Holmgren: “Holmgren just wasn’t the man for the job.”
CLEVELAND—When Browns President Mike Holmgren fired coach Eric Mangini on January 3rd after the team’s second straight 11-loss season, he knew the search for a replacement would not be easy. Many big-name candidates were considered, including Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and Mike Holmgren himself.
At the end of what was an exhaustive search, the Browns seem to have found their man in St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, and not “crusty old Holmgren.”
"Pat is a bright, young man who grew up in football and around the coaching profession," Holmgren said. "I came away from our interview very impressed with him as a person, his extensive knowledge of the game and his track record of success as an assistant coach in this league. Most importantly, I feel as though he possesses the necessary qualities which make him the right man to lead our football team."
His interview with himself, however, was in his words, “a major letdown.”
“In meeting with Coach Holmgren, I was really surprised as to how much of the game had passed him by in such a brief period of time. We discussed strategy, personnel decisions and asked for his overall philosophy on what builds a winner in this league… you know, all the stock questions. Honestly, there were moments when I thought I was going to doze off. It took everything in my power not to roll my eyes or look disgusted. I hate to say it, but it was one of the worst interviews I’ve ever been a part of. He really shit the bed.”
Coach Holmgren, the winner of three NFC Championships and Super Bowl XXXI, is thought to be one of the greatest coaches in NFL history.
“Look, I get it. It’s Mike Holmgren we’re talking about. He’s probably going to wind up in the Hall of Fame someday,” said Holmgren, as he removed his eye glasses and massaged the brim of his nose. “That being said, Pat Shurmur reminds me of a younger version of the ‘ole Walrus. This is our chance to build a strong foundation around one of the best young coaches out there. He really impressed us and he showed up on time, unlike some people. Plus, I think it’s been almost a month since Holmgren trimmed his moustache. I can’t see his lips move when he talks anymore. I don’t trust that.”
The 45-year-old Shurmur will become the Browns 13th full-time coach Friday in a news conference at their Berea, Ohio headquarters.
“Pat Shurmur is not a household name, but you have to respect how he brought Sam Bradford along in such a short period of time down there in St. Louis,” said President Holmgren. Under Shurmur, Bradford set rookie league records for completions and attempts. He also led St. Louis to a 7-9 record—the Rams were 1-15 a year earlier—while throwing for 3,512 yards, second-most ever for a rookie behind Peyton Manning's 3,739 in 1998.
“I asked Coach Holmgren his thoughts on how to groom a young quarterback, and after staring out the window for what seemed to be an eternity, he asked me how I liked Cleveland. That was followed by a trip to the bathroom. When Coach returned, he treated me to a long-winded story about his days coaching with Bill Walsh in San Francisco. I then asked Holmgren how he felt the game had changed since the late 1980s and his answer was a rambler to say the least. I’m pretty sure he referenced Ronald Reagan twice.”
Cleveland’s top football executive has had to make several key decisions early in his tenure. Many in the Cleveland area consider his choice a gamble, but anyone familiar with President Holmgren knows he likes to roll the dice from time to time.
“I’m very eager to get Pat Shurmur up and running this week as our new head coach. I don’t consider this a much of a gamble at all. I would consider hiring someone who wears sweatpants to an interview a gamble, though.” Holmgren said as he fake sneeze-coughed the words 'Mike Holmgren.'"
Terms of Shurmur's deal were not immediately available, but it was expected to be a four-year package, which would have been risky for a man of Holmgren’s progressed age.