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Mike Holmgren - talks about reviving the Browns, defends Randy Lerner


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The "H-bomb" has landed, and that is good news for Cleveland Browns backers desperate to see the end of the football devastation that has haunted their city for decades.

New team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert think they can detonate the recent past and construct a new future for the downtrodden franchise. Browns fans pray the partnership can re-energize and reorganize what has been a calamity.


Since re-entering the NFL in 1999, the Browns have endured fits and starts in the front office and the coaching staff. In 11 years, the franchise has employed six general managers and/or vice presidents of football operations, four team presidents and five head coaches.


The lack of stability weakened them, as did the death of owner Al Lerner in 2002. His son, Randy, an Ivy League-educated lawyer, has been portrayed as being indifferent to owning an NFL team. (The billionaire declined to be interviewed for this story.)


"I think Randy gets a bit of a bum rap," Holmgren says. "His father was kind of larger than life, and the (Browns) were given to Randy overnight. Quite the contrary — he is interested. When he sat in my living room in Arizona (while courting Holmgren), he said, 'Maybe I want this too much for Cleveland, the fans and my family.'


"He really cares."


But the Browns have not reached the postseason since 2002 and have not won a playoff game since 1994. The franchise has not hung a championship banner since 1964.


Naturally, "Dawg Pounders" remain skeptical.


"That is our biggest issue right now," Heckert says. "They have heard all this (rebuilding talk) before. But I think they are willing to give us the benefit of the doubt. That is all we can ask for. Now we just have to prove on the field that we can win."


Holmgren and Heckert have experience at rebuilding franchises.


Holmgren was an NFL head coach for 17 seasons. He helped deliver the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks to Super Bowls after years of futility. The Packers won Super Bowl XXXI after the 1996 season and lost it the next year; the Seahawks fell in Super Bowl XL after the 2005 season.


He seems to have inherited another strong offensive line in Cleveland. Whether rookie Colt McCoy can be molded into a franchise quarterback the way Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck were is unknown. Holmgren seems optimistic regardless.


"I am going to attempt to use the same formula that we used in Green Bay to bring back the Pack and what we used in Seattle," says Holmgren, who was stripped of personnel responsibilities while with the Seahawks. "I don't think it's impossible. There are some very simple foundational things that need to take place. And (Lerner) — he is going to let me do it. … We should be able to fix it.


"Now, do you get to the Super Bowl? You need to be a little lucky and all that stuff. But can we get it so that (fans) are feeling better about their football team? Absolutely."


Heckert was the Philadelphia Eagles' director of player personnel beginning in 2001. Although coach Andy Reid had final say on players, the duo helped lead the Eagles to four consecutive NFC title games from 2001 to '04 plus a Super Bowl (loss after the '04 season). Heckert later was promoted to GM.


Whether the Browns' revised blueprint for restoring constancy and productivity includes the long-term retention of the head coach is another matter. During Eric Mangini's maiden campaign in 2009, the Browns stumbled to a 1-11 start.


Team chemistry deteriorated so quickly that, by October, Rolling Stone piled on with a story citing Mangini's unyielding toughness, though linebacker David Bowens told the magazine the coach's door always was open and, "It's not like it's a total dictatorship around here."


None of this is lost on Holmgren, who says he thinks Mangini is a good coach — and will get a chance to prove it."


Holmgren says it is possible he could one day return to the sideline. But he adds, "(The) odds become less and less the longer I'm here, if it takes awhile to fix this."


Mangini has been quite solicitous regarding his new boss, saying he thinks he has someone to lean on for advice and assistance.


"I can go (to Holmgren) and not have to explain the 'why' very deeply, because he gets it," Mangini says. "Tom's been good as well. They understand the type of player that I am looking for. That is something Mike and I talked about a lot before I knew if I was staying. We have stayed true to that approach."


Mangini's problem, particularly in the short term, is trying to assimilate players newly acquired through free agency and the draft with veterans — and trying to continue the momentum gained from last season's fast finish of four consecutive wins.


Clearly the Browns' priority in the offseason was to revamp the secondary, which was torched last season. Mangini and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan often were put in a position of calling for defensive schemes to try to mask the Browns' woeful coverage and tackling.


Heckert dealt for players with whom he was familiar in Philadelphia, Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown and linebacker Chris Gocong. Then the Browns made corner Joe Haden of Florida their first pick in the draft, later adding two safeties. In free agency, the Browns added veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme and linebacker Scott Fujita.


"I think we all want the same type of guys — smart, tough and physical," Heckert says. "We don't have to have the most talented guys, but they have to be tough and love football. Jake and Scott are going to add to the chemistry of the team. That's what Eric wants."

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Actually the steelers didn't push the browns around last year for the first time in recent memory. You are right that there has been a difference in physicality between the two teams but I think that is a thing of the past now


there's nothing in the article that I posted that a troll can argue with. it is what it is and i wouldn't waste my time debating with any of these trolls. trolls veer off topic to try and rile people up and turn good threads into big kiddie arguments.

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i, for one, am optimistic that holmgren and heckert can bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the browns fo. esp. holmgren, who has alot of experience with turning struggling football teams into winners.

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