Browns president Mike Holmgren will retire at the end of the season. Here is a transcript from his press conference with the Cleveland media. Holmgren talks about a number of Browns issues including the future and the past.
(Opening statement) – "I'd like to start off by thanking Randy Lerner, first of all, for giving me the opportunity to come to Cleveland. My year off when he came to visit me in Arizona, he made a very compelling case to come in and try and help the organization. After talking with my wife Kathy, we decided to do that and I referred to it as my last great adventure. During the process, during these three years, I have to say I couldn't have asked any more from an owner than what Randy gave to me. He hired me to do a specific job and in some instances be his surrogate at league meetings and different things, and he was very clear about that. Some of the things that most people didn't get to see I saw firsthand, if not at our weekly lunches, our many, many talks. The passion he had for this city and this team, but as you all know, he was uncomfortable being out front and that's why he asked me to come. I'll be forever grateful about having the opportunity. He forced me to challenge myself in areas of football that I had not been in before, certainly the business side of this organization and the league meetings where I represented him with the other owners in privileged session. It was a tremendous learning experience for me and I think we did a lot of great things here. The tough part and the part that I'll feel bad about is for Randy, I wasn't able to help put a winning product on the field, at least enough yet. He certainly deserved that and that's really what I wanted. While we fixed up a number of things, that was one thing that we haven't been able to fix yet. Now, I think there's light at the end of the tunnel and I'll go into that a little bit later, but thanks again to Randy Lerner. A special guy and I wish him nothing but the best moving forward after this time.
Secondly, I would like to congratulate Jimmy Haslam and his family, and Joe Banner. Jimmy is a special person as well. I knew when he purchased the team that my role was going to change dramatically because Jimmy wants to be more of a hands on owner and do a lot of the things that I was asked to do by Randy. I've known Joe Banner for a long time. When he and Jeffrey Lurie came, and Jeffrey bought the Philadelphia Eagles and Joe became the president there, my good friend Andy Reid became the coach. We've been very close over the years. Jimmy will bring a great enthusiasm. Those of you who have had a chance to talk with him, I'm sure most of you have if not all and right away you see what type of a person he is. He's out front, he's enthusiastic and he has a lot of energy. He wants this to be right, he wants this to go well and he's committed to do that. I don't think there have been many things in his life where he has committed to it that hasn't happened. I think it's a wonderful thing for the city of Cleveland and a great thing for the Browns organization. So congratulations to Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner.
In the past there have been a few instances where people weren't sure if I was going to honor my contract or the things we've talked about in the past and the rumors that would crop up on occasion. I really want you to know, if you didn't believe me before, I want you to believe me now. Kathy and I, our time in Cleveland has been special. She has been very involved with Catholic Charities and MedWish and the things that she does at our own church, any number of things in the community, that are kind of behind the scenes. We made great friendships here and I could say the same thing. It was always my intention to honor my contract if not more, but this business, at times, things happen and the sale of a football team certainly changes the dynamic and it changed the dynamic for me. My time was shorter than I had hoped, but I understand what happened. I just wish the people that are going to be here well and I will always care about this place and how we've been treated since we've been here. It has been good.
Lastly, before we get into questions, I just want to give a thank you to the people in the organization. Change took place three years ago; we had to make some changes in the organization. This is a tremendous workforce here with the Cleveland Browns. There are people, if you're talking about sales, if you're talking about marketing, if you're talking about guest services, if you're talking about community resources, community relations, any department you're talking about in this building, you have people that care and are very good at their jobs and have been through
some tough stuff. There have been a lot of changes in this organization and the veterans who have been through all those changes, they come to work every day with a smile on their face and they're going hard to do their jobs well. I always appreciated that about the people here. It's a good workforce and my hope is that they will all be able to experience the joy of winning. I really think that's going to happen and they deserve it. Our time in Cleveland has been special and we'll have great memories of this place."
(On if he is going to stay until the end of the season) – "Well, when Jimmy and I have talked about this, we talked about a transition period. How that actually sorts itself out moving forward I can't define it so much Tom (Withers) right now. I want to feel like I'm contributing. My emphasis is going to be in the football side of it. I don't have to do the business stuff anymore. If I can help one player be a little better this season or one coach be a little better with some of the things that I know how to do and I feel like I'm contributing, then that could happen. We're just going to take it a day at a time and see how it goes."
(On if he leaves here unfulfilled or disappointed that he couldn't get done what he wanted to get done) – "I think so. I think that's the one thing that, as I said earlier, I so much wanted to put a product on the field and win some games for Randy Lerner. I feel there will be moments down the road where I'll look back and say, ‘Shoot, that's the one thing.' I feel real good about a lot of the other things we did, but I wish we had won a few more games. Like I said, I believe now, you've seen the team play this year, you've seen the quarterback play, you know we're young, all those things. If we can keep that together, if they can stay together, there's going to be good times ahead."
(On if he ever went to Randy Lerner and said that using him on the business side of things was somewhat of a detriment to the team because of his extensive football knowledge) – "Early on, I had a lot of thoughts about those types of meetings, the budget all that kind of stuff. I was hired to do a job and I was going to do it, I'm stubborn that way. That's the first thing. The second thing is, my philosophy coming in, and I've talked to you about it before. As far as the head coach was concerned, is that I'm going to help him and support him, but I'm not going to be overbearing. He's coaching the team, I'm not. I tried to balance that the best way I could. To answer your question specifically, no I never did go to Randy and say those things that you mentioned. I'm stubborn enough to say, ‘No, I'm going to get this all done and do it this way,' and I tried to do it that way."
(On his initial reaction to Randy Lerner selling the team) – "I remember distinctly. I was sitting on my deck in California about ready to come back here. In fact, it was about a week before that, and he phoned me, and said you might have to come back sooner, or I might have to come out there. We should talk about this. To be honest with you, the initial thing was surprise. Not many of these transactions take place historically just before the start of the season. It has been my experience that they take place in March or something like that. No, I can honestly say I didn't think about where I fit into this whole thing in the beginning, because it was just a phone call. That deserves a chance to sit down and hash through a bunch of stuff before I jump to any conclusions. My initial reaction was just surprise."
(On if at any point he thought there was a job for him here with Jimmy Haslam as owner) – "I don't think so Pat (McManamon), I don't think so. Quite honestly, it hasn't been talked about and I understand that."
(On if he would have accepted the position if he knew the team possibly would be sold within three years) – "You know what? If it's okay with you guys during this thing, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals. I wanted the job. It was an attractive job. I thought it'd be a wonderful challenge for me and it was. I can't answer the question."
(On if he would have accomplished what he set out to do if he had finished his contract) – "I think we're close, I really do. We've been in every ball game this year really, you could say. I think it's going to be okay. No one has a crystal ball with this. The way I looked at it, and the way I've talked to you about it, Eric (Mangini) was here the one year and this is really Pat's (Shurmur) second year. Given the change that we've had and how young we are and stuff, and you throw in the lockout a little bit, which probably skewed things just a little bit. It's still very early in some sort of development program, but I think we've had good drafts and Tom's (Heckert) done a great job in the draft. The question was have we found our quarterback? If you feel okay about that, any of us, then you say, ‘Okay, now you got a chance to do this.' I think
(On if he thinks he will be in the way staying here) – "I've thought about that Tom (Withers), honestly. I've talked to Jimmy a lot about this. He has my assurance that I'm not going to rock the boat. I'm not going to get in anyone's way, that way. I still have my office. I got my lunch ticket, my parking space still. The way I presented it to Jimmy and he has been great about it. Joe and I have talked a little bit when he was in here, but not about this. We'll talk when he comes in this week. I think I can help a little bit, but if it gets cumbersome or uncomfortable for anybody, then heck, I don't want that to happen."
(On if he'll give a pitch to Joe Banner about keeping Shurmur and Heckert after the season) – "I haven't talked to Joe about it. I've talked to Jimmy about it a fair amount. Not so much keeping them, just trying to talk to him about it. He's very open. Jimmy, as you might know, he asks a million questions, he wants to learn. We have talked about both those men, but we talk about a lot of stuff. Then it's up to him, it's up to them now to decide what they're going to do. I think he has been very clear, from as much as I can tell, how he plans to handle this. He's going to wait until the end of the season, and then decide on a bunch of stuff. Both Pat and Tom, Jimmy knows what I feel about them. I don't think you can get a better general manager, in my own opinion, than Tom Heckert. I think he's tremendous. (A) Hard working guy, great personality, knows the college players, knows how to put a winning team together. He's very good. Pat is a bright young coach. He hates it when I call him young, a bright new coach, who has had to go through some stuff that not many of us had to go through when we were starting out. I believe in him as well. I talk about that type of thing with Jimmy all the time."
(On how he'd handle it personally if Heckert and Shurmur are let go after season) – "This is a business for adults and grownups. If you're too sensitive about stuff that goes on, then you probably should be doing something else, because change does take place. When there is change, particularly new ownership, there are a lot of things going through people's mind on how to set up a team. I think the value or the advantage that we have now is Joe knows those guys. They worked together. Joe and Tom worked together a long time. Joe and Pat, who was at Philadelphia, they know one another. I believe Joe said last week, he likes them all. He respects them all and likes them all. They'll be judged. The judgment comes after the seasons over, and they sit down and decide how they want to do it."
(On how he will be recognized for his time with the Browns record being 10-29) – "That's not very good. I know what we tried to do, and I know how we foundationally were trying to build the team. That I know. Philosophically, I wouldn't change that. I wouldn't. I think that's the way you build a team, if you have time to do it. The record speaks for itself, and I think ultimately people are judged on how many games you win. There's a lot more that goes into, as I learned, a lot more that goes into an organization than that, although that's the thing that people look at. There are some things I feel very good about what we did here. We didn't win enough games though. We did not win enough games. I'm hoping that table is set. I'm hoping that table is set for the future."
(On if he wasted a year keeping Eric Mangini) – "You know what? I don't think so. I've been asked that before. I don't think so. I think when I made the decision to keep Eric, I thought a lot about that. I just felt it wasn't fair to give a guy only one year. I don't think that's fair. Hopefully, I'll always make my decisions, any decisions I make, whether it's as president of the Browns or disciplining my children, or whatever, with a sense of fairness mixed in there. It was a big decision, but Eric's a good man. He is a good man. I just didn't think it was right to just to have him have one year. That's why I did it."
(On if he had more of a say on the quarterbacks drafted) – "I think that's a very good question and it's fair. I don't think my imprint was any heavier. Tom Heckert is our general manager and he along with the head coach and then I have some input. Really, those two guys, they're going to make football decisions, personnel decisions for the most part. I'd gone through that before. You experiment, you take chances, you hope, (and) then you find the guy. Then you go. In our case here, when I first got here, I was fairly certain of the quarterbacks here. I wasn't the lone ranger, but the quarterbacks who were here probably couldn't get it done for you. That's what the feeling was. Then we were without a quarterback. We had no quarterback. We thought it was important that we get a veteran, Jake Delhomme, we signed him. (We) started off; remember in the preseason, everyone was happy with how Jake was doing. Unfortunately,
he got hurt in the first game or second game, whenever he got hurt. Seneca Wallace, I thought we did that, because he had been with me, he was familiar. I was familiar with him, more familiar. As a backup quarterback, I thought he was as good as you could get in the league because of his running ability; he throws the ball very well. That's what went into that. We were going to draft a quarterback every year as long as I was here, and Tom was here, where on the draft, we weren't sure. That's how we did it with Colt (McCoy), if you remember. We had him there, he was third round, wasn't a first round pick, but a third round pick. We said let's go. Colt had some really nice moments on the field and now, we're here with (Brandon) Weeden. Every one of those quarterbacks had a story. Yeah, I contributed to the selection, but I was just probably a smaller part of that."
(On Shurmur having awkward moments with media and how he's doing overall) – "Well fortunately, I never made a bad call, and I never had awkward moments with the media (jokingly). I think it's part of being a new coach, a new head coach, Pat, I do. I think every head coach has to come to grips with this at some point. Otherwise it's too hard. I have to recognize, or the coach has to recognize, that you guys have a job to do. I'm asking you to recognize that I have a job to do and let's work together. I think that's the best way to do it. You cannot (be) condescending to you guys. At the same time, the coach is asking for reliability and certain honesty from you guys. Once you get there, when you get there, then it's good. When you're winning, it's kind of easier and stuff like that. That has to happen. I'm not in the press conferences, I rarely see them. I don't do that. I know that Pat is an honest guy. He has a little bit of an Irish temper, but he wants to do the right stuff, he really does. There's a learning curve there I think for everybody, I think. I think both sides are learning about each other. As far as the calls and stuff like that, you cannot be a head coach in this league or a head coach anywhere, and be too sensitive to that. You just can't be, because it's going to happen. It happens. Close games and we've played a bunch of close games. It's going to come up, it happens. Saying you're not going to be sensitive about it and not being sensitive about it are two different things. It's easier to say than do, but that's also something you have to learn. He and I talked about it a fair amount. I know he cares a lot. He is absolutely attempting to do the right thing. I believe in him."
(On if he believes in Shurmur as much now as when he was hired) – "Yes."
(On if he's leaving the team with the quarterback of the future with Weeden) – "I think so Mary (Kay Cabot), I really do. I think Brandon's off to a good start in my opinion. He's an excellent passer. I like how he leads. People don't cut him quite as much slack because he's 29, but he's still a rookie. This is his first crack at playing against NFL teams and it's different than college. I think he has done very well and I just think there's a bright future. I think we've, the organization has found their quarterback."
(On what he plans to do next) – "Depending on where I am and the weather, I'm going to ride my motorcycle a lot. Perhaps go to the beach a little bit, go to Hawaii. I don't know. I'm leaving it open, I'm leaving it open. I said this was my last great adventure. I thought it was going to be longer, so we'll see what happens."
(On if he would work in football) – "Yeah, I would think so. Right now, I want to take one step at a time, one day at a time. My first goal is to, if I can, is to help this team and these coaches this season. Then, I'm going to sit back and catch my breath and look around a little bit and see what happens."
(On if he would coach again) – "I don't know. I know this; I've learned a lot of things in the last three years. One of the things that I thought I knew, but now I'm sure, I do miss the coaching part of it. I really do."
(On if he thought about coming back to coach the team after firing Mangini) – "I thought about it, I did. I think I had mentioned at the time, I asked when we were compiling the list of candidates I asked the selection committee, the guys that were involved in that, Heckert and those guys. I said, ‘You don't have to say yes, but tell me tomorrow should I be on the list?' I asked them that. I don't know if they were afraid to come in and say, ‘Are you kidding? An old guy like you, you shouldn't be on that list.' Then it also gave me a chance that evening to think about it a little bit more. I did what I did."
(On why the team can't win close games) – "I think you have to learn how to win those. You have to learn how to win those. Until you do, win a couple of them, it's hard. Whatever's in the mind of a player, whatever's in the mind of a coach, you're human. You start to go, here we are again. You want to say
we're going to win this close one. Until you start doing that a little bit, it's not as easy as you think. When you do, if you have the talent, and you get to do that a little bit, that's when the momentum changes, and that's when you start winning close games, and that's when it takes off. I think we are like that close. We are that close. I know it's hard. I know it's frustrating when you lose a close game. When you win a couple, when you start winning a couple, then you go into the huddle at the end of the game, and you go ‘We're going to do this.' Everybody on the sideline, everybody in the huddle, you might not always do it, but you believe you're going to do it. The classic example to me was the Super Bowl in 1988 when we beat Cincinnati. (Joe) Montana, the (San Francisco) 49ers we got the ball on the eight-yard line, with something, a minute to go, and there wasn't anybody in that huddle that didn't think ‘Okay, we're just going to do this.' They had won a lot. That'll happen, that will happen. It's hard right now. My heart breaks for those guys, because I know how hard they're working, and it's so close. Heck, we were a catch away or a yard away from winning a couple ball games this year."
(On if he has changed his position on the playoff tickets) – "Pat (McManamon), I'm glad you brought that up. Neal (Gulkis) and I were talking, doing a little bit of prep for this and he goes, ‘You know someone is going to ask you about that.' You didn't tell me it was going to be him (McManamon). I choose most often not to look back in this business. I think it's a healthy thing to decide not to do that. On that particular issue, I will say I broke Holmgren's rule #5 that day, because I came into the press conference and I was mad, I was angry. I wasn't angry at you guys, I was just angry at the situation we were in. I (had) just met with the league attorneys, doctors and all that stuff and I kind of saw where that whole thing was going. I came in here and it wasn't my proudest moment and when I said that I apologized to you. I shouldn't have said it. I pride myself in having more poise than that and I didn't, I snapped. So, because I have confessed this to you, may I phone you for tickets when the time comes? May I do that?"
(On if his time here has hurt his Hall of Fame chances) – "I think there are a lot of things out of your control. I'll analyze, not necessarily that specifically, but I'll analyze the excitement. I was excited too. This is a great opportunity for me and in talking with a lot of folks and at times with some of you. There was some feeling that I'd coach. I think some of the excitement; I could be wrong, some of the excitement of people that I talked to was that I was going to coach, name myself Head Coach and off you go. I didn't do that. Then, what I learned is as the President what happens on the field on Sunday, you have no control over really. You're just watching. I'm watching like you're watching. Whereas when I was coaching I always thought there was some way I could fix this, I could get this going the right way. That's just the nature of the job. I'm glad people were excited, I was excited, and I feel badly we weren't able to deliver more on the field while I was here. I also honest to goodness feel there are good times ahead soon and I'll be rooting hard for this group from wherever I am in the next couple of years because I think it will happen."
(On if he felt the criticism about him during his tenure as President was fair and where does he think it came from) – "I don't know where it came from. I don't think it's fair. The only thing that I have changed about my workday is when, and she's going to get mad at me for saying this, but when Kathy had cancer, I changed. I was coaching at the time and even then, I changed my workday. Instead of coming in early, we have a routine. We work out together, we have a cup of coffee, we have little devotional in the morning, talk about it and then I come to work. I'll stay later, but in the morning that was my routine. There are a lot of coaches that come in; I have good friends that come in at 5:00 a.m. That's just how I chose to do it. I always thought if you have really capable people that you've hired, that anything between 5:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m., if they want to get up at 5:00 a.m. they can handle it and talk to me about it at 9:00 a.m. My effort, I don't know where that came from. I don't think it's particularly fair. I have never slept at the office as a coach. I always try to get home for dinner at least later in the week. Now early in the week, you're working late, but later in the week I try to get home. I have four daughters and I try to get home for dinner with them and check out how they were doing. That's how I chose to do it. When I was here, 100% of me was here. Every part of me was here, so I don't feel I have to apologize for anything that way."
(On if he regrets not naming himself head coach after firing Mangini) –
"You make a decision. I thought about it. If I just carelessly did one thing or another without thinking about it, then you might be able to say well maybe, but I thought a lot about it. What I was willing to do, what I wasn't willing to do, who I thought I could hire. At that particular time, I wasn't ready to do it again. I didn't want to do it. I thought I'd be short-changing the organization. It's not that I didn't think about it, I did, but I made the decision and full speed ahead."
(On if he was able to define his own job) – "I think so, that's fair."
(On if he wishes his job was a little more defined for him) – "I don't know. If I were to change anything, it would be one of our last press conferences together. I told you I got the feeling people wanted me to be more out front and visible and talk about stuff even though I wasn't the coach. I had reasons, we've talked about his before, I had reasons why I didn't want to do it, but I was going to do it. I heard, I listened finally and I was going to do it. That might have been one thing that I maybe would have done differently early, but I didn't know, I really didn't know that's what was wanted, one. Two, I didn't want to; in any way overshadow the coach. That still makes no sense to me at all. He's the coach, it's his football team really, let me help him. I thought I was doing the right thing. In retrospect, maybe if I could have been out there a little bit more without getting anybody real sensitive about anything maybe I would have done that."
(On if there will be a setback because new people are being brought into the organization) – "I think anytime you have change, dramatic change, all of a sudden any momentum you had moving forward probably stalls a little bit. Probably, I think it's natural. How fast you can get rolling again and moving, but ultimately, it's about the players we have. I think we have some good young players. I believe we have a good core; we're getting a bigger core. If they can deal with the change and if they can deal with whatever, then we can continue moving. I think from a player's perspective, you see it all the time in the league, and you've written it, some of you have written it I'm sure. You talk about a quarterback you think is pretty good, whomever, then you say, ‘But now he has his third coordinator in four years,' or words to that effect. You go, it's not quite working the way we thought, but that's kind of a reason, but that's real. The teams that are most successful have continuity to them on their coaching staff and in their organization. I heard Joe Banner say this the other day and I've heard Jimmy say it and they agree with that too. It's kind of like when do you start that. I think yeah, the more continuity you can have, the more chance you have of moving forward with the people you have."
(On how he would define his tenure with the Browns) – "I think I was asked to and I think we've fixed a number of problems in the organization. If we wanted to list some things I could do that and feel good about it. Our won-loss record, which is what football teams exist for, hasn't been good. Say what you want and I think there have been some unusual circumstances, but it hasn't been very good. I would hope that if the current team and what we've built so far now has some success moving forward, I hope people will feel a little bit better about our time. I think it has been a three-year period fixing things. Unfortunately, some of those close games that were mentioned earlier, if we could have won half a dozen of some of those close games it would be a little painful right now."
(On if it is frustrating because things are starting to come together for the team and he will not be a part of it) – "Yeah, but if and when the teams does well, like I said I will be its biggest fan. I won a lot of games in this league as a coach and I feel good about those. (I) lost some that were tough. I will feel good and be happy for whoever's here. I will be happy for you guys. Some of you are really crabby all the time. I'll be really happy for you and then I'll be happy for the new ownership, I'll be happy for the players, the coaches. I'll feel good about that and I'll think maybe we all had a little something to do with that. I'll feel good about that"
(On if not ending this on his own terms will make him more compelled to find something where he can) – "You certainly hope so. I'm not sure who gets to do that. I think that's everyone's wish, but I'm not sure how many people get to do. I'm going to just catch my breath a little bit at the end of the season. Like I said, I think Kathy and I are going to go someplace where it's warm, with those little drinks with the umbrellas in it and then kind of think about what the future is all about. I think that's fair to her, certainly, and I want to make good decisions moving forward."