Outgoing President Mike Holmgren sat down with the media in Berea for what could be his final session with the press as a member of the Browns. As you'd expect, Holmgren thanked and effusively praised former owner Randy Lerner, and said all the right things about new owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner. His opening remarks on Lerner were dual feelings of gratitude and regret. Holmgren continued to carry the banner for Lerner, stating, "He had great passion for this city and this team, but as you all know, he was uncomfortable being out front. And so, that's why he asked me to come. I'll be forever grateful about having the opportunity, he forced me to challenge myself in areas of football that I had not been in."
But Holmgren's days are ending with a five-year contract unfulfilled, and he expressed regret over a job unfinished. "For Randy, I wasn't able to help enough, put a winning product on the field, at least enough, yet," he said "And while we fixed a number of things, that's something we haven't been able to fix enough yet." He's departing in the third year of his deal, and he reiterated that he always intended to keep his contract, but that the change of ownership was an unforeseen circumstance that altered the situation.
"I knew when [Haslam] purchased the team, that my role was going to change dramatically. Jimmy will bring a great enthusiasm. He's out front, he's enthusiastic. He wants this to be right, and he wants this go well. I think it's a wonderful thing for the city of Cleveland.
"It was always my intention to honor my contract, if not more. But the sale of a football team certainly changes the dynamic, and it changed the dynamic for me. My time was shorter than I had hoped."
But there are still three months ahead for Holmgren, even with Banner coming on board this Thursday. The former Super Bowl winning coach said he wouldn't rock the boat during the transition, but he'll be a resource for Banner and Haslam.
It sounds like his role during the transition, however, is a bit undefined and murky. "We talked about a transition period. I can't define it so much. I want to feel like I am contributing, but my emphasis is going to be on the football side of it. If I can help one player be a little bit better this season, or one coach, and I feel like I am contributing, then that could happen. We'll take it a day at a time.
"I'm not going to rock the boat or get in anyone's way. I think I can help a little bit, but if it gets cumbersome or uncomfortable for anybody, I don't want that to happen."
It was a pretty understated end to the Holmgren era, as he calmly fielded an array of questions. As he exits the stage, the sale to Haslam is expected to close on Thursday, with Banner taking over full-time on that same day.