Due to lack of power, eight inches of water in the basement and a large pine tree about to crash into the driveway, this week’s First and 10 was delayed — and will be abbreviated. A little.
1) The Mike Holmgren era comes to a close two years earlier than he planned, which of course means that technically Holmgren can always say he didn’t get a chance to finish the job. Cheap out, or legitimate explanation? That depends on the point of view. Clearly, the signs are that the Browns were preparing this season for a long-term overhaul, with a new quarterback and running back and all those rookies on the roster. That the rug was pulled out by the sale of the team clearly seems to have surprised everyone.
2) Holmgren’s biggest second-guessable move? That’s not tough. Giving Eric Mangini a second year ranks as second guess numero uno. Though it was for honorable reasons, it set the rebuild to the Holmgren system back a year. Clearly their lines of thinking did not mesh. Giving Mangini another year was fair, but it didn’t help the short-term cause, a situation exacerbated by the lockout.
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3) The jury remains out on Holmgren’s personal choice as coach. Pat Shurmur also now finds himself in a situation where he’s working for people who did not hire him. A few years back, Paul Silas basically removed himself as Cavs coach when the team was sold to Dan Gilbert. Shurmur won’t do that, but his hold on his position rests on two things: The argument for continuity and a strong finish.
4) Another move that fell on Holmgren’s watch that I wish hadn’t happened was when he moved Lew Merletti from the team to Brooklyn Holdings, the Lerner family’s business. Merletti was the former head of the U.S. Secret Service hired by Al Lerner in 1999. He brought integrity and quality to the Browns — in the people he hired, the way he treated people and the way he handled his business. It was always known if something needed fixing or done right, Merletti was the guy. Anyone who questioned the character of a draft pick should know that Merletti gave the team lengthy information — positive and negative — about every player taken (he could not stop a coach from liking a troubled player). Through his tenure he did just about anything asked of him, and did it well. He put out more fires than Super Mario. He served his country as a Special Forces Medic in the Army, earned several prestigious honors including the Bronze Star, the Good Conduct Medal and Parachute Wings before he became a Secret Service Agent. Eventually he became a Secret Service Director who saved the life of the President on more than one occasion with planning, forethought and common sense. To think he would be ushered out a side door really is hard to grasp, especially since he could bring people together with his leadership and demeanor. Given his service to country and to the Browns, his departure should have been celebrated with fanfare and gratitude. He clearly deserved better.
5) The Jim Brown incident? Brown pretty much made clear that Holmgren was simply the messenger in that deal, that his contract stated he had to speak directly with the owner and when Holmgren passed on what were Randy Lerner’s wishes, Brown took umbrage. Holmgren took the fallout for doing the owner’s bidding — part of his job description. That it became a public mess was unnecessary and unfortunate.
6) A positive: Holmgren’s willingness to change quarterbacks and not stubbornly insist on keeping the guy he wanted. He tried Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace and it didn’t work.Then he tried Colt McCoy, and that didn’t work. So he drafted Brandon Weeden when many thought he should not. That pick appears to be a wise one. Holmgren’s stance that you change a quarterback every year until you find the right one turned out to be right on the money. Another positive: At this point, given the play of Weeden and Trent Richardson, the Browns appear to have hit the bottom part of the arc and could be headed on the upswing. The record will not show it this year, but whoever takes over next year will have a much better team than the one Holmgren took over back late in the 2010 season.
7) Shurmur made a revealing statement at his Monday news conference when he said: “If you’ve got a team where you can’t stretch the field out, the game gets awful small and it gets awful tight.” Read that to mean he really likes Weeden’s arm strength.
8) If anyone with the Browns refers to the storm that took place the last 24 hours as a distraction, or if they say they have to focus through it, I might just barf on their shoes.
9) Once again, an opponent has measured themselves by a loss to the Browns. The Chargers seemed flabbergasted they lost to (gasp) Cleveland. San Diego PR guy Bill Johnston, a good guy, posted on the team web site that alarmist folks need to “take a chill pill.” Fullback Le’Ron McLain told the San Diego Union Tribune: “… we should have come here today and got this victory … Man, it’s plain and simple, you’ve got to win games you’re supposed to. Throw away the record. Matchup for matchup, we were the better team. Not today though.” Wrote longtime columnist Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union Tribune: “The Chargers’ bedeviled head coach (Norv Turner) now operates the worst professional football team in the United States — oh, right, and England.” Nice to see another team going through that kind of thing, isn’t it?
10) Finally, repeated best wishes to team vice president Bryan Wiedmeier, who had emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor late last week. Wiedmeier is home recovering. I go back a long time with Wiedmeier, to the time I covered the Miami Dolphins in the Dan Marino era. I will forever be grateful to him for many things, among them referring me to Mader’s, a restaurant in Milwaukee with great homemade sausage and kielbasa and great … well … beer. Wiedmeier is an honest, upright guy. He is what Holmgren said he is: A good man who does a good job. Join me in wishing him well.