Mike “the Walrus” Holmgren’s recent comments blasting Washington Redskins owner Dan Schneider for replacing Jim Zorn as the offensive play-caller left speculation that he was interested in coaching for the Redskins and ready to conquer the East Coast after finding success in the Midwest, and the West Coast.
As a former history teacher and grandson to West Point Colonel and military strategist genius Jens Bugge, Holmgren is well aware of the strategies needed to conquer continents, but one shouldn’t look too deep into this.
Holmgren loves the NFL and has been the biggest advocate for competition by serving on the NFL’s Competition Committee. He is also a good friend of Jim Zorn, who was his offensive puppet in Seattle, and Holmgren wanted to come to his defense against Schneider.
The latest rumors, based on the East Coast conquering theory, point to Mike Holmgren taking over the Cleveland Browns as coach and general manager once the NFL season is over.
Don’t get your hopes up Cleveland fans.
First of all, Cleveland is in the Midwest, industrious, and cold. Holmgren loved coaching the Green Bay Packers with its amazing history and fans, but his dislike for cold weather and industrial cities was always prevalent. Cleveland is a just a bigger Green Bay.
Holmgren likes culture and mild temperatures. He wants to “hang” with like minded people. He visits museums and eats in Chinatown. Plus, there is a significant walrus population in the bay area. As a Packer coach, he made it clear that he would only take a coaching position on the West Coast, preferably in the Bay area where he grew up.
We all have dream jobs and dream locations. For “the Walrus,” his dream job is coaching and managing an NFL football team in his dream location, San Francisco. But Mike Singletary currently owns that dream. Fortunately for Holmgren, the Oakland Raiders are a “rock skip” away and are in need of a good coach.
Can’t you just see pictures of “the Walrus” next to a picture of John Madden, both barking at the officials?
Oakland provides the opportunity Holmgren has been waiting for. He wants to settle and get involved in his community, the community he grew up in. He wants to live in a place where his daughters and grandchildren call home.
Of course, there is a major problem with Oakland—Al Davis.
Holmgren is a field general and is looking for “hands-off” management despite the fact that Ron Wolfe provided Holmgren with great players and tremendous success in Green Bay. We all know about Al Davis—horrible first-round draft choices, lawsuits, and questionable trades. Many say he is off his rocker, but let’s take a look at his success.
Five Super Bowl Appearances
Three Super Bowl Titles
One AFL Championship Title
15 Divisional Titles
13 NFL Hall of Famers
The Oakland Raiders are only seven years removed from their last Super Bowl appearance. Al Davis had to be doing something right, and usually it came down to drafting good players and acquiring veteran free agents.
The Raiders recently won games against two solid NFL teams, the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles, and they played the Chargers tough twice. Granted they have been blown out by the Jets, Giants, and Texans, but I can think of five NFL teams that are in a worse situation. What does this mean? The talent is there, but the coaching needs improvement.
Like any great general, “the Walrus” understands that the ego can’t get in the way of a good honest self-assessment. Holmgren is not a good GM—evident by his poor performance in that capacity with the Seahawks. What he can do well is teach and assess players. If they are coachable, he will make them better. If not, he won’t waste his time.
JaMarcus Russell has the skills to play quarterback in the NFL and Holmgren may just be the one who could foster that talent. If not, Bruce Gradkowski also has potential, and there are some excellent quarterbacks in the draft this year. Oakland has a good core of running backs and wide receivers, and an exceptional tight end. Oakland’s secondary is one of the best in the league led by Nnamdi Asomugha.
Despite delirious first-round draft choice mistakes, Davis has done a descent job of drafting players in the middle rounds. Now he needs someone to coach that talent so it can reach its potential. Nobody does that better than Holmgren.
Holmgren has always hired and worked with assistant coaches who were also good teachers. Texas A&M and former Packers coach Mike Sherman would make an excellent offensive coordinator. Nolan Cromwell, Texas A&M assistant coach and former Holmgren offensive coordinator and special team’s guru, could also be recruited to coach special teams.
Cromwell is the mastermind behind the Green Bay Packers exceptional special teams play during their 1996 Super Bowl championship season. He resurrected Desmond Howard’s career and could do the same for Darius Heyward-Bey. Cromwell could serve Oakland well under Holmgren.
Holmgren’s game management and offensive knowledge would instantly make the Raiders better. His firm and fair coaching style would make them disciplined.
As for the Al Davis question?
If Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells can work it out, Davis and Holmgren can. Both Holmgren and Parcells are highly respected in NFL circles and both carry too much clout to be dominated by an “iron-fisted” owner. The pure presence of Holmgren would keep Davis in check.
Sure, Davis would never hire Parcells because Parcells dictates all personnel decisions. Davis would be reluctant to hire Holmgren because he traditionally hires vulnerable coaches he can dominate. But Davis has to recognize that both he and Holmgren can compensate for each other’s weaknesses and strengths. Holmgren won’t give in to the bullying, but he will be strategic with Davis.
Al Davis drafts potential. Parcells demands performance and has no tolerance for potential, but Holmgren, by nature, is a teacher and has the patience and skills to cultivate potential. It would take some pride swallowing by both Holmgren and Davis, but the end result could be a return to Raider greatness.
As for “the Walrus” nickname? Holmgren has always looked like a Walrus. Some mention “Golden Bear,” but Walrus seems to fit better. Holmgren has paid his dues and is worthy of a nickname.