While 2009 yielded another disappointing final record, the last month has generated the biggest developments for the Cleveland Browns organization in a decade.
The arrival of Mike Holmgren comes at a steep cost. Not only does team owner Randy Lerner dole out a speculated $50 million to the man known as "The Big Show", but more cash is being laid out to bring in GM Tom Heckert, while the player personnel department is also being rebooted with new hires.
Instead of the Browns expansion-era approach of seeding the organization with unproven executives, this new Browns project injects proven football men at every position of importance.
No expense is being spared.
That's not unusual for the Lerner Browns. But this time, the money is buying experience.
Holmgren, a successful veteran head coach in Green Bay and Seattle, brings his undeniable leadership and offensive prowess to Cleveland. While Holmgren did not fare well as a general manager in Seattle, he wasted little time in identifying the man he wanted to fill that role.
In adding veteran general manager Tom Heckert, Holmgren quickly identified and filled the gaping hole within the Browns organization. Coming to Cleveland via the Philadelphia Eagles organization, Heckert's vast experience as a hands-on participant next to Andy Reid is an invaluable addition for a team whose last ten years have been filled with relatively inexperienced GMs.
Bringing with him a strong reputation for identifying qualify players, Heckert will lead the entire pro and college player personnel departments within the Cleveland Browns organization. One of his first significant moves was revealed on Thursday, when the heads of pro and college personnel, as well as assistants in these respective areas, were notified their services would no longer be required.
Despite the notification, moves within the front office have not been made official due to the fine print in some of the contracts.
- Team president Mike Holmgren was NEVER given an ultimatum that he had to retain head coach Eric Mangini, contrary to what has vastly reported by the local and national media. THIS DID NOT HAPPEN.
- VP Dawn Aponte has NOT been fired by the Browns. Aponte remains employed by the Browns and is likely to depart the organization in the near future, despite a claim in the local media and a popular rumor mill that she has been terminated.
- RB Jerome Harrison was NOT riding the bench because Mangini was clueless as to what type of talent Harrison possesses. Mangini spoke to Harrison and his position coach on more than three occasions regarding the RB. First, health was an issue for the RB, followed by position responsibility and his presence on the practice field.
- Despite Harrison's short-comings, this Cleveland offense required a spark and this player provided the lift and threat in the backfield which has been missing for the past few seasons. With a player of Harrison's potential, a coach must scheme to get the most out of the player in a struggling offensive scheme. Sometimes that requires swallowing hard and accepting a player's limitations. Does Harrison's questionable blocking actually significantly damage a passing attack already limping due to inexperienced WRs and limitations at QB?
- New GM Tom Heckert has held meetings within the Browns training facility with those recently removed from their positions under the previous regime, along with Holmgren. The majority of scouts are being retained for the time being, but there will be changes in this area in time.
- Outside of the potential improvement within the front office of this organization and on the playing field, the alumni of the Browns may gain some benefit with the changes made by the organization. For nearly a year, many alumni have felt put off by Mangini and others. From vehicle parking issues to not having their past access to the facility, many of the past Browns alums are hopeful Holmgren may have the wisdom to provide some of the past Browns remaining in the area an ability to feel at home again.