Monday, December 28, 2009
Updated: December 29, 11:07 AM ET
Mangini's future still unknown
BEREA, Ohio -- Empowered to run an NFL team any way as he sees fit, Mike Holmgren's first major decision will hit close to home.
A coach's fate rests in his hands.
Holmgren, the Super Bowl-winning coach in Green Bay who signed a five-year contract as Cleveland's new team president, said Monday that he has not yet decided if coach Eric Mangini will return as Browns coach next year. Holmgren is waiting until Cleveland concludes its season before addressing Mangini's status.
Holmgren has spoken with Mangini over the phone on other "football" issues, but the two have not talked about the coach's future.
"It would be really unfair," Holmgren said on a 25-minute conference call from Arizona. "He's at the end of finishing his first season here and the team is doing well, clearly responding to him. That type of decision will be made once I get back there."
Holmgren will arrive in Cleveland on Monday, one day after the Browns (4-11) conclude their first season under Mangini at home against Jacksonville.
Having coached 17 seasons in the pros, the 61-year-old Holmgren has empathy for Mangini, whose turbulent first season in Cleveland is ending on a surprising uptick. The Browns have strung together a three-game winning streak for just the third time since their 1999 expansion return.
Holmgren did not provide any clues as to which way he's leaning regarding Mangini. He was diplomatic in addressing what could happen to the embattled coach. He appreciates it's difficult to transform a team into a winner in one season.
Holmgren sounded reluctant to walk through the Browns' doors and show Mangini the way out.
"I'm not a big fan of the quick hook," he said. "I never did that with quarterbacks when they played for me and I really don't think one year is enough to prove what you're trying to get done. I wouldn't be a big fan of just allowing a guy to coach just one year and out. But having said that, I haven't made any decisions yet."
Holmgren intends to evaluate the entirety of Mangini's season in Cleveland, and won't decide based solely on the team's late surge.
"I feel I have some time to think about this and I want to do what is right for the organization and the Cleveland Browns," he said. "That's my charge. I want to see the team's record get better. I want the organization to be functioning properly. I want the fans to be very proud of their team.
"That's the decision I have to make and that is going to take a little time. Not a lot of time, but a little time."
Other moves will take deeper thought and calculation. Holmgren did not get into specifics about plans to restructure Cleveland's front office but said he plans to hire a general manager. The Browns have not had a GM since George Kokinis was fired on Nov. 2.
Holmgren, who took teams to the playoffs 12 times, also indicated he hasn't completely shaken the coaching bug.
"As far as coaching on the field, in the near future I'm not going to do that," he said. "Things can change, I suppose, down the road."
Now that he's finally seeing some success, Mangini hopes he gets a chance to build on it. He believes in what he has started with the Browns and would like to see it through.
"I'd like to be able to teach the lesson of dealing with success," he said. "That's a great lesson to have to keep teaching."
Holmgren said he and Mangini have had productive discussions and that any philosophical differences, whether on offense of defense, could be worked out.
"He wants the same things I do," Holmgren said. "We want the team to be better, we want to win, we want the fans to feel good, we're going after the same thing. I think when you have guys -- their vision's the same and you're pulling in the same direction -- some of the other stuff, you can get it done, you can come to an agreement and make it work."
Holmgren said the chance to rebuild a once-proud franchise is what drew him to the Browns, who have made one playoff appearance since 1999.
"I took the job because there is something inside of me that enjoys the challenge of fixing something, tweaking something to get it back on track again," he said.
When he stepped down as Seattle's coach after last season, Holmgren went into semiretirement to spend more time with his family. But his time away from the game only made him realize he needed it in his life. His chance came last month when he was invited to Cleveland by owner Randy Lerner, who was searching for a leader of Holmgren's esteem.
It didn't take long for Holmgren to be sold on the Browns.
"I'd never really met Randy or spent any time with him," Holmgren said. "I will tell you this, it was very, very refreshing. When he presented the job to me and what it would entail and the type of access I would have to him, and his vision for the team and the fans and the city of Cleveland, as far as I was concerned he hit a home run.
"Obviously the job's a great job. I really took this job because of the owner. I think he cares that much and I don't want to let him down."