Cleveland Browns: Should Mike Holmgren Be Retained by Jimmy Haslam?

Bill SmithAnalyst IOctober 3, 2012

Mike Holmgren
Mike HolmgrenJason Miller/Getty Images

On Dec. 20, 2009, prior to Mike Holmgren being named team president, I wrote an article entitled Is Holmgren the answer to the Browns problems?  I started the article this way:


Discussions of the Cleveland football guru position have reminded me of the movie “Joe and the Volcano.” The boss of a very young Tom Hanks is on the phone discussing a potential hire.

“I know he can get the job, but can he do the job?” I have exactly the same question about Mike Holmgren as the “football guru” of the Browns or any other team for that matter.


I went on to outline the draft picks that GM Holmgren made and how in 2002 he was relieved of his GM duties.  While there were indications that Holmgren might be able to do the GM job for the Seahawks, there were more reasons to relieve him of those duties. My conclusion was he was not the man we needed.

However, team president is a very different position from that of GM.  A review of Holmgren’s primary decisions is necessary to see if he should be the second to go or not.

The first major decision by Holmgren was to give Eric Mangini one more year as head coach.  It is possible that Holmgren had already decided that Pat Shurmur was going to be the coach of the future.  But at the time, Shurmur had been the OC for the Rams for one less-than-successful season.  I have to wonder if Holmgren kept Mangini to let Shurmur strengthen his resume.

I am sure that it was just a coincidence that Shurmur was represented by Bob Lamonte, the same agent that Holmgren uses.  No matter what the basis of the decision, Mangini failed and was fired at the end of the year.  The year was wasted and the team was worse off than before.

Holmgren hired Tom Heckert as GM.  In my opinion the grade for this decision is incomplete.  I have mixed feelings about Heckert and will describe them in detail in a future post.

The next critical decision was the hire of Pat Shurmur as head coach.  I have already written about my view of that decision.  In my opinion this choice was a disaster.  It also points out a major failing of Holmgren.

Hiring a young coach to lead the team is not necessarily bad.  Shurmur, however, had very little experience at the job of OC and no previous head coaching background.  Given that, I expected Holmgren to spend a lot of time mentoring his young coach.  The lack of development exhibited by Shurmur was frightening.  If there was mentoring going on, it was not effective.  If not, Holmgren was not earning the millions the team was paying him.

The decision to allow Shurmur to be OC and head coach was a disaster from the first snap.  It was a poor choice because anyone new to head coaching in the NFL would be overwhelmed.  When Shurmur was appointed both as HC and OC, he hid behind the OC function to the detriment of the HC position.

The next decision was the naming of the defensive coordinator Dick Jauron.  He is the bright spot of the coaching staff.  He has proven his ability to hide weaknesses in the defense and overall has done very well with the players he was given.

The next decision was the remainder of the coaching staff.  While some of these picks like Ray Rhodes were fine, others have been disasters.  This group included weak points WR coach Mike Wilson and special teams coach Chris Tabor.

Overall, Holmgren has not put Shurmur in the position to be successful.  He has not provided the leadership to bring the team out of the basement of the AFC North.  For the reasons above, I believe that Holmgren must go.

That’s what I think.  Tell us what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He edits  He has also published several novels on and a non-fiction work at

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