Mike Holmgren did his best work while on sidelines in the NFL. While a head coach, Holmgren took two teams of below average caliber, the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks to the playoffs and eventually the Super Bowl.
In proving he was a high quality head coach and offensive mind, Holmgren gained great respect in league circles.
A quarterback guru is a moniker Holmgren is known by due to those teams he led into winners.
But, when delving deeper into the history of Mike Holmgren as a head coach, the reality may be subjective.
Holmgren the coach cannot be noted as anything but a winner. A huge winner and deserves all the respect and accolade coming his way.
Now, Holmgren's reputation as a quarterback guru can be argued – as he ran the course of success on the playing field with Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck.
When the Cleveland Browns hired Holmgren to become president of the organization; he waltzed into Cleveland with a sterling reputation. Holmgren had won and lost a Super Bowl (Green Bay) and appeared in another as a head coach (Seattle - lost).
The Super Bowl has been a far cry of reality for the Cleveland Browns organization. Just one of four teams to have never been to the Super Bowl, Browns team owner Randy Lerner was able to land Holmgren, a big catch for the Cleveland Browns following a decade plus of futility.
Most Browns fans had been given something positive to grasp upon with the hire of Holmgren.
While Holmgren's name and body of work while a head coach provides an element of respect for a long embarrassed Browns organization, deciphering exactly what Mike Holmgren would provide, other than respect was a long, drawn out process.
Without Holmgren, the Browns would have not gotten Tom Heckert to come to Cleveland as the general manager.
Holmgren was a successful head coach. Surely his coaching expertise would pay huge dividends to a Browns team and coaching staff reeling through a large turnover of personnel and consistent losses on the playing field.
Whereas Holmgren was a successful head coach at the professional level, he was not a successful front office executive when handling the role of executive vice president/general manager/head coach and offensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks between the 1999 and 2002 seasons.
Maybe the vast responsibility was too much for one man to maintain.
When announced as coming aboard to be the president of the Browns in December of 2009, Browns fans believed there was a reason to be excited. A Super Bowl winning coach was coming to save the day in Cleveland.
Holmgren, known as a quarterback guru and master of the West Coast Offense couldn't have landed in Cleveland at a better time. The Browns offense lacking imagination and execution ability should have been an easy target for the experienced Holmgren to pinpoint the deficiencies and find the remedies.
This energy was as much believing then head coach Eric Mangini would be fired and Holmgren would deliver the saving grace to a Browns organization which has struggled mightily since returning to the NFL for the 1999 season.
Mangini was retained for one season under Holmgren, and led the Browns to a 5-11 record. The same record as in the prior season.
Following the season Mangini was fired and the search for a head coach to turn the team around was on.
With Holmgren leading the organization, the belief was his vast network of coaches and former players would be beneficial in landing a proven known commodity to Cleveland.
A well-known coach hire didn't happen.
Pat Shurmur, an assistant coach and first time offensive coordinator in St. Louis for the Rams would be selected to lead the Browns back to respectability and beyond.
In Shurmur's first season with the Browns, the team finished the season with a 4-12 record.
Hardly a season for Shurmur, who also fills the role as offensive coordinator to reminisce about.
As the Browns were worse statistically this past season as was the team which was criticized and booed unmercifully by fans throughout the 2010 season.
Progress sure has a funny look in Cleveland.
As does this list of QB's Holmgren had a hand in selecting and developing while a head coach at the professional level.
Ty Detmer selected in 1992
Mark Brunell selected in 1993
Jay Barker selected in 1995
Kyle Wacholtz selected in 1996
Matt Hasselbeck selected in 1998
Brock Huard selected in 1999
Josh Booty selected in 2001
Jeff Kelly selected in 2002
Seneca Wallace selected in 2003
David Green selected in 2005
Colt McCoy selected in 2010
Outside of Hasselbeck (dealt to Seattle under Holmgren's watch) the level of play or development from those players was strongly nondescript – and any play of consequence was while in the uniform of teams other than the Green Bay Packers.
The most celebrated QB which succeeded under Holmgren was Brett Favre. Favre was obtained by the Green Bay Packers from the Atlanta Falcons by former Packers general manager Ron Wolf.
Favre's career in Green Bay started in the 1992 season, the first season Holmgren was head coach of the Packers. The following season the Packers under Holmgren watch made the playoffs and the fortunes of the Packers changed, as Holmgren's Packers led by Favre would become a Super Bowl contender.
Under Holmgren the Packers appeared in two Super Bowl games, winning one while compiling a 67-percent winning percentage in the regular season and 65-percent in the playoffs between 1992 and 1998.
Following his move to Seattle, Holmgren enlisted former Packers draft selection Matt Hasselbeck to lead under center for Holmgren's Seahawks.
This move proved valuable, as Hasselbeck was under center for the majority of time for the Seahawks on the way to five-playoff and one Super Bowl appearance under the tutelage of Holmgren.
Two seasons into the Holmgren regime in Cleveland and the team has yet to feel the immediate impact Holmgren brought to those in Green Bay and Seattle – while on the sidelines.
Throughout Holmgren's run as an NFL head coach he had two QB's (Favre and Hasselbeck) of note lead his teams to become perennial playoff contestants and Super Bowl contenders.
This Browns organization needs Holmgren to pull one more franchise type QB out of his magic hat.
Maybe in the front office, Mike Holmgren doesn't have the same magic.
For Browns fans the hope of Holmgren's unsuccessful front office experience past does not rear its head again – Holmgren the coach is really what this Browns team needs.
It's unfortunate for Pat Shurmur, the Browns current head coach. Due to the expectation level and respect Holmgren garners, anything other than quick success isn't acceptable.