There comes a time in the evolution of a National Football League franchise when a singular moment can alter its course.
That moment clearly arrived for the Cleveland Browns when Mike Holmgren said yes to Randy Lerner.
For too many years, the Browns have lacked a front office executive who makes decisions with no equivocation. Holmgren, based on early returns, is the antithesis.
He's bold, decisive, communicates well and appears to be a deep thinker. He's the kind of man this franchise has needed. Too bad it took 11 years for the ownership to recognize that.
Given the speed with which the new Browns president does business, there can be no question that it doesn't take long for him to make up his mind.
On board comes new General Manager Tom Heckert and voila! Down goes the entire pro personnel department. In one fell swoop, Holmgren and Heckert scythed them in what amounted to a bloodless coup.
And see ya later, Mike Keenan and Dawn Aponte (not to worry; it'll happen). Thanks for all of your contributions and good luck in your next venture. You won't be missed.
At long last, the losing aura is being cleared out at 76 Lou Groza Blvd. The stench is being eradicated systematically. The scouting department likely will be the next to go as soon as the college draft concludes in April.
With one notable exception – when he turned soft with regard to his inherited head coach – Holmgren has been very large (in more ways than one) and decidedly in charge. He knows what he wants and reaches the bottom line with staunch alacrity.
It's normal, almost customary, that when a new front-office executive arrives, he brings along his own people. The ones, you would think, with whom he feels the most comfortable. That's what makes the Mangini retention so puzzling.
The head coach, whose Cheshire cat grin at a recent news conference was so telling, will need to succeed almost immediately if he wants to ensure future employment in Berea. And if I read Holmgren correctly, he is counting heavily on Mangini getting off to a strong start in the upcoming season.
There is no question he has a vision for his new team, one that almost certainly will take the Browns from their stagnating stage and elevate them to a stature of relevancy at the very least within the next couple of years, if not sooner.
Success has been a constant companion for Holmgren since he emerged from the shadows of Bill Walsh all those years ago. And there's no reason to believe he will not continue along those lines in Cleveland.
It excites the fandom to know the franchise is finally in the hands of someone who actually knows what he's doing. It excites them when he starts to deconstruct what he found when he arrived and reconstruct it in his image.
That image, of course, has acted as a breeding ground for his success, something with which Browns fans have had a problem identifying since 1999. That, almost assuredly, is about to change.
For 11 seasons, this franchise worked hard to redefine the meaning of the word moribund. For 11 seasons, it wallowed in self pity with the likes of Carmen Policy, Dwight Clark, Butch Davis and Phil Savage, a.k.a. the Gang That Couldn't Manage Straight.
No longer will that be the case.
And this is just the beginning. More moves are virtually certain as the offseason commences and Holmgren begins to shape his vision for the Browns and take the club in a direction that engenders excitement.
Gone, finally, are the vestiges of the losing culture that permeated the franchise for way too long. And gone, finally, are the annual hopes that maybe, just maybe, this will be the Browns' year only to once again experience the disappointment.
In their place now are real hopes based on the arrival of a man whose reputation as a winner preceded him; a man who knows what it takes to craft championship teams; a man who has something to prove to the rest of the professional football world.
Now, Lerner can sit back and let his people do their jobs, knowing that this time, he got it right. This time, he can be assured a large degree of achievement will be attached to their efforts. That is something he could only hope for in the past.