BEREA, Ohio — It might not add up to wins on the field, but it sure won’t hurt the team with its fan base.
Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren said Thursday he will be more accessible this season to address issues and questions.
“If I can help and open things up and make some things a little clearer for our fans, then that’s my goal,” he said at a media appearance. “And that’s my only goal.”
Call it addressing an issue, filling a need. In his first two years as Browns president, Holmgren preferred to be in the background and let his coach and general manager do the talking. He said when he coached the worst thing was when someone else in the organization spoke for him, or said something he didn’t appreciate. Thus, he preferred to let Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur do their jobs, part of which was speak to the media — and the fans through the media.
But Holmgren listened to advice from Kathy, his wife of 41 years, and some other close advisers — in the league and in the media — and decided “I’m going to try to be more available.”
All his feelings make sense. There was merit to letting the coach or GM speak, but Holmgren was hired for many reasons — among them his presence, his experience and his knowledge. He also was hired because, as team owner Randy Lerner said, the Browns needed a serious, credible voice in charge of football.
It didn’t help that that voice was muffled.
Holmgren’s reluctance to be more public even led some to wonder if he was committed to the long-term effort with the Browns. He promised he is, and said he was sensitive to that criticism.
“If anything, I maybe care too much,” he said.
Not that things went perfectly last season. When Holmgren did meet the media, it came after the Browns had been pilloried from coast to coast for the way they handled James Harrison’s kill-shot to Colt McCoy’s jaw. His frustration came through. Earlier in the season he had talked with a friend on a Seattle radio station prior to the Browns-Seahawks game. And he did it before he talked to the Cleveland media, which drew criticism.
Holmgren referred to “the Seattle radio controversy” and called it “one of the more amazing things I’ve been involved with,” but also admitted he had “no idea it would cause the ripple effect it did.”
He now understands that being in the background might contribute to questions, and added: “That’s probably a good reason for me to be out there a little bit more.”
Then he went out and showed why speaking more is a good idea by giving common-sense answers to several football questions:
* The plan right now is to keep quarterbacks Brandon Weeden, Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace, but he added that plans can change. Holmgren admits that when a quarterback is taken in the first round, a message is being sent. Translation: Unless he’s a complete flop, Weeden will start.
* The reason the Browns haven’t named Weeden the starter yet? “We’re not ready to do it now,” Holmgren said.
* He sees little awkwardness in keeping the three. “It’s probably fun to write about,” he said, adding, “whoever is the third quarterback, that guy gets his feathers ruffled a little bit. . . . But that’s the business.”
* The fans want to see the brown jerseys, so the team will wear them for part of the year at home. The choice will depend on weather, which means it will be white jerseys early and browns jerseys late.
* He expects the team to “take a good healthy jump this year,” but would not specify a number of wins, wise given the schedule, especially the early schedule.
For whatever reason, some people who represent a team can calm troubled waters. They have that cache. Holmgren would seem to be able to fill that role.
He is not a team president who does not understand football. The Browns have had that kind of president, and to have them talk football would have been silly. Holmgren can address football decisions and thinking, and do it in a way that makes things clearer and helps everyone understand the thinking. He also has the experience to get that done without walking on his coach and GM. It’s delicate, but he’s been around long enough to handle it.