AFC North: Mike Holmgren

Upon Further Review: Browns Week 7

October, 21, 2013
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An examination of four hot issues from the Cleveland Browns' 31-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers:

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
AP Photo/Mike RoemerThe Packers sacked Brandon Weeden three times and he completed just 40.5 percent of his passes.
Offensive offense: The Browns had some poor offensive numbers in the loss to Green Bay, a natural byproduct of scoring 13 points and not winning. Brandon Weeden threw for 149 yards on 42 passes. The Browns as a team ran for 83 yards, 20 of them came on two Weeden scrambles. Their only touchdown drive went 20 yards. Josh Gordon was targeted six times and caught just two passes for 21 yards. And the 216 total yards were the fewest by the Browns since the 2012 season opener -- also Weeden's first start. Weeden remains at the center of all concerns, but clearly the offense had many issues at Lambeau Field.

Third-down struggles: The Browns started the game 29th in the league in defensive third down stops, meaning they'd been letting teams sustain a lot of drives. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton said the third down defense was a focus of last week's practice. What did Green Bay do? Without two of their better receivers? Convert 7-of-13. "Third downs are crucial in this league," safety Tashaun Gipson said. "And right now we're not very good at it."

Running on empty: The Browns put up decent numbers running the ball, but it's worth asking if the team as it's constructed can actually run the ball, and run it consistently and successfully. Willis McGahee is aging with bad knees. Chris Ogbonnaya is a fullback. And the fans can now say they were there for the start of the Fozzy Whitaker era. The Browns gained 83 yards and averaged 3.6 yards per carry, but called 20 runs compared to 40 passes. Some of that was because they fell behind. But most teams down 14-0, as the Browns were, would not totally abandon the run. The Browns might not believe they can run efficiently.

Eye of the storm: For the second time this season Gipson finds himself at the center of a hit that caused an injury. Gipson sidelined Buffalo quarterback EJ Manuel for a month with a hit to the knee, then drew the ire of the Bills for looking like he celebrated the injury. Against Green Bay, Gipson hit tight end Jermichael Finley in the head with his shoulder at fullspeed, and Finley could not move on the field after the hit. "When I'm breaking out of the post and I'm running fullspeed I'm not thinking about settling down," Gipson said. "At the same time I'm thinking about getting the ball on the ground. Not under these circumstances, unfortunately." Gipson said he felt awful about Finley's injury, and would try to get in touch with him.
Eddie Lacy and Brandon WeedenUSA TODAY SportsThe Packers may have to rely more on their run game, while Browns QB Brandon Weeden seeks to recover from a forgettable outing.
The Green Bay Packers have made it past a difficult stretch in which they played four playoff teams from last season in their first five games.

And they came out of it with a respectable 3-2 record.

The Cleveland Browns, despite going from Brandon Weeden to Brian Hoyer and now back to Weeden at quarterback, also aren't out of anything yet at 3-3.

ESPN.com Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and Browns reporter Pat McManamon break down the matchup:

McManamon: Rob, what will Green Bay do at receiver with all those injuries, and how much will it affect the offense?

Demovsky: It's bound to have a significant impact. Randall Cobb more or less became the focal point of the passing game last season and if anything, that intensified this season. Sure, he's only a slot receiver and the Packers still have the deep threat of Jordy Nelson on the outside. But in this offense, a lot of those quick-hit passes -- especially against teams that blitz -- are directed to the inside. No team used more three-receiver sets than the Packers had until Cobb went down last week against the Ravens. They had used a three-receiver set on 90 percent of their snaps. That number likely will go down beginning this week against the Browns. They might have to rely on their new-found running game more than ever. But with fewer threats in the passing game, teams might be able to load up to stop running back Eddie Lacy.

The Browns have offensive issues of their own, Pat. Brandon Weeden's turnovers in the loss to the Lions looked like killers, especially that backhanded, underhand flip. How can they get him to play smarter?

McManamon: That backhanded, underhand flip will live for a long time in the annals of Cleveland Browns misplays since 1999, Rob. A lengthy list just got longer. As for getting him to play smarter, that's the challenge. And the challenge has gone on for 18 starts. Weeden actually started fairly well as a 29-year-old rookie, but he struggled the end of last season and this season he's played in fits and starts. Which of course won't be good enough against Green Bay. With Brian Hoyer injured, the Browns have few other options -- it's not like Tom Brady is on the streets waiting for a job -- so they will stick with Weeden. But you have to wonder whether the Browns aren't coming to the conclusion that what they see is what he'll be when it comes to this 30-year-old quarterback.

Rob, Weeden does not read the rush well and does not move well. The Packers are ninth in the league in sacks. Is that yet another bad recipe for Weeden and the Browns offense?

Demovsky: It remains to be seen whether they can keep up their sack pace. They did it without Clay Matthews last week, getting five sacks at Baltimore, but now they're going to be without another outside rusher, Nick Perry. Matthews and Perry each have three sacks on the season, which ties A.J. Hawk for the team lead. At some point, those injuries have to slow down their pass rush. The one thing that's helping them is they're playing the run very well, probably the best they have since they led the league in rushing defense in 2009. After shutting down Ray Rice last week, they're up to third in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (78.2). That's putting teams in a lot of third-and-long situations, which allows defensive coordinator Dom Capers to blitz. That's how Hawk got all three of his sacks against the Ravens.

Perhaps the Browns can help protect Weeden if they run the ball effectively to keep the Packers from rushing like crazy. What are their prospects for doing that?

McManamon: Running the ball would protect Weeden. But it helps to have a ... well ... a running game. At present, the Browns are in make-do mode with the running game, and as the season continues that will more and more become a problem. Since the trade of Trent Richardson the Browns have relied on aging Willis McGahee, young Bobby Rainey and fullback Chris Ogbonnaya. These guys give effort, but there's only so much they can give. McGahee can't run outside, Rainey is inexperienced and Ogbonnaya is what he is. The Browns rank 22nd in the league by running for 86.8 yards per game -- though they are averaging 3.9 yards per carry. If the Browns want to run, they will have to commit to it and pound it out, something I am not sure they can do.

Rob, the Browns have had 19 starting quarterbacks since 1999 -- and it appears next year or soon after that number will hit 20. Do the Packers and their fans realize just how fortunate they have been these many years to have Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers?

Demovsky: They should. There are only a handful of organizations who can say they've had the kind of quarterback transition that the Packers had. The 49ers with Joe Montana to Steve Young come to mind. Maybe the Colts have that now with Andrew Luck following Peyton Manning. Not only was Favre a great quarterback, but he was there week in and week out. Rodgers is pretty much the same way. Those guys rarely get injured and when they do, they still play.

Most Packers fans here are still fond of Mike Holmgren, for leading them to the Super Bowl XXXI title. His tenure with as a Browns executive was much shorter. What impact, if any, did he have on the organization?

McManamon: Let's just say the feelings for Holmgren are a lot warmer in Green Bay -- odd as that sounds -- than in Cleveland. Many fans feel Holmgren's epitaph with the Browns should be "As a president, he was a great coach." A lot of that is frustration at constant losing. Some is frustration at the job title and salary scale Randy Lerner gave Holmgren. More still that Holmgren never took on the coaching duties himself. On balance, Holmgren's tenure was no worse than many, and better than some. He and GM Tom Heckert brought in some good players who are helping the team win now. But with any regime change comes more change, and Joe Banner has gotten rid of some of Holmgren's guys -- notably Richardson. Holmgren's biggest gamble was selecting a quarterback in the first round a year ago who is now 30. But Weeden clearly would have been helped by more continuity in the front office.

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First place does mean something

October, 6, 2013
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There’s a three-way tie for the AFC North, and the Cleveland Browns are one of the three teams.

No, it’s not a misprint.

For the first time since the team returned in 1999. the Browns have a winning record after five weeks, and are tied for first.

Where the heck is Kool and the Gang when you need them?

Another oddity: They’re not tied with Pittsburgh, which has owned the division for so long. The Steelers are 0-4 and making in-season trades, a rarity for that organization.

The Browns, Ravens and Bengals are all 3-2.

The last time the Browns were 3-2 after five games was former coach Butch Davis’ first season in 2001. The Browns opened with a loss to Seattle, but beat Detroit, Jacksonville and San Diego before losing to Cincinnati.

But they were not in first place.

Pittsubrgh had a Week 4 bye, and after the Steelers won in in Week 5, they were 3-1 -- one-half game in front.

It’s hardly worth popping champagne to be in first place after five games, but it leads to the familiar refrain: A team that has won 23 games in five seasons should acknowledge any positive step.

Wake-up: Mike Wallace being demoted?

November, 28, 2012
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It's Wednesday, which means the weekly column will get posted around noon and the chat will get started at 2 p.m. So, let's not waste any time and get started with the wake-up call ...

RAVENS: After not recording a sack in his first 26 career games, defensive end Art Jones delivered sacks on back-to-back series in the third quarter. He had five total tackles, including three for loss, Sunday in San Diego. The 2010 fifth-round draft pick responded to a talk last week with safety Ed Reed, who told Jones that he needed to dominate. "Any time a great player challenges you like that you want to respond," Jones said, via the team's official website. "To play with Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, these great guys, I'm living the dream. This is a dream come true and I don't want to disappoint my family or anyone else."

STEELERS: Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Wallace is now being listed as a co-starter with Emmanuel Sanders on the depth chart. Asked what would determine who will start, coach Mike Tomlin answered simply, "Situations." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggested this is Tomlin's way of sending a message to Wallace, who has eight receptions for 49 yards total in the past three games. "Mike was frustrated, and rightfully so," Tomlin said of the game Sunday. "He's not producing in the manner in which he'd like to or which we'd like him to. It's the function of a lot of things. He's just going to be committed to continuing to work, and we're committed to that as well."

BENGALS: In the Bengals' three-game winning streak, they have scored 11 touchdowns in 13 trips in the red zone. Quarterback Andy Dalton has thrown eight red zone touchdowns, including six on third down. Four of those touchdowns have gone to rookie third-round pick Mohamed Sanu, who made a great one-handed grab in the end zone Sunday. "We have some great red zone targets. Andy's making good decisions, crisp decisions and some guys are making great plays for him," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said, via the team's official website. "The windows are going to be smaller. The throws have got to be near perfect and guys have got to make some outstanding catches for them. That's what's happened. Then you throw in a couple of the red-zone runs that we've had and we've had some success."

BROWNS: After Mike Holmgren officially announced he was departing at the end of the week, The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto makes the point that rebuilding the Browns can't be done by just one leader. "So far, [owner Jimmy] Haslam has hired one man for the Browns -- Joe Banner," Pluto wrote. "He is a former Eagles president, now the Browns CEO. We don't have to worry about Banner wondering if he should be coaching -- or even if he should have taken this job. He's a sports executive who helped turn around one franchise, and wants to do the same again here. His business-like approach gives off a sense of 'been there, done that ... and know what to do next.' That's a relief after what this franchise has endured."
Mike Holmgren is leaving the Browns. David DeCastro is back on the Steelers' active roster. And there's a chance that Ray Lewis could return to practice Thursday. Just another quiet start to the week in the AFC North. Read all about it in your wake-up call ...

RAVENS: Many believed Ray Lewis' season was over when he tore his triceps, but coach John Harbaugh now thinks Lewis will play in the regular season. "That's a best guess," Harbaugh said, via The Baltimore Sun. "He's working hard to do that. We'll see." Harbaugh wouldn't say whether Lewis would practice this week, but the former two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year can return to the practice field as early as Thursday. Lewis, who tore his triceps on Oct. 14, would be eligible to play in the Dec. 16 game against Denver. "[J]ust talking to Ray, it sounds like things have gone well," Harbaugh said. "There have been no setbacks. So there's a possibility."

STEELERS: Rookie first-round pick David DeCastro could make his NFL debut Sunday at Baltimore after being activated off injured reserve-designated to return list, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. DeCastro, who injured his knee in the third preseason game, began practicing last week. The Steelers placed Marcus Gilbert, who started five games at right tackle this season, on injured reserve. He hadn't played since he injured his ankle on Oct. 11 in Tennessee. With Mike Adams (ankle) injured, DeCastro might start at right guard and Ramon Foster would shift to right tackle.

BENGALS: Coach Marvin Lewis doesn't expect the NFL to suspend Andrew Whitworth after the Bengals left tackle was involved in a fight that led to his ejection Sunday against the Raiders, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Whitworth confronted Lamarr Houston after the Oakland defensive end threw Andy Dalton to the ground after the play had been blown dead due to a false start penalty. Lewis disagreed with the notion that Whitworth reacted as an offensive lineman should in that situation. “He did something we can’t have happen,” Lewis said. “We can’t have that. No way around it.” Whitworth is expected to get fined.

BROWNS: Announcing he will depart the organization Friday, Mike Holmgren said he didn't feel the need to finish out the season as outgoing president after having "passed the baton" to Joe Banner. He has been linked to the Cowboys head-coaching job should Jason Garrett get fired in Dallas. Holmgren, who last coached for Seattle in 2008, insists he isn't close to making a decision on a return to coaching. "As of right now, I really haven't given it much thought other than the fact there are no plans right now," he said. Banner confirmed there's nothing in Holmgren's settlement with the Browns that stops him from taking a coaching job elsewhere.

Holmgren is leaving Browns this week

November, 25, 2012
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Sunday's 20-14 win over the Steelers was the last game for Browns out-going president Mike Holmgren, a team spokesman announced.

Holmgren had previously planned to remain with the team through the rest of the season. The Browns had essentially replaced Holmgren when they named Joe Banner as their chief executive officer.

Holmgren is scheduled to address the media Monday. The Browns were 12-31 under Holmgren, a .279 winning percentage.
Browns outgoing president Mike Holmgren stopped by the team's media room to refute rumors that he is interested in coaching the Cowboys if Jason Garrett was fired. Maybe this is a case of Holmgren protesting too much.

A source told ESPN's Ed Werder that the Cowboys job is the only one that could prompt the Super Bowl-winning coach to consider a return to the sideline. The source said Holmgren believes the Cowboys have the talent to win a Super Bowl -- current record notwithstanding.

As I wrote last week, Holmgren's interest in the Cowboys doesn't come as a surprise. He's going to be very selective if he decides to return to coaching. At the age of 64, Holmgren isn't going to consider the likes of Jacksonville. He'll want to win immediately, and a team like the Cowboys have the talent to do so.

The Browns are playing at the Cowboys today, and Holmgren made the trip to Dallas. According to Tony Grossi of ESPN Radio in Cleveland, Holmgren had a long pre-game chat with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Both are long-time friends dating back to their days on the NFL's competition committee. Wonder what they are talking about?

Holmgren shoots down Cowboys rumors

November, 12, 2012
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When the Cleveland Browns play at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, outgoing president Mike Holmgren doesn't plan to go there for a job interview.

Holmgren stopped into the Browns media room Monday to deny circulating rumors he's interested in coaching the Cowboys if they fired Jason Garrett. "I don't know how any of that stuff gets started," Holmgren told reporters, via The Plain Dealer. "The last time I talked to anybody about my future was in this room. I honestly don't know what I want to do."

CBS Sports reported Sunday that sources close to Holmgren said he would be interested in coaching the Cowboys because of the competitiveness of the roster, the skill players present and his long relationship with owner Jerry Jones.

Holmgren told Cleveland reporters that the plan is for him to remain with the team through the season. He said he hopes to say hello to Jones when in Dallas but insisted he hasn't inquired about the job.

While Holmgren may not be interested in the job right now -- well, for one reason, it's not even open yet -- this is the one of the few jobs that would likely grab his attention. Holmgren is a Super Bowl-winning coach and led two franchises there. He's going to be very selective if he decides to return to coaching. At the age of 64, Holmgren isn't going to consider the likes of Kansas City or another rebuilding team. He'll want to win immediately, and a team like the Cowboys have the talent to do so.
I'm heading to catch my morning flight to Pittsburgh, where I'll be covering the Steelers-Chiefs on Monday night. The pressure is on the Steelers to continue "Rout Weekend" in the AFC North. The Ravens and Bengals won by a combined score of 86-33. Baltimore beat up a Raiders team that had edged out the Steelers and lost by a field goal to the Falcons earlier this season. Cincinnati dominated the defending Super Bowl-champion Giants.

The real challenge for the Steelers is not overlooking the Chiefs in what is a classic trap game. Pittsburgh (5-3) plays the division rival Ravens (7-2) on Sunday night. If the Steelers beat Kansas City, they will remain one game back of Baltimore heading into the prime-time showdown. If the Steelers lose to the Chiefs, they fall two games back of the Ravens with seven weeks remaining. Here's your wake-up call:

RAVENS: The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston pointed out the many reasons why the Ravens' rout of the Raiders was just like a homecoming game. Preston wrote: "When Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor is warming up on the sidelines at the end of the third quarter. When Ravens tight end Ed 'Can't Catch A Cold' Dickson has two receptions of 40 and 19 yards. When it's 2 p.m., and you're already looking to see who is playing at 4 even though you're still at the stadium. When the Ravens score two touchdowns on special teams, one off a fake field goal and the other on a kickoff return."

STEELERS: Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is appealing the $15,000 fine he received from the NFL for allegedly faking an injury. "I don't know what they were trying to do, but that's not for me to think about," Sanders told the Associated Press. "We're just going to appeal it, and we'll deal with it then. I don't know who we have to appeal it to, but I'm talking with my agent and the NFLPA to find out just how we have to go about appealing it." Sanders' claim that he doesn't know what the NFL is trying to do is worse than his acting. The league is trying to stop players from giving teams free timeouts. Sanders should pay the fine and move on.

BENGALS: The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Daugherty says Bengals fans shouldn't get too optimistic about the team's win over the Giants. "It was a nice day, on a nice day," Daugherty wrote. "Historically, the Bengals have produced just enough of these days to keep their fans hoping. And, now, wondering why a team as talented as this one spent the previous four Sundays explaining losses."

BROWNS: Outgoing Browns president Mike Holmgren has "serious interest" in coaching the Cowboys if owner Jerry Jones fires Jason Garrett, sources close to Holmgren told CBS Sports. Jones responded to this report, telling 105.3 The Fan (via The Plain Dealer), “Of course, Mike Holmgren is a heck of a coach. But the facts are that Jason Garrett gives us an outstanding chance to be what we want to be. So, there you have it. I wouldn’t comment one way or the other there with Mike.” Jones, who described Holmgren as a good friend, has ties with the Super Bowl-winning coach that dates back to serving several years together on the NFL competition committee.
There are mixed feelings about the Browns getting rid of Mike Holmgren as team president, based on the results of the SportsNation poll. Of the 7,053 votes, 42 percent say it was the right move and 41 say it was not.

Here are some comments from the AFC North blog readers:

Tony from Columbus, Ohio: Mike Holmgren should have been the coach, not the de facto owner.

Michael from Cincinnati: At a time the Browns were in need of a decisive leader, Holmgren proved to be indecisive from the start. From keeping Eric Mangini as coach to failing to even muster up a legitimate offer in the Robert Griffin III sweepstakes, Holmgren should never have been.

[+] EnlargeMike Holmgren
AP Photo/Mark DuncanPoll voters were mixed in their opinions of Mike Holmgren's time with the Cleveland Browns.
Joe from Columbus, Ohio: The people who voted to keep Holmgren must not be Browns fans. He is building at a glacial pace. He had no defined job, no passion and let his rookie coach hang himself. Why be here if you're not going to use your coaching experience to help the guy and the team out? He was overpaid, underworked, and underachieved. In Jimmy (Haslam) we trust.

Rich from Charlotte, N.C.: Yes, I'm excited about the new owner. However, here we go again with more turnover. The GM and head coach will soon be gone and with that a whole new phylosophy of the game will come in. New offense, maybe back to the 3-4 defense. So that means starting over with new players. At most there should be turnover at the coaching level. The Packers and Seahawks didn't start winning overnight. It took at least, If I recall, it took three or four years before they were contenders in games. I wish they would have given Holgrem and the GM at least another year.

Aaron from Cleveland: No, the Browns did the right thing by letting Holmgren go. His role with the team under Randy Lerner was as de facto owner. Under the new regime, the owner will be active in the operation of the team. Further, Holmgren was never good at being a GM or president of a team. When he had the dual role of GM and coach in Seattle, he was quickly stripped of the GM role. Lerner never wanted to be involved with the Browns and was terrible at making personnel decisions relating to running a football program. Holmgren was his last, best testament to that failure as an owner.

Mark from Fredericksburg, Va.: I think that you can see that the Browns are on the right path to becoming relevant in this league. I think we can thank Mike Holmgren and the personnel he brought in for what looks to be bright days ahead for the franchise. However, Jimmy Haslam absolutely has the right to bring in the personnel he feels comfortable with leading his franchise. If the Browns turn this thing around with the players they have in place right now, then all credit can go to Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert. Sustaining it will be the job of Joe Banner.

Paul from Lake Helen, Fla.: No, Mike failed. He should not have been kept on because of three big mistakes. 1. Waiting too long to fire Eric Mangini and then re-booting and installing a new system. 2. (The Cleveland fans called this right away) Hiring Pat Shurmer, a rookie head coach. The Browns have had way too many inexperienced head coaches. Cleveland has been Coaching 101. 3. Not attracting any high-profile free agents to fill holes and not drafting any Pro Bowl talent with their high draft picks. Goodbye Big Show, time to close the curtain on the No Show.

Matt from California: I'm really split on the Holmgren firing. On one hand, we definitely started to develop a good defense under him and drafted very well. I'm still holding out hope Heckert stays, but I really think Pat Shurmur was just not the right choice as coach. That was Holmgren's biggest decision and has not worked out well at all from a win perspective.

Kevin from Chicago: Holmgren's record speaks for itself. No one expected him to turn the Browns into a Super Bowl contender immediately, but a 10-30 record is indefensible. He made a number of critical mistakes, including bringing Jake Delhomme in as the starting quarterback, and neglecting the wide-receiver position. Pat Shurmur often appears befuddled on the sidelines, and is on his way to cementing his reputation as one of the worst head coaches in the franchise's history. Mike Holmgren was paid king's ransom to turn a long suffering franchise into a winner, but his actions and questionable work ethic have instead further relegated the Browns to irrelevance. Jimmy Haslam demonstrated to the team and the fans that losing will no longer be tolerated in Cleveland.
In his Tuesday news conference, Mike Holmgren was asked whether he would have accomplished what he had set out to do with the Browns if allowed to finish out the final two years of his contract.

“I think we’re close, I really do," he said. "We’ve been in every ball game this year really, you could say. I think it’s going to be OK. 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 [Shurmur's] 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."

SportsNation

Is getting rid of Mike Holmgren as team president the right move?

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    42%
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    41%
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    17%

Discuss (Total votes: 7,481)

Holmgren added, "It’s still very early in some sort of development program, but I think we’ve had good drafts and Tom [Heckert] has done a great job in the draft. The question was have we found our quarterback? If you feel OK about that, any of us, then you say, ‘OK, now you got a chance to do this.’ I think we have.”

In Holmgren's last two stops, he guided his teams to the Super Bowl. But the Browns have gone 10-29 in Holmgren's run as president, including 1-6 this season.

"I so much wanted to put a product on the field and win some games for Randy Lerner," Holmgren said. "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.”

Should new owner Jimmy Haslam have kept Holmgren as president instead of hiring Joe Banner as his top executive? Record your vote in the poll and tell me what you think of them by sending me a note into the mailbag. Your comment could appear in a blog post Saturday.
It's Wednesday and you know what that means: It's time to get some feedback from you. The weekly AFC North poll will get posted later today and we'll sit down for our usual midweek chat at 2 p.m. Speaking of our routine, it's time for your wake-up call, which deals with three rookies and a departing executive:

RAVENS: After getting fined nearly $20,000 this season for weighing more than 270 pounds, rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw has shed weight via diet and exercise to get down to 266 to 268 pounds, according to The Baltimore Sun. Upshaw told the paper that he hasn't been fined since Week 5 of the season, which was just earlier this month. "I didn't even look at the fines," Upshaw said. "I just knew they were taking my money. That started getting me down." Upshaw, who has started seven games this year, is trying to avoid becoming the latest second-round disappointment on the defensive side of the ball. Sergio Kindle, who is on the practice squad, and Terrence Cody, who lost his starting job, were drafted in the second round in 2010.

STEELERS: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette brings up the possibility that rookie second-round pick Mike Adams could remain the starting right tackle even when Marcus Gilbert recovers from an ankle injury. Adams has performed well in seven quarters since replacing Gilbert and drew rare praise from coach Mike Tomlin, who usually doesn't give out such compliments to rookies. "We're optimistic about his talent level and what he's capable of being," Tomlin said. "He didn't do anything to hurt that assessment. I think he's continuing to be a guy on the rise. I think his performance was a solid one. I thought he was good in the run game. I thought he was good on the second level, some combination blocks, and I thought he represented himself well in pass pro[tection]. It's a nice next step for him."

BENGALS: With the Bengals short on wide receivers (Armon Binns has an ankle injury and Marvin Jones is out with a knee injury), rookie Mohamed Sanu will see increased playing time at the No. 2 spot. He recorded his first career catch Sunday night, which interestingly enough came a month after he completed his first pass. “The thing I've always said about Mo is he's a gamer,” wide receiver coach James Urban told CBS Sports. “I thought that coming out of college. The more football the kid plays, I'm talking about game football on Sundays, the more you'll like him.” Sanu's size and strength compliments Andrew Hawkins, the Bengals' slot receiver.

BROWNS: The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto believes Mike Holmgren was never comfortable in his undefined role as team president. "So this franchise with its amazingly loyal and beat-down fan base continues to wait for someone to give them a real reason to believe in a winning future for the orange helmets," Pluto wrote. "It's now in the hands of (Jimmy) Haslam (a rookie owner who oozes passion and love for his adopted city) and Joe Banner (an experienced football CEO). It's a promising combination. Now, maybe, just maybe, things will change ... and change for the better. If nothing else, Browns fans can always hope so."
The most interesting piece of information coming out of Mike Holmgren's Tuesday news conference was him leaving open a return to the sidelines.

Asked if he has one more coaching stint in him, Holmgren said, "I don't know. I do miss the coaching part."

Holmgren
No one can blame Holmgren if he doesn't want to end his football career this way. He doesn't want his last experience in the NFL to be one where he was pushed out as team president midway through the season.

I'm all for Holmgren seeking out a head-coaching position. That's where Holmgren enjoyed his most success. He won a Super Bowl with the Packers and guided the Seahawks there as well.

My take is he enjoyed the idea of being an executive, but he never seemed to embrace that role. Holmgren should've known coaching was where he should remain when he was relieved of the general manager title with the Seahawks at the end of the 2002 season. When I attended practices in Cleveland, Holmgren was always there on the field. He wasn't one to be stuck in an office. He wanted to be there on the sidelines.

Holmgren acknowledged that he considered taking over as coach after firing Eric Mangini. "I thought a lot about it, what I was willing to do, what I wasn't willing to do,'' he said. "At that time I wasn't ready for it. I thought I'd be shortchanging the organization.''

Would the Browns be in a different position if Holmgren had stepped in as coach? Probably not much different. There would've been a lot of growing pains in this Browns' rebuilding project regardless.

Holmgren will now fade into the background as Joe Banner takes over as the team's top executive. Holmgren turns 65 next June, which will probably scare teams away from considering him as head-coach candidate. But, based on an unfulfilled mission in Cleveland, you can't fault Holmgren if he explores the possibility.

Five questions with new Browns owner

October, 17, 2012
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Here are some excerpts from Tuesday's press conference with Jimmy Haslam, who was unanimously approved as Browns owner:

End of Haslam's opening statement: “We’re a young team, we’ve played six games, we’re 1-5, but if you’ve followed us we could easily be 3-3. We have a lot of football left to play. We played our best game the other day and we’re going to do everything we can to support Pat [Shurmur] and his coaches and his team for the balance of the season. At the end of the year we’ll evaluate everybody in the organization just like we will at the end of every year, whether we win the Super Bowl or we win two games. That’s our philosophy and that’s what we’ll do.”

[+] EnlargeJimmy Haslam
AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File"We'll look at everything except the helmet," new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam promised.
Was there was any discussion with Mike Holmgren to modify his role so he could stay with the team: “I think Mike was brought in to do a certain role and that’s the kind of guy Mike is and I don’t think he wanted to do a different role. I can’t stress enough what a good relationship we have. Mike will not be in Cleveland every day like he is now at the end of the season, but I think he’s a guy that a year, two years or three years from now if I have a question about football or a question about how to do something, I’ll feel very comfortable and hopefully he’ll do the same.”

Will new chief executive officer Joe Banner will have a role on the football side: “Football will report to Joe. We haven’t worked out all of the final details, but football will report to Joe as the CEO. We will, as I mentioned earlier, be heavily involved.”

How he assures the present coaching staff and front office that they’re not lame ducks: “I just looked them in the eye and told them that. I told Pat that. I said, no decisions have been made. I’m very comfortable saying that. These men are big boys. They understand the profession they’re in. They’ve been through it before. They understand it. I had a great talk with Pat in his suite Saturday night for about an hour and a half. I think Pat and I have good relationship. He knows what he has to do. The timing of us coming in the day of training camp was not the best in the world, but it is what it is. I’ve said all along, we don’t want to be a distraction. I’ve told Pat, that if there’s anything we can do let us know, otherwise you go out and coach the football team, get the guys ready to play hard. Let’s win as many games as we can.”

Will there be any other noticeable changes to the Cleveland Browns: "We have 10 games left. We’re not going to change anything now. I think we’ve been very public in Cleveland that we’ll look at everything except the helmet. We’re going to look at the uniforms, we’re going to look at the stadium, but listen, it’s all about putting a really good team on the field. If you have a really good team, I don’t think people care too much about your uniforms. We do want to enhance the stadium and make a great experience for the fans. What that looks like, I don’t know, I’m not a stadium guy. I do know we’re going to look at it because it’s all about the fans.”

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