Holmgren Ready to Make Changes

The Big Show talks to the media, and says little of what he plans. But rest assured he's planning changes, and they'll happen quickly.

Mike Holmgren didn't really say anything new in his first conversation with the Cleveland media, a 25-minute conference call held late Monday afternoon.

It sounded a lot like what he uttered during his well-publicized final show of the season on a Seattle radio station on Dec. 18, when he talked repeatedly about an opportunity that might present itself in Cleveland.

But what the new Browns team president said was done so in an even more definitive fashion this time than it was then, and he made it clear that while he's going to listen to others on every topic, he will push hard in certain directions and will have "the final say on everything. I've got all the responsibility I could ever ask for. Now I have to go out and hire good people.

"Randy Lerner (team owner) is my boss. I answer to him. It isn't a one-person decision. It's a consortium of opinion, and if we can't come to a consensus, then I'm here to break the tie."

Sounds like what Lerner wanted all along, a football czar.

Holmgren's most pressing decision, of course, will be made concerning the fate of first-year head coach Eric Mangini. Just as he did on the radio show, he said he hadn't made a decision yet and didn't tip his hand one way or another as to which way he might be leaning.

Indeed, it's not an easy thing to figure out. The Browns came out of the gate horribly, starting 1-10, but have started to play a lot better recently and have taken advantage of a weaker set of opponents to win three in a row and stand at 4-11 with one game left, on Sunday at home against the 7-8 Jacksonville Jaguars, who have lost three straight and are hanging in the AFC playoff race by a mere thread.

"I'm not a fan of the quick hook. I didn't like it when I was coaching," said Holmgren, who was a head coach himself for a combined 17 seasons with first Green Bay (1992-98) and Seattle (1999-2008), compiling a 174-112 regular-season record and taking teams to the Super Bowl three times, winning once with the Packers following the 1996 season.

"I believe one year is not enough time to prove if you can get the job done, yet I want to do what's right for the Cleveland Browns. That's my job. I want to see the team doing better and the organization functioning as it should.

"What the team did the last three weeks is a credit to the coaches and the players. But I'm not going to make a judgment on just one, two or three games. I'm going to look at the total body of work. I've got to see progress and things going in the right direction."

Holmgren is even further away from making a decision at quarterback.

"That question has to be answered down the road," he said. "But the one thing I know is that your quarterback has to play well for your team to be successful."

Holmgren said he has a five-year contract and added, without elaboration, that he will hire a general manager. Holmgren, the GM and the coach will look at the Browns and try to figure out how to get them back on track. This is not a total reconstruction job, in Holmgren's estimation. He believes Mangini and his regime have laid some of the pieces in place that can be carried forward regardless of who the coaches are.

"If you keep blowing it up, it becomes harder to fix it," he said. "I don't think you need to start over again, blow it up again."

No matter what needs to be done, though, Holmgren is anxious to get started, which will happen on Monday when he arrives in Cleveland.

"The Browns have such a wonderful tradition," he said. "I can understand the fans' frustration (about the losing). It's a little bit why I took the job, to take something and tweak it and fix it. We want to make the fans proud of their football team again."

The presence of Lerner was the main lure, though, Holmgren insists.

"The reason I'm in Cleveland now is Randy Lerner," he said. "Clearly, he wants his football team to do well. I took the job because of the owner. He cares that much."

So does Holmgren. While saying, "I want to make it clear I'm not coaching anymore" – at least for this year, though he was vague on what could happen beyond that, an issue that could loom large as early as 2011 -- Holmgren is a big proponent of the West Coach offense. As such, he intimated he will lobby with his coach for its implementation.

"I believe I was a pretty decent coach and had a system I really believe in and has been successful," he said. "I believe I can be pretty persuasive, and if I don't convince my coach to do something, then I wasn't persuasive enough."

Now, how soon will all these decisions start being made? Don't blink next week, for you could miss them.

In addition to being head coach, Holmgren was also general manager of the Seahawks for the first four years of his tenure there. When asked about what he learned from that experience and how it may apply it to his new job in Cleveland, he said, "If I had it to do over again, I would make the more important changes sooner."

So by this time next week, the Browns should already begin to look different than they do now.

Again, the definitive way in which he said it left no doubt as to that, which, considering the way the Browns have consistently struggled in this expansion era, isn't a bad thing at all.

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