Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL. As Browns fans, we know this all too well. Art Modell proved this to us in the mid 90′s after John Elway proved it to us in the late 80′s. If we didn’t learn from that, then Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, Butch Davis, and Kellen Winslow all decided to remind us just how little is guaranteed in the sports world. I am not going to dwell on all the negatives of the past with the Cleveland Browns today. It serves no point because we all know this history forward and backward. Even though we have no idea how bright or dark tomorrow will be, today is a chance to feel optimistic about the future because of Mike Holmgren.
I can hear a lot of you groaning as you read the words. Haven’t we all pushed our chips into the middle with this team before? I know I have. I thought Butch Davis was a good hire. We all know how that one worked out. Still, it didn’t have to end as badly as it did. Who knows how successful Butch Davis could have been had the Browns had a dominant culture and business model? Instead, Butch Davis and his right hand man Pete Garcia walked into a situation with a mostly unqualified Dwight Clark running the show. They quickly made a power play that gave them control of everything.
After another tumultuous round of hiring with Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel, it appeared that the Butch Davis land grab was in full effect again with the hiring of Eric Mangini and George Kokinis. They came in and remade the entire organization in the off-season. We all knew that a change was needed after Savage / Crennel, but something didn’t seem quite right with the way things were happening. Our fears manifested themselves in a mid-season firing of George Kokinis amid inexplicable roster moves and losing on the field.
Now the Mike Holmgren era of Cleveland Browns football is here and the optimism comes from the fact that Holmgren is no messiah. He isn’t claiming to be the all-knowing be-all end-all of football geniuses. Instead, he is claiming to know how to put a winning structure in place. He will have his fingerprints all over this new organization, but his won’t be the only fingerprints on it. While I can’t guarantee that the Browns are on their way to a Super Bowl and I can’t guarantee that this new regime won’t also flame out, I can say definitively that it is the right move. It is the right move because it is bigger than any one person.
The Browns (and the fans) have been witness to far too many power plays and land grabs since the team returned in 1999. Mike Holmgren’s hiring is the first time that we aren’t seeing that. Instead, Mike Holmgren has taken the Browns’ top spot and filled positions up and down the organization. We don’t have to all just hope and pray for one man’s visions to resurrect the Browns. Instead we have Eric Mangini who can now just concentrate on coaching under the tutelage of Holmgren. We have Tom Heckert who can concentrate on being the general manager.
Even if Holmgren, Heckert and Mangini ultimately fail to deliver a championship in Cleveland, the progress is undeniable. The Browns have been through many different phases since 1999. At various times they have been a monarchy and a dictatorship. For the first time in a long time and maybe ever, the Browns have a democracy with a real president presiding over the other branches of government. For Browns fans everywhere this represents hope. It represents a clear step forward in culture and philosophy for the Browns. Even if all the individual pieces aren’t right, we should all feel confident in the structure and the process.
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)