The fact new Browns president Mike Holmgren did not fire head coach Eric Mangini stunned all of the so-called experts, to put it mildly. But it also made it clear that Holmgren meant it when he said recently, "We don't want to lose good people," as he reviews the organization from top to bottom. He obviously considers Mangini "good people."
In the bigger picture, though, what's important is that Holmgren, in addition to looking at people, is evaluating the structure of the organization and trying to come up with a framework of what he wants it to look like in a general sense. "We aren't coming up with job descriptions yet. That will come later, down the road," he said earlier this month.
This is occurring at a good time. The re-shuffling was needed – not wholesale changes, mind you, just some re-shuffling and alterations. More specifically, what is even better is the fact Holmgren will be here for a while, and so, too, will be the organizational structure he sets up. Just as they have made a number of changes on the field over the 11 years of this expansion era, the Browns have also done the same within their organization overall. In reality, the only constant has been change.
While all organizations are constantly evolving and looking for ways to get better, too much change is never a good thing. Things – and more importantly, people – aren't allowed to grow, develop and mature. They get uprooted and replanted somewhere else before that happens. Holmgren knows he needs to change all that changing. He said at the press conference to introduce general manager Tom Heckert and executive vice president of business operations Bryan Wiedmeier, and to re-introduce head coach Eric Mangini, "We don't want to keep having these kinds of press conferences."
Press conferences aren't held for the hiring of people for lower-echelon positions, but the same line of thinking applies – that is, get everything and everybody set up and then let it and them alone for a while. No change – no news – will be good news in this case for the Browns. The biggest thing that Holmgren brings to the club is stability. He's 61 years old and stayed at his previous two jobs, with the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers, forever – or seemingly forever, by NFL standards. The Browns need him to stay at his new job a good long time, too, to establish a new precedent.
By changing coaches – the Browns would have been looking for their fifth full-time head coach of the expansion era had they let Mangini go – Holmgren would have been giving that revolving door another healthy push. Though no one expected it, in a lot of ways, it was the right decision at the right time for the Browns.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had three head coaches since 1969. Now, every season during that time has not been rosy. There have been a lot of down seasons, such as this one, when the Steelers made a free fall all the way from the Super Bowl championship to out of the playoffs. For all their struggles through the years, the Cincinnati Bengals have had the same head coach, Marvin Lewis, since 2003. Having just finished his seventh season, he is, by far, the dean of AFC North head coaches. The Baltimore Ravens have had just three head coaches in their history, which began in 1996 after the franchise's move from Cleveland, and just two since the Browns came into the NFL in 1999.
Just as is the case when they constantly change their uniform design, teams that are in a perpetual state of changing coaches are without an identity and a plan. They're searching for such. The Browns haven't changed their uniforms – their god-awful brown pants notwithstanding – but they have constantly changed coaches. As for team presidents, Holmgren is the fourth the new Browns have had. That's too many as well.
After Holmgren gets this thing the way he wants it, the only change the Browns will need – and they and their fans will want to see – is in the standings as they shed their struggling ways of the expansion era. If that indeed happens, then it will no doubt stun a lot of the so-called experts, to put it mildly.