Steven King

Holmgren's "Why Can't We Stay?" Was Why He Had To Go

Created on Feb. 17, 2014 3:52 PM EST

Leave it to Mike Holmgren to do what he could to rain on the parade of Cleveland Browns fans last week.

While fans were so happy with the firing of despised CEO Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi that they literally wanted to have a parade – dissuaded only by an inordinately cold and snowy Northeast Ohio winter – Holmgren (the team’s former “Banner” not just in title but how the fans viewed him and his work) was weighing in as only he could.

In an interview with Seattle radio station 950 KJR-AM, Holmgren, who served as team president for a little over 2½ years, recalled his conversation with owner Jimmy Haslam when he purchased the club from Randy Lerner just as training camp was starting in 2012.

“My question to Mr. Haslam when he came in was, ‘Why can’t we stay? I mean, do you feel you have to make a change?’ ” Holmgren said in the interview. “And you know, he said, ‘Well, it’s new. It’s a start over.’ ”

By “we,” Holmgren was referring to himself and his sidekick, GM Tom Heckert. Both were fired by the time the 2012 season was over.

“Why can’t we stay?”

Really? Holmgren had the gall to ask Haslam, “Why can’t we stay?”? That’s almost incomprehensible.

“Why can’t we stay?”

Just as Banner and Lombardi messed up the team to the nth degree while in charge, so too did Holmgren and Heckert.

Holmgren and Heckert traded up to get the No. 3 overall choice in the 2012 NFL Draft and then used it to take RB Trent Richardson. Richardson was dealt early in the 2013 season to the Indianapolis Colts, where he floundered badly for the rest of the year. Getting a 2014 first-round draft pick in the trade was maybe the only smart move that Banner and Lombardi made during their year-long tenure together in Cleveland.

Also in 2012, Holmgren and Heckert used the No. 22 overall pick to draft QB Brandon Weeden, who has been an abysmal failure in two seasons. He will be released – or traded, if there are any takers – soon.

But the best part of the story is that Holmgren and Heckert selected Weeden only after Lerner walked into the draft room and essentially forced them to do something when he took stock of the quarterbacks in the AFC North and asked, “Where’s our franchise quarterback?” (Cleveland fans probably don’t need to be reminded the Baltimore Ravens’ Joe Flacco, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger and Cincinnati Bengals’ Andy Dalton have accounted for a few Super Bowl rings and seem to be frequent visitors to the postseason.

Holmgren and Heckert were perfectly willing to continue to go with QB Colt McCoy, who had struggled mightily. Instead, they listened to Lerner and took Weeden, whom they had never scouted in person. It was as if they grabbed a copy of one of those draft preview magazines and picked out someone they liked, sort of like ordering from a catalog.

“We like the tall kid with the Oklahoma State jersey on page 56.”

While all this was going on, Holmgren let coach Eric Mangini come back for a second season in 2010 when it was clear to everyone else he couldn’t do the job.

When Holmgren finally got on board with the rest of the world and figured out Mangini was not the right man, he fired him and then strayed far off the beaten path by hiring Pat Shurmur as the replacement. He did so even though Shurmur was more ill-equipped for the job than Mangini in that he had never been a head coach at any level.

So it’s not surprising that Shurmur failed as miserably as Mangini, going 9-23 in two years before Haslam fired him at the conclusion of the 2012 season.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg in the nightmarish Holmgren/Heckert tenure in Cleveland. There’s much more to tell, such as Holmgren making a habit of arriving for work late in the morning and then leaving by mid-afternoon, with an hour or so off for lunch in between, of course.

Despite all that, Holmgren, who must not have a conscience, was able to look Haslam right in the eye and say with a straight face, “Why can’t we stay?”

Browns fans are glad Haslam refused to let Holmgren and Heckert stay and are even more delighted that the owner jettisoned Banner and Lombardi a year later.

Put all four firings together and it might be reason enough to have a parade down Euclid Avenue to Public Square in Cleveland – even in all the bad weather.

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