Now a few days removed from the NFL Draft, it’s usually tradition to assign the Browns a grade for their recent performance. Around the NFL universe, the consensus falls somewhere between a “B minus” and “apocalypse.” Turns out the Pete Prisco’s of the world both really love extra fifth-round picks and really hate John Hughes. Anyway, such an exercise is beyond pointless and purely subjective. Let’s just go with an “Incomplete” and wait a few years.
In the meantime, it’s a great opportunity to use last weekend’s draft as an opportunity to analyze the dynamics of the Browns’ front office.
Or, yet again – let’s try to answer the 50 million dollar question: what exactly does Mike Holmgren do?
First, here’s Holmgren’s infamous pseudo-explanation from last December describing his role as Team President.
"My definition of my role is hire good people and support them the best I can. That's why I don't do press conferences. That's why I don't have a radio show. I've done that for 25 years. I support my people behind the scenes. We have a very competent young coach who will be here for a long time."
-Mike Holmgren – 12/14/11
Seemingly innocuous words coming from the former Packers and Seahawks coach – at least until you remember that Browns’ owner Randy Lerner has essentially handed over his inherited franchise to Holmgren – who in turn has passed along most vital decisions to GM Tom Heckert. But then again, Holmgren was reportedly a central figure in March’s pursuit of Robert Griffin III – a move that could have cost the Browns – a franchise supposedly committed to building their roster through the draft – three first round draft choices.
Yet despite his undefined role, Holmgren does have a penchant for periodically popping up to offer a hand – so to speak.
Last weekend’s draft helped to prove that perhaps “Tinkerer in Chief” would be a more apt title for Holmgren.
On Trading Up For Trent Richardson
“My conversations with Pat and Tom were 'if you even think somebody is going to is jump us, then what are we going to do to prevent that from happening?' We had that conversation many, many times -- how far were we willing to go to do this? Tom did a masterful job of setting that thing up. I thought it was an excellent trade because we got the player who, Lord willing, stay healthy and all those things, is going to be a really fine player for us for a long time.”
-Mike Holmgren – 4/30/12
Read into this what you will, but it appears that Holmgren was the impetus behind the Browns trading three later round draft picks to secure Richardson with the third pick. Perhaps feeling a bit anxious after missing out on RG3 in March, Holmgren didn’t want to again see a top talent slip away. Regardless of the actual or implied nature of a potential Vikings’ trade partner, it’s becoming evident that Holmgren’s earlier failure helped to shape what many viewed as a panicky and unnecessary draft night move.
Either way, Holmgren’s fingerprints are found in the move – for better or worse – and probably serve as one of the only indicators that Holmgren was an active voice in the Browns’ draft room.
On the Browns’ Decision Making Process
“If I'm going to suggest something or push it's going to happen long before this weekend. A discussion as an example, I won't tell you exactly what it was about, but this is typical of what might happen. I said Tom, ‘Do you want to do this?' He said ‘I don't think I do. I think it's too much or too strong or whatever.’ Then I said ‘well, we may have to.’ Then he goes ‘well, if we have to then you have to tell me because I won't do it.’ I said ‘okay, then I might have to tell you.’ ‘Fine.’ But that's a healthy way to go about it, no one's strangling anybody or pushing anybody and we've talked about that. Pat is kind of the peace maker in the group, but we all have our moments. It's real healthy and I trust him a lot."
-Mike Holmgren – 4/28/12
Holmgren’s “typical” example could easily be found in the Browns drafting Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick – instead of waiting until the top of the second round. It’s easy to assume that Heckert –being more experienced in feeling out the flow of a draft – would have waited until the 37th pick to grab Weeden. Considering that three of Heckert’s picks were lost a half hour before the draft began, such a thought makes sense.
However, finding a quarterback is paramount to the Browns’ current plan – and is something that Holmgren has admittedly shown genuine excitement in procuring over the past few years. After all, a bored former offensive coordinator and head coach with no specific job title is eager to begin toying with his next quarterback project.
Speaking of that last project….
On Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy
And how about that new, industrious reporter for ESPN Cleveland? What a go-getter.
Browns Offensive Transformation Means the End of Colt McCoy
“This move was driven from the top. Sources said owner Randy Lerner expressed frustration about the team’s quarterback situation and President Mike Holmgren made it his personal mission in this draft to decide on McCoy’s replacement.”
“When we went through the process of evaluating him,” Shurmur said, “we became very fond of him. We all did, from Randy to Mike and Tom and myself. We came away with saying this is a guy we’d like on our team. And that’s where we are right now.”
And how about Holmgren giving the team’s wayward owner a nice shout-out?
At least based on the last decade of Browns’ football and/or the reason Holmgren is in Cleveland in the first place, it’s hard to imagine Randy Lerner “directing” anything that could be characterized as a football move. However, even an owner as opaque as Lerner realizes the effects of generating positive public relations – which the Browns need almost as badly as a passable on-field product. Drafting a quarterback – the most high profile of NFL positions – helps to soothe the minds of loyal Browns fans.
As for Holmgren’s “mission”, he certainly acted once given a task by Lerner. From chasing RG3 to talking up Ryan Tannehill and finally pulling the trigger on Weeden about 15 spots prematurely, Holmgren certainly did his work in justifying his enormous salary. Along the way, the Browns nearly lost three first round draft picks and Colt McCoy’s name was alternately trashed, praised, recycled and nearly incinerated.
So to answer the question – is that what Mike Holmgren does?