Saturday, March 05, 2011

Candidate Mike

The item went mostly unnoticed because it probably wasn't really news to anyone. Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren gave a radio interview in Seattle recently and said that he seriously considered hiring himself as the team's head coach once he disposed of former head coach Eric Mangini.

On the surface this may seem to conflict with what Holmgren said publicly at the time but that's probably only because Holmgren had already made the decision that he wasn't going to be adding that job to his duties with the Browns.

Still the revelation of sorts about the consideration he gave to taking the job makes for great theater if you approach it from a fly-on-the-wall perspective as President Holmgren interviewed Candidate Holmgren:

“Tell me, Mike, what if we name you the new head coach, what changes would you immediately make, what changes do you think could wait, and what would you like to see stay the same?”

“That's a great question, Mike, and I've thought a lot about exactly how I would approach it. Initially I'd say that I'd have to go back to what's worked for me in the past. I had a good run in both Green Bay and Seattle so I think I have a feel of what needs to be done to produce a winner.”

“Indeed you do, tell me more.”

“Well, if we're talking about things that need to stay the same, I'd say the uniforms and the colors. As for what needs to change immediately, I'd say just about every thing else.”

“That's kind of a bold statement, don't you think?”

“Maybe, but let's face it. This team has won 10 games in two years and that more or less represents a high water mark. I'm sure some of the diehards out there who want to believe anything think this team was headed to greener pastures under Eric, but I think you made a brilliant decision in letting him go. He was never going to get this team to a Super Bowl, like I have with two different teams.”

“That was kind of my feeling as well, Mike. Let me hear about how you'd turn it around.”

“Well, I like that kid Tom Heckert that you hired. That's a good start. I think he will be good in the draft room and in upgrading the roster. I think, too, that your input as president will be very valuable. This franchise hasn't drafted well, except last season, and it has a roster filled with mostly role players.”

“That's how I see it as well, Mike. So where do you think the team has to go next?”

“If I get here, I'm going to push you to give me the time to take a longer look at Colt McCoy. I thought that whoever is responsible for drafting him in the third round did a good job. He showed real poise when thrust into that situation last year and I think he can be a winner. I wouldn't go after a number one quarterback in the off season, but take a wait and see attitude.”

“I like where you're going with this, Mike.”

“Thanks, Mike. If you wouldn't mind, let me continue and give you some other things to think about as you talk to other candidates for this head coaching position.”

“Great, go ahead.”

“Ok, let's take a little closer look at the roster. Again, I think the McCoy kid should stick around, but that said I'd take a long look at trying to get Seneca Wallace under a bit of a longer-term contract. I had him in Seattle and he knows how to run the West Coast Offense, which is one of my specialties, by the way. In this league you need two quarterbacks who can actually play. Wallace is a great back up and he looks good in spot duty.”

“That's a good idea. I like Wallace as well, but I haven't yet committed to the West Coast Offense, Mike.”

“I don't mean to get ahead of myself in this interview, Mike, but I did have a chance to watch your team a lot last year. It was pretty clear that you weren't pleased with the offensive jambalaya that this team had last year. It had no identity. It wasn't vertical, it wasn't lateral, it wasn't much of anything other than a collection of interesting plays that occasionally worked. I know that you'll be going into your second full season as team president and I'm sure you'll want to see a West Coast Offense. It only makes sense.”

“You've read my mind, Mike. That's exactly where I want to take this offense. You're a very sharp candidate.”

“As I've said, I've been around a few years. You begin to understand things,you know what I mean?”

“I do, I do.”

“So tell me, do you think we can make the West Coast Offense successful in Cleveland?”

“I think so. That running back, Peyton Hillis, is a good kid though I think Eric was pushing him too hard last season. I'll never understood why he let Jerome Harrison go, but that's water over the dam. You'll need some depth and hopefully Montario Hardesty, a great draft choice by the way, will be healthy for next season. I think the receivers you have on the roster—and I know you inherited them from Eric—aren't great but they are far more suited to the West Coast Offense. They are more possession-type receivers, except Chansi Stuckey. You should just let him go. I like most of the offensive line as well, except a couple of the lugs Eric brought in. You should get rid of them, too. By and large, though, I think there are enough building blocks there to make for a relatively smooth transtion.”

“Good insight, Mike. What about the defense? What would you do there if you were the new head coach?”

“Let's start with Rex Ryan. I know the fans like him, he's a colorful guy like his brother. But there's a reason no one seriously considers him when they have an opening for a head coach. He's reckless. He likes to design a variety of looks and blitzes, which are fine, but you have to have the players to execute it, you know what I mean?”

“I sure do.”

“For example, that Baltimore game last year. How many times did Ryan have to see Anquan Boldin catching pass after pass when he was one-on-one with Eric Wright before he changed the scheme?”

“Apparently a hundred because he never did change the scheme.”

“Exactly. Reckless. Therefore, as much as the casual fans might like him, Ryan has to go.”

“Who would you put in that role instead?”

“I have a lot of good contacts in this league. My first call would be to someone like Dick Jauron. He's well known, a good defensive mind, calm under pressure, and runs a 4-3, which I think is better for this defense.”

“I've been thinking the same thing as well.”

“That's good to hear. It sounds like you and me are on the same page already. Let me give you a few more thoughts, on some of the personnel.”

“Great. I always like to pick a great football mind like yours, even if it's in the context of a job interview.”

“Ok, thanks. Back to the defense. I think Wright has some talent but I think Ryan damn near ruined him. If you hire me, I'm likely going to recommend you keep Wright around for another year. I know he'll be a restricted free agent, but give him something like a second-round tender. Nobody will give up a second round pick for him and that will give the new coach, which I hope is me, a chance to clear that kid's head and get him back on the trajectory he was on.”

“Interesting, interesting. Anything else?”

“Yea, a few more things. Try to re-sign D'Qwell Jackson.. I like his game, too. Far better suited to the 4-3 defense. And one final thing. Again, no disrespect to Eric, but why the hell was he playing games with Phil Dawson? I don't think he understands how difficult it is to kick in Cleveland with the winds that come off that lake. Dawson has been about as solid of a player this team has ever had and has done it for a decade. Most games in this league are won or loss by the margin of a field goal. You need a good kicker. If it were me and you bring me aboard as head coach, I'm going to be in your office on Day 1 pushing you to put the franchise tag on Dawson. He's that valuable.”

“Mike, that's a terrific idea. We do like Phil. I don't understand why Eric had such a negative view of him or kickers generally. Probably a Belichick thing.”

“I have to say, Mike, I'm very impressed with you as a candidate for our head coaching position. Care to give me some thoughts on who you think we should be drafting with the 6th pick?”

“I do, actually, but I'd rather not share them right now. If you don't end up hiring me and I land somewhere else, then you may have a competitive advantage on my new team because you'll understand our draft plans.”

“I certainly understand, Mike. This has been a brilliant interview, just brilliant. I'm going to give this some very serious consideration. You'll be hearing from me soon.”

“Thanks, Mike. I really appreciate the opportunity and know you'll be successful. Let me just leave you with one final thought. If you decide I'm not the right guy, take a look at that kid Pat Shurmur from St. Louis. You and I both know his uncle, Fritz, and we had great respect for him, God rest his soul. Pat's an up and comer, learned at Fritz's knee, and I think if you decide to go in that direction instead of me, you'll still be on the right track.”

“Good thought there as well, Mike.”

“Sorry, one more thing. I mean it this time. If you do hire Shurmur. Let him call his own plays. He'll do just fine.”

“Excellent idea. Thanks again for all the insight. This interview has been invaluable to our team's future.”

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