Browns await Holmgren’s decision

Mike Holmgren left Cleveland after an extended stay without

accepting a job to become boss of the Browns.

His aura lingered.

The former Seattle and Green Bay coach’s flirtation with the

team dragged on Wednesday with little word from either side.

Holmgren spent two days talking with the Browns about assuming

control of their football operations, but hasn’t decided if

Cleveland will be his next NFL stop.

“I don’t want to comment on the specifics of the

discussions,” Browns spokesman Bill Bonsiewicz said of the

meetings. “Both sides got to know each other and there is no

timetable for a decision.”

It appears Holmgren is weighing his options, which could

include several other teams in the days and weeks ahead. He wants

to talk to the Seahawks about coming back following general manager

Tim Ruskell’s recent resignation.

Messages for agent Bob LaMonte, who accompanied Holmgren on

his visit to the Browns, were not immediately returned.

Browns coach Eric Mangini, whose destiny could be decided by

Cleveland’s new football czar, was placed in the awkward position

of having to answer several questions about Holmgren’s courtship.

He put on a brave face and insisted that he’s not fazed by owner

Randy Lerner’s quest to find a “serious, credible leader,” one who

will ultimately control the coach’s fate.

“It’s not unsettling, at all,” said Mangini, 2-11 in his

first season with Cleveland. “What I’m focused on, and what I asked

the players to be focused on, is the task at hand, the opponent at

hand.”

Mangini met with the 61-year-old Holmgren during his visit,

which began Monday and concluded Tuesday evening without a deal

being completed. They’ve known each other for a few years, and

Mangini said they reminisced about a previous discussion when

Holmgren gave him some advice about buying a summer home in Cape

Cod.

“I think he’s a good guy,” Mangini said. “I know him some

through Andy Reid and through Bill Parcells. I thought it was a

good conversation. Obviously, he’s very talented as a coach. It was

a good, positive conversation.”

Mangini would welcome the addition of an overseer of

Holmgren’s distinction.

“I’m all for anybody that can come in and help us

organizationally be more successful,” he said. “That’s a great

thing. The more smart people, talented people you can put in the

building that have the same approach in terms of being focused on

winning, that’s the best thing you can have.

“You can’t ask for a better situation than to get a group of

people who are all focused on the same task. That’s what you want.

That’s what you strive for organizationally. That’s what you strive

for as a team.”

Mangini had no sense of Holmgren’s interest level in the

perpetually rebuilding Browns, who have made the playoffs just once

since 1999 and are on their fourth coach in 11 years. He also

doesn’t know if there is any advantage in putting a “football

czar,” a term first given to Bill Parcells when he took over in

Miami, in place before the end of the season.

“I haven’t been involved in czar searches before, so I don’t

know what the best path is,” he said, cracking a smile. “I’m not

sure what the best path is. I think the most important thing is to

get the right person in place and to move forward, whether that’s

today, whether it’s three weeks from now. Whatever point it is, the

key thing is to get the right person and move forward

organizationally.”

Holmgren was the topic du jour in Cleveland’s locker room.

The Browns got back to work after an extended break following their

Dec. 10 win over Pittsburgh amid rumblings of more change.

Although none of the players admitted seeing Holmgren, most

were aware that he had been in the hallways of the team’s

headquarters.

Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas grew up in Wisconsin and remembers

Holmgren from his days with the Packers.

“He was the Super Bowl coach when I was like 12,” Thomas

said. “So obviously his name holds pretty good value, especially

where I come from. They even named a street after him: Holmgren

Way.”

Offensive guard Floyd Womack was drafted by Holmgren and

played eight seasons for him in Seattle. He has no doubt the

three-time Super Bowl coach could help the Browns.

“He’s a smart man. He knows football and he’s been around for

a good while in this league,” Womack said. “If he was to come, I

think he’d do a good job.”

If Holmgren does agree to take on the Browns, there’s a

chance he could decide to keep Mangini, who was fired after last

season by the New York Jets. Although they seem to come from

different philosophical schools, Womack believes a Holmgren-Mangini

team could succeed.

“In this business, anybody can get along together,” Womack

said. “The main goal is to win.”

Mangini, who may have to build a case to convince Holmgren he

should stay, feels his ideas and principles could mesh easily with

Holmgren’s.

“Oftentimes you’re labeled with family trees and philosophies

and things like that, but the philosophy that I think we all want

is winning,” Mangini said. “Whether it’s West Coast, East Coast,

it’s winning. Mike ran really physical, demanding training camps. I

don’t think there’s anything inconsistent about that philosophy.

His goal is to win. That’s it. However you get to that point.”