one last public relations fiasco to come – the infamous white flag promotion.
The giveaway was contracted months ago, before Haslam and Banner took over. Ultimately, in a very assertive move that should evoke confidence in the future organization, Banner put the kibosh on an unfortunate promotion that conveyed team and city surrender to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
“The last thing we want to do is have somebody, people, even think we’re sending any kind of message like that,” Banner said. “In the end, we decided the right thing to do was to not proceed with it.”
Holmgren’s Browns legacy: There is no doubt that if the Browns make the playoffs with a nucleus of Phil Taylor, Joe Haden and T.J. Ward on defense, and Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon and Mitch Schwartz on offense – players acquired on his watch -- Holmgren’s legacy will improve.
Right now, it is not great. Not with possibly three double-digit loss seasons, a stadium with one-third its corporate suites unsold, and regular announced attendance below 70,000.
Asked if Holmgren established a legitimate foundation for himself and Haslam, Banner said, “I think the answer to that is yes.
“I answer these questions from the entire organization. I know the public may be focused on the parts that relate just to the football team. There are aspects of the organization, I can see there are things that I would do differently. I don’t want to say that’s better or worse differently. And there are things in which the progress they’ve shown, in the time they’ve been here, which is really just a couple years, is very strong and does lay a foundation for us to move forward from.
Holmgren said he still doesn’t know whether he’ll pursue a coaching job or not. Banner said the Browns would not seek compensation – either monetary or in the form of a draft pick – if Holmgren coached with another team next year.
“Mike’s free to do what he wants next in his field or whatever he’d like to do,” Banner said.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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