BEREA, Ohio—Browns president Mike Holmgren spoke to the local media in a public forum for the first time in some time and addressed a number of subjects including Peyton Hillis' situation, Colt McCoy, Pat Shurmur and his role with the Browns. Here is a breakdown in a question and answer format.
Q: You said some things to a Seattle radio station that led some fans to think you were not planning on staying with the Browns a long time. How would you respond?:
Holmgren: "Did they say I was leaving Monday after the game? Holy smokes! I did a radio show with a guy I used to do a show in Seattle with. A lot is tongue in cheek. I said I'm 63 and in 10 years I'd be 73. I didn't think much about it and this is important to me, I mean this.
"Getting the Cleveland Browns to a point where the fans are proud of the way we're playing and getting to the Super Bowl, I'm all in. Kathy and I are living here and we're all in. We're involved in the community and people shouldn't think too much of it."
Q: How long do you think it will take?:
Holmgren: "How long will it take? That's a tough question. In Green Bay, it took five years and Seattle it was seven years. We've been able to do it, my group, in about five years. You have to have good drafts. I have the utmost confidence in Tom Heckert. You have to find the quarterback to get you there and that's as big as anything."
Q: Are you committed to making sure the Browns are successful, even if it takes more than the five years on your contract?:
Holmgren: "I'm in. Absolutely. I want to feel I'm doing a good job. I don't want to waste anybody's time. I think we have a good plan. I don't know what the future holds. I love Cleveland and we like it here. We're not excited about the weather right now, but it's good. I signed up to do something here and I intend to do it. This is not rocket science. There are no conspiracy theories. You need good players who are coached well and I believe that's where we're headed. We have a good coaching staff and we are getting better players. What I would ask is to spread the word. Distractions are not helping anybody and those distractions are sometimes hurting us."
Q: Address the Peyton Hillis situation?:
Holmgren: "First of all, we're not going to talk about contract negotiations publicly ever about any player, but Peyton along with a couple other players in the league are in the last year of their contracts. A couple others haven't signed extensions—Matt Forte as an example. You know this already, we tried to sign an extension (with Hillis),but there was a difference of opinion and there we were. Was everyone trying? We were all trying to get something done but it hasn't happened. We always encourage players to have great year to reach those goals."
Q: Does the sickness and injury situation affect the negotiations?:
Holmgren: "The added drama of the sickness and injury. A lot of things have been written and said that are so far from the truth it really adds road blocks to our team's development. Peyton was sick and couldn't play and all sort of things were said, but he couldn't play he was sick. Most recently he pulled a hamstring and most were concerned what was happening.
"There isn't this major conspiracy. He couldn't go but because of the previous stuff that happened. (The hamstring injury) became more prevalent. No one has called off negotiations. It's still floating around."
Q: Does Hillis have a future with the Browns?
Holmgren: "I talked with Peyton (Wednesday) and I told him it's important to do the best you can do. With the trading deadline another interesting thing. There's no way I'm trading Peyton Hillis. Why would I trade one of our best players?
"If he has a good year, he'll have opportunities. I told him yesterday that we want him back. With Tom (Heckert) and Kennard McGuire, his agent, I don't think anybody has pushed anybody against the wall, it seems kind of quiet. Let's let Peyton play and see how it goes."
Q: What about Colt McCoy?:
Holmgren: "Until you find the (quarterback), you have to find that person. I know it's not healthy to change quarterbacks, but you have to find that person. We're not pushing (Colt) anywhere. He's a great kid, now let's let him play and see what we have.
"Colt is just a pup and he's getting banged around out there. He will play this season and Lord willing, he'll play and we'll evaluate how he does at the end of the season. That's an important part of the equation."
"He's a rookie with a new coach, new signal caller, new system. Joe Montana came in every year believing he had to prove himself. Let's see how he plays. Are we committed to him? Absolutely. Does it guarantee him the stating position? I want him to do well. Everyone's rooting for him."
Q: How do you evaluate his progress with uncertainty on the line and at the receiver position?:
Holmgren: "When you evaluate every guy on every play, you have to be brutally honest. If (QB coach) Mark Whipple says Colt executes properly or if this guy misses the block or the pass is off. They get a grade as a coaching staff. You must be brutally honest with what happened. That's the only way you have any chance of fixing the problem is. On the surface it might seem tricky, but the coaches will know."
Q: What about his accuracy issues?:
Holmgren: " I think that's overstated. He's missed a couple and every quarterback in the league has missed a couple. It's either mechanics or footwork that caused the ball to be missed. That is not a worry for me. His strength and accuracy is not a concern."
Q: Why haven't you spoken to the fans in Cleveland more?:
Holmgren: "The reason I didn't intend to be as formal. The reason I tried to back away from those things is I wanted Tom (Heckert) and Pat (Shurmur) to speak for the football team. Moving forward, that's the way it should be done."
Q: Does it bother you that information is coming from within the organization?:
Holmgren: "If it's coming from someone in the organization, they are not going to be part of the organization. It's an emotional business. I've seen this many, many times.
"It really bothers me when the unnamed source or however that's phrased. We're trying to put together a good football team and a good organization and that's distracting."
Q: Does it bother you that players speak out?:
Holmgren: "I played quarterback a few years ago and I did so for a long time. I've coached and been around for a long time and have never ever talked to a receiver that wasn't open. If I throw you the ball you have to catch it."
"I think what happens is you go up to any guy and ask if you want to see the ball more, they're going to say ‘Yes'. Jerry Rice used to come in and say I need the ball more. But that's how it is. I'm not bothered that they want the ball, but there's a way to do that. I think they get caught in the emotions after the game. I'd prefer if those discussions would take place in our offices."
Q: Do you think Shurmur will add an offensive coordinator and will he still call plays?
Holmgren: "There's no way he's ready to relinquish the job in his first year. I don't expect him to change calling the game, but in all likelihood we will hire an offensive coordinator for next year and that will free up the head coach. That's how I think it will go, but I think we'll sit down and evaluate it. I think he would want to call plays. It's part of the fun of the job."
Q: How is your relationship with Randy Lerner?:
Holmgren: "Randy's tremendous. He's in Cleveland more and we're together more. It's about as good as it can get for a person in my position. He's very intuitive and I can't say enough about him. He's been a man of his word. He cares about the browns and I'm a very lucky man to have an owner like Randy."
"I think business is good considering how the browns have been the last few years. We sell a lot of tickets and if we have empty seats it doesn't mean we ddnt sell the tickets. I don't anticipate any black outs this year. As the team gets better that will give a boost to a business model."
Q: What are your feelings about the wide receivers?:
Holmgren: "Going into the season I didn't think we had a fair enough evaluation of the receiving corps based on last year. Did we really know who we had? We had a strategy in the off-season to try and use our money to extend some of our players. We also had a couple of free agents we were looking at and lost out. We drafted Greg Little and thought he could help out right away. We like our receivers and they're all young. If they can all mature we can have something. It's going to take some time. I like the guys we have and a lot of them are pretty big guys and I think they can be pretty good."
Q: Are you committed to building through the draft?:
Holmgren: " We've added guys like Haden, Ward, McCoy, Hardesty, Pinkston, Taylor, Sheard. We have a lot of young players starting and that's how you build it and I'm optimistic but it takes some time. To build it properly, it takes time. When we're in position to add key free agents, we will."
Q: How is Shurmur doing and has the criticism surprised you?:
Holmgren: "My first seven games I was 2-5 in Green Bay. One of those wins was just a miracle. I think when you're in this business it shouldn't surprise you. I think Pat's doing a great job. I think he's weathered this storm cloud. He didn't have an off season and other things of a rookie coach. The players are listening to him. I meet with him Tuesday every week. I like him a lot. When you're the signal caller, you look at every call you make did I do the right thing and you go through that and you're very hard on yourself. It's important if you made an error, you correct it. I also told him not to beat himself up, you're a good coach and stuff happens and you have another game next week. He's doing fine."