BEREA, OH - MAY 01: Team president Mike Holmgren of the Cleveland Browns looks on during rookie mini camp at the Cleveland Browns Training and Administrative Complex on May 1, 2010 in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Mike Holmgren is trying to build a contender in Cleveland.
This one guy Mike Holmgren used to be the coach of the Seahawks. He was, well, still is beloved by Seattle fans as our own big ole 'papa bear' or 'the walrus'. I just made that 'papa bear' thing up but that's sort of the way people see Holmy. He's lovable - jolly, for the most part unless you're his quarterback, seems really nice, gives a good interview. He's got that soothing, "everything is going to work out just fine" type of voice and demeanor. He's the kind of guy you'd like to watch the game with over some beers.
I was at his last game as the Seahawks head coach - a snowy, frigid affair in which the Seahawks beat the Brett Favre-led Jets and then pelted him with snowballs as he ran off the field. Classy. After that, Holmgren took his farewell tour around the stadium and I have to say there were quite a few tears being shed, and not just from the biting wind. This man brought Seattle to the Super Bowl and to the brink of a Championship. He made Seattle relevant again. He's a future hall-of-famer and he was ours for a while.
He's not anymore, but I doubt there are many Seahawks fans that don't still love him.
Mike Holmgren took over as the President of the Cleveland Browns in December of 2009, nearly a year after he and the Seahawks failed to come to an agreement that would give him final say and ultimate power over the team. The Browns did offer him this, and he accepted. He stuck with Eric Mangini, the Head Coach at the time, to finish out the season, despite a dismal 1-11 record at the time. Following Holmgren's hiring, the Browns auspiciously won their final four games that season, beating the Steelers, Chiefs, Raiders, and Jaguars to finish 5-11.
As president, he has a big part of the Drafting process and ultimately the final say on all decisions. We know that he had some good choices and some bad choices for the Seahawks but let's talk about how he's done for his new team.
I know it's pretty impossible to judge a Draft until probably five years down the line but overall I thought the Walrus did a pretty good job in his first year in Cleveland. Joe Haden is an emerging elite cornerback, TJ Ward is a solid safety that started every game for the Browns in his first season, and Colt McCoy is one of those guys that could end up being a super value pick coming in the third round. He's got his critics of course, but he came in and took over at QB in his rookie year, starting 8 games, and as a third round rookie QB he held his own. Not shabby.
Add in there the trade for Peyton Hillis and a couple of Draft picks for Brady Quinn and you can see Holmgren's still got it. Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 TDs last season on a 4.4 yards per carry average. Brady Quinn didn't even get into one game. Mike Holmgren > Josh McDaniels.
The Browns went 5-11 again in 2010 and Mike Holmgren fired Eric Mangini, the holdover coach from the previous regime. They're rebuilding. They needed a new direction and new leadership. He hired former Rams OC Pat Shurmur to be his new head coach.
I have to say that I LOVED Holmgren and the Browns' 2011 Draft. I loved Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, Greg Little and Owen Marecic going in for my Seahawks and had heard a lot of great things about USC's Jordan Cameron so I thought the Browns knocked their first five picks out of the park. It's obviously way too early to tell if I'm right and if those picks were smart, but both Taylor and Sheard are starting and playing well, and Little and Marecic have broken into the starting lineup after a few games.
Colt McCoy has completed 55% of his passes for 1200 yards, 8 TDs to 3 interceptions. Hillis and Hardesty split carries for the most part. Greg Little, Ben Watson and Mohammed Massoquoi are their leading pass catchers.
The Browns are now 2-3; they've beaten the Colts and Dolphins, two of the most god awful teams in the NFL right now, and lost to the Bengals, Titans, and Raiders. The Seahawks are road underdogs to this team. I'm not sure what that tells you about us.
They're not there yet but I honestly really like the direction that Holmgren is taking the Browns. Because I love Holmgren, I curiously watch the Browns and root for them when they're not playing the Hawks. I hope Papa Bear builds them a really great team, because it just solidify's his legacy as one of the greatest football minds ever.
It's natural to wonder where the Seahawks would be if Holmgren had never left. Holmgren's drafts here in Seattle, at times, kept us scratching our heads but imagine how different this team would look if the Walrus was still in charge.
Honestly. Just take a minute to think about how different this team would look if Holmgren had stayed.
You could count the players left from Holmgren's time here in Seattle on two hands. Maybe one hand. That would not be the case if he hadn't left, I can tell you that much.
I know it's apples and oranges and the situations are worlds apart, but this week's game is pretty interesting because in some small way, we'll get to see how Holmgren's Cleveland rebuild compares to that of Pete Carroll and John Schneider's. These two teams have a lot in common - they're both young, have a lot of inexperience, and a lot of hope for the future. It should be fun.