Browns President Mike Holmgren Speaks on the Firing of Coach Eric Mangini

“Good afternoon everybody. As you know, we are going to make a change with the head coach. I had a chance to meet with Eric (Mangini) this morning. We had a very good but tough conversation. It’s difficult to say the least, but I want to thank him publicly. He and his family for everything they have done as far as the football organization is concerned and also the community. They are wonderful people and I wish them nothing but the best. Our conversation, I think we were very honest with one another. We have established a good relationship and that’s what made it even more difficult. We will begin a search for a new coach immediately. We’ve started the ball rolling a little bit today already. I am not locking myself into any timetable for this. My goal is to find exactly the right person for the job of Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns and who can eventually someday lead us to the championship. That is my only goal.”

(On if there is any chance he will be coaching the team next year)- “I was hired to be the President of the Cleveland Browns and I think this year I have grown into the job. I think I learned a lot about a lot of things that I hadn’t paid much attention to before. Having said that, I am also a coach, I’ll always be a coach. Heck, the people in the building call me coach. To tell you right now that I would never coach again, whether it’s here or any place, that probably wouldn’t be honest. You know that, I know that. As of right now, I am the President of the Cleveland Browns and my job is to find the best coach available, the right coach available for this job. That’s what I am trying to do and that does not include me right now. To say I’ll never coach again, I probably won’t coach again, but I don’t want to lie to you ever. I’ve never done it and I’m not going to start now.”

(On if he has contacted potential candidates)- “Probably around 11 o’clock we sent out request forms, based on league protocols, to a few fellos. We now are waiting on a few responses.”

(On if there is a race to get John Fox or Jon Gruden with other openings coming in the league)- “Those two fellos I know very, very well and they are outstanding football coaches. It seems as though there are going to be a number of changes in the league so I would suspect that those two guys would be candidates on a lot of people’s lists. As far as how we are handing this, we are not going to announce people before they come in here. After I have interviewed the possible candidate, at that point I will follow up with you and let you know who came in and those types of things. That’s how we are going to handle it. I am not prepared today to give you a bunch of names or things like that but you won’t be kept in the dark on this. It’s just I think in fairness the people we are talking to and other candidates perhaps, I’d like to handle it that way.”

(On why wouldn’t he include himself in the search if he is looking for the best man and right man for the job)- “That’s very nice of you to say Tony (Grossi) (joking). It’s just at this stage of my life that’s not what my first priority is. It really isn’t. I’m enjoying, I’m relishing the role that Randy Lerner had confidence to give me. I would like to continue getting better, continue to help guide the organization and get us to where we want to get from that position. I’m going to approach this a certain way. I think I’m a pretty good coach but there are a lot of good coaches, a lot of young coaches. I am actually anxious to talk to a few of them and just see how it goes, what the feel is like. I can get real excited about finding a young guy and having him take the ball and go with it.”

(On when he would coach again if he doesn’t coach now)- “How old is Joe Paterno (joking)? That’s a good point so I think you are answering your own question. I was in the bright light a long time and I enjoyed it tremendously but right now my direction is going in a different way.”

(On when he made up his mind that Mangini would no longer be the coach)- “Probably this morning. I’ve said all along and I’ve tried to be true to what I’ve told you, and certainly what I’ve told Eric all along is that this season I would make any decision I had to make once the season was concluded. Let the dust settle, let me think about it. That’s how I make decisions. That’s how I made the decision to keep Eric. And then come to some sort of conclusion. I didn’t sleep very well last night. I was up a fair amount of the night thinking about this, thinking what I might have to do and then finally trying to make the correct decision. Look, it’s difficult. I’ve never had to do this before. I like the man a lot. He is a hard working, bright, caring guy. Unfortunately this business at times and even though it wasn’t the only factor, I want to win here. We want to win here in Cleveland and we did not win enough games this year.”

(On if he could do the job of both president and head coach)- “I’d rather not dwell with a hypothetical right now. My focus is in another way. If I have to answer that question, I’ll probably have to answer it way down the road but not right now.”

(On if he is limiting the search to coaches with NFL experience)- “No Tom (Withers), we’ve compiled lists, columns if you will, of coaches that fit into certain categories and college coaches are certainly one of the categories.”

(On if he is ruling himself out of the search completely)- “At the present time, yes.”

(On how close the team is to winning)- “That’s a tough one to answer I think. I thought the improvement we made this year, other than the game yesterday, we were competitive in every ball game. Every ball game was a dog fight and it was relatively close. I don’t think you could have said that a year ago so you see certain areas of improvement. I think you’ve seen our young guys perform pretty well this year. Hopefully, they have bright, bright futures ahead of them. I am encouraged by that. To answer, I can’t give you a timetable on it but that is my hope and my goal.”

(On why Mangini was not the coach to take the team to the next level)- “I think my expectations for the team and for this season were higher. I’ve already told you what I think of the man. This is a great game and at times a tough business. That’s what happened.”

(On if his decision was based on the direction the team was headed or more on the record)- “I don’t know if you can separate the two.  I think if you look at our season it had tremendous highs and lows for me.  I think when we beat New England and New Orleans, I don’t think anybody in this room could leave this room without a smile on their face.  It was really something, something very special.  Then as good as we finished last year, a year ago, we finished as poor this year. If you’re talking about direction or how I felt the team was going, the finish wasn’t a feel good finish.  What I tried to do is not base my decision on any one game, any one play, any two games, any stretch but the body of work.  As I told the players when I met with them today after Eric had talked to them I went in and talked to them briefly.  I have high expectations and I’m not going to settle, I’m just not going to settle.”

(On how much of the team’s ability to win in the division was a factor in his decision)- “That was one of the things I thought about because division games are very, very important, but we’re in a very tough division. I think everyone knows that.  Cincinnati even had some really great wins at the end of the year.  They were kind of a unique team in some respects but they were capable and then Pittsburgh and Baltimore of course are in the playoffs and had outstanding records.  It’s a tough division, knowing that, however, we competed.  I thought we competed very, very well except for the game yesterday.”

(On if one of the candidates does not really impress him if he will then consider coaching)- “That’s really premature at this point.  Right now my whole focus is on putting a list of candidates, the right candidates together, interviewing them, hopefully you’ll make a good decision based on those interviews.”

(On if the inquiries they sent out to coaches today were to coaches with other teams)- “Yes.”

(On it seeming like he missed coaching and was thinking about coming back during the bye week and what has changed since then)- “I think at the midpoint of the season when I had that little conversation with everybody, I forget exactly what I said, but I think it kind of got blown out of proportion slightly.”

(On how he said then that he would be back in a suit but he wasn’t sure which one)- “You have a very good memory, thank you (joking).  I have been thinking about it a lot.  During the whole course of the year because I didn’t know what my reaction would be to sitting, watching the games as opposed to being on the sideline.  I think I’ve mentioned that to you a few times.  I really know what it takes to coach, the time necessary and the emotion to do it correctly.  Unless I was 100 percent sure I wanted to commit, I don’t think you’re being fair to anybody. As we’ve gone into the season and in wonderful conversations with my young bride, the direction I want to go right now is to find somebody to take this over and do a great job with it.”

(On if he is going to branch out from the Holmgren Tree and look at candidates that don’t have the same philosophy)- “Yes, we’re opening it up.  It’s a pretty wide search in my opinion, we’re not limiting ourselves in any way.  Tom Heckert and I will be the point people on the interviews but there’s a group of us in the building that meet and talk about this and we will talk about this every day until it gets done.  That includes Bryan Wiedmeier, Gil Haskell, Matt Thomas, Tom Heckert and Mark Schiefelbein, guys that I know who know football, who know people.  Heckert and I will be the point people to travel to meet people and also the interview here.”

(On if there is a time table at all and if it is affected by the labor situation)- “The labor situation, no.  The time table what affects this process as you know are the playoffs.  The league has rules on who you can talk to, when you can talk to them things like that so that would be the only restriction.  I’d like to get it done sooner than later I think everyone would answer that question that way but at the same time I’m not going to rush the process if I haven’t been able to talk to who I want to talk to.”

(On the rest of the football staff)- “I met with the assistant coaches today and I will meet with them next Monday again.  I told them to take the week off while I’m in the process of searching or trying to do the interviews for the head coach.  They’re all under contract with the Browns for another year.  The assistant coaches worked so hard, that’s a good group of guys.  That was a difficult meeting because they really work very, very hard at their jobs.  The way I left it with them is that they’re under contract, however, I will meet with them again next Monday.  If something were to come up in the mean time they are to contact me otherwise we’ll deal with that next Monday.”

(On if he will take a head coaching job with another NFL team)- “No, I’m not going to do that.”

(On if he expects to interview Gruden and Fox)- “I’m not canceling anybody out. I have not talked to either John.  Again it would have been premature until today so now we’re going to start the process.  I’m not going to give you any names but I will be talking to any number of people.”

(On when he talked to Randy Lerner about his decision)- “Randy and I talk daily and we meet at the very least weekly and we talk about everything regarding this organization.  During the course of the season we’ve had any number of conversations about how the team was going, what I thought about how the coaches were doing.  That’s just his normal conversation so he as the owner of the football team has been very involved certainty in knowing what my feelings were.  As we approached near the end of the season and it got where I thought maybe I would have to make some sort of decision, we continued to talk.  The beauty of our relationship in my opinion is he hired me to do a job and as the owner he has given me the chance to make decisions like this.  Does he know ahead of time?  Absolutely.  Do I talk to him about these things?  Absolutely, he is the owner of the football team.  Does he care?  He certainly cares.  He’s been involved all the way along and then when I finally did make the decision then he was the first person I talked to and he went with me.”

(On how much the emergence of Colt McCoy and his future play a role in the next coach)- “I think it’s important.  I think if, there are some ifs here, if Colt is the guy and I’ve talked about him before and I think you see the potential there. I certainty do.  Who the head coach is, who the offensive coordinator is, who his position coach is they’re important for any team, but if all of a sudden you have the quarterback you think can be the quarterback a young man who can be the quarterback for the next 10-15 years hopefully it becomes even more important.  Absolutely that is going to be one of the considerations in the search.”

(On if the next coach will have run more of a West Coast style system)- “No, I don’t think I can do that.  In what I tried to do with Eric (Mangini) this year and we talked about it this morning.  I said, ‘I wish I could have helped you out more,’ and we had one of those things where we were kind of talking to each other that way. If I hire a coach, I’m hiring a coach.  He’s going to run what he runs, what he’s comfortable with, what he knows.  Now will it be part of the consideration in the process?  Absolutely, but I am not going to interfere that way as a president.  I did not do it this year, I’m not going to do it next year and I’m not going to do it ever.  That’s not fair.  Is it a consideration in this process?  I think it is though.  Maybe not the ‘system’ exactly but certainly something that I think allows the quarterback in this case in one of our quarterbacks to be successful.”

(On how the next coach is going to be the Browns’ fifth in 13 years and how vital it is for him to get it right)- “Huge.  I don’t want to do this again.  I think historically if you look at teams that don’t have to do this very much, they’ve been successful.  They’ve been successful it’s just like which came first the chicken or the egg? Are they successful because they haven’t done it?  You go through some bumps in the road if you think you have the right guy and the right system and all those things.  That’s part of it. It’s very, very important that we get this right.”

(On how positive he is that he will be able to get someone he really believes in)- “That’s a tough one because I think we can.  That’s a tough one because it appears as though there will be a number of openings, there could be a fair amount of movement.  If you’re talking about the same people then it becomes who gets them.  We’re going to work very, very hard to get the right person you can believe that and I’m hopeful we can.  Am I positive?  I can’t say that.”

(On how he is going to sell the candidates on the Browns)- “You guys have been here a long time, most of you and you’ve lived through the really tough things.  I think you have a tendency to view things just a little differently than perhaps I did when I came in or someone from outside coming in and looking at it.  This is one of the great jobs.  There are 32 jobs, this is one of the great jobs in the country.  You’re a head coach in the National Football League, if you are a football coach that’s what you want to be.  Another part of that is I would use the same technique that I used with Tom Heckert, Bryan Wiedmeier, Mark Schiefelbein, Jim Ross, Matt Thomas, all the guys now that are manning the offices upstairs that came from great football places but they came here to be with me to try and get something special done that hadn’t been done.  There’s a challenge there that I think appeals to men in this business.  That’s what I’ll be talking to the person about.”

(On how important it is for the candidate to have NFL head coaching experience)- “I’m trying not to limit myself and giving any special weight to anything over another.  I was a coordinator, had no experience when I was hired.  In history, if you go back, the coordinator position is a good place to start because you’re dealing with a lot of the team most of the time and it’s the next step, the logical step.  Yet, Andy Reid when he was with me, he was a position coach, and he went from position coach to a head coach so it’s been done a lot of different ways.  I’m not going to limit myself as an example, I’m not going to put a lot of weight in former head coaches.  There are some great ones and absolutely they will be on our list but I’m going to try and keep it wide right now.”

(On what stands out in a head coach today that maybe you didn’t need 10-15 years ago coaching in the NFL)- “I don’t know.  I’m sure there is but you’re probably asking the wrong guy. For this reason, when I was coaching in high school which I loved, I coached a certain way, I dealt with the kids a certain way.  However you want to label honesty, integrity, however you want to label that.  Coaching was important to me.  Then I get here and I’m a coach in the NFL, I didn’t change one lick, I don’t think I did.  They are big little kids.  You have who you are and that’s how you do it.  Is the money greater? Yes.  I suppose there are some issues that complicate the players’ lives a little more than 15 years ago. As far as the person who’s coaching the football team’s approach, I think the players still want certain things.  He wants you to look him in the eye and be honest, he wants you to shoot straight, you might not always like the answer but then don’t ask the question, he doesn’t want to be off balance, he wants you to believe you care about him and his family.  There are some general things that are important regardless of what area you in coaching I think.  It’s a challenging business but I don’t know if it’s any greater now than it was 10 years ago or not.  I don’t know.  Personally, I don’t think it’s a whole lot more challenging, it’s just what it is.”

(On if a part of him wants to take a chance on an unknown coordinator or coach like what happened when he became a head coach)- “I think if in our process we come to the conclusion that this particular person is the right person, the pedigree doesn’t matter.  It won’t matter.  Sometimes the path of least resistance is to hire someone that is a little more known quantity, I get that.  It’s a little bit more comfortable, maybe a little more expedient and I know a lot more expensive.  But I can’t look at it that way, I really have to kind of look at everything and then try and come to a decision of who would be the right fit for this team right now.”

(On if he and Mangini’s differences in philosophies hindered the progress this season)- “I would hope not.  Eric and I talked about that a little bit this morning and I think if you asked him, he would say no it didn’t have anything to do with it.  I tried to be very, very careful and not overstep my bounds that way.  Would I talk to players?  Sure, I like talking to players.  Did I coach the players?  Not really, I never did that.  Would I talk to the quarterbacks whether it be Seneca (Wallace), who I coached, or Jake (Delhomme) or somebody about keeping their elbow out or whatever technique wise?  Yes, I might do that.  That was about the extent of my involvement.  What we had agreed to and what happened during the course of the year is Gil Haskell, who you know was my offensive coordinator for years, he and Brian (Daboll) would get together and talk and have these great football conversations just in an advisory-type of capacity, but no demands were placed on anybody.  I think in some respect, it helped in how we did in certain things, but that was all.  Brian asked to be able to use our experience on certain things, so I thought that relationship and those things worked very well.  That was my hope.  How it translated on the field, I don’t really know the ins and outs of how they were doing that.”

(On if it would be easier if the next head coach ran a West Coast offense so he could give input and advice)- “Certainly it would be easier, yes.  It would be easier, but again, I’m going to be real careful about that.  I just don’t think it’s fair.  I would try and put myself in his shoes in having somebody pop into my office all the time saying do this, do that and do that.  I know how I would react and I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.  To answer, it would be easier, yes.”

(On if he being held in high regard around the league might make potential coaching candidates wary)- “I hope not.  Coaches covet these jobs, we all know that.  I would hope that if I get a chance to talk to anybody, I could put any fears they might have aside.  That’s not me, I’m here to kind of contribute and help.  I think I can make that point to anybody that comes in here.”

(On what was going through his mind in seeing some of the offensive struggles this past season)- “If I was a writer, I probably would have wrote what you wrote (joking).  I think we felt the same way, shoot.  All of you have followed football a long, long time and you know.  Plus you’re fans of the Cleveland Browns, so you’re looking at the game or any game like that and I’m going to react like you reacted I’m sure.  The tough part about my job is on Monday I have to come in and get it going again and kind of calm down and stuff.  I get frustrated just like anybody would, like our assistant coaches did when they looked at the film on Monday.  Yes, I’d watch games like that and say, ‘Shoot we missed an opportunity there.  Dog gone it.’  I was human.  Did it affect my relationships with any of those guys the following week?  No, I understand the business.  At that time on Sunday evening, you really didn’t want to sit next to me on the plane coming home though (joking).”

(On what the downside was of having kept Mangini on this past season)- “You know what, I don’t look at it that way.  I honestly don’t.  I made a decision when I first got here and the year we spent together, this last year, I met a classy guy who is dedicated, smart and that was a good thing.  I don’t look at it as a downside.  I’ve learned in a year a lot about this football team and a lot about my vision for it.  I didn’t know that when I came in.  I didn’t know the coaches very well, I didn’t know the players at all.  After a year, you learn and you look at things differently, but I wouldn’t have given up the last year.  I made the decision when I first got here, I think, for the correct reasons and hopefully I’m doing the same thing now.”

(On if he is more concerned with hiring the right person for the job rather than continuity in styles)- “Yes, I would say that’s correct.  I’m not thinking much about continuity right now, that’s not part of the equation.  I talked about that when I talked to the players today, that we are going to try and find the right person, we have to play better, we have to be more committed, we have to have a good offseason, which brings up a whole other can of worms.  No, continuity, I don’t think about that.”

(On the notion from the fans that they are starting all over and if he feels that they are)- “I don’t, but I understand the feeling.  The ‘here we go again’ feeling is real.  Have we taken some strides this year even though it was a tough year in some respects?  I think we have.  As I mentioned to you earlier, I don’t want to do this again, so I have to get this one right.  I really think I have to get this one right for organizational continuity, for the ability to keep people in place for a long period of time to develop the organization.  While I understand how people would say that, I think we did do some things Tony (Grossi) this year that we can build on.”

(On if he felt he owed Mangini a definite decision one way or another when they met this morning)- “I did.  I think in situations like this, in fairness to the coach, they don’t want anything to drag out.  What’s the point?  All it is is that their families suffer, he suffers and I suffer.  Once you make the decision, tell the person.  All along, I stated how I was going to do that.  Last week in fact, we talked and I said on Monday we will get together and have a meeting Monday morning.  He said, ‘Great,’ and that’s what we did.”

(On if Mr. Lerner asked him if he wanted to coach)- “We talked about that.  I don’t remember his exact words, but he asked me if I wanted to coach.  We had that discussion, yes.”

(On what Mr. Lerner said he wanted)- “As far as I could tell, he just wanted to open the discussion and get me thinking about it.  Actually he has been very generous to me, so he wanted to get me thinking about what was best for me and my family first of all, I think, then what would be best for the Cleveland Browns.  I think, and I could be wrong, but in that order.  He’s been very good to me.  We did have those conversations, and at the very least, what it did was get me thinking about what I really wanted, how it could change my life and to get me thinking about doing the right thing.  I appreciate the fact that he did that.”

(On if Mr. Lerner wanted to know one way or the other if he would want to coach the team)- “No, I think it was just an open question.  He got me thinking, got us both talking about some things.  Actually, it was a pretty good strategy on his part I think.  Seriously, it was a very generous thing for him to do.”

(On if the final game of the season had any effect on his final decision to keep Mangini)- “I said going into the year or at some point during the year and I said it earlier today that one game was not going to make my decision for me.  Was I disappointed yesterday?  Absolutely.  That’s our number one rival and we got it handed to us pretty good.  I didn’t like the feeling, there was nothing good about that game yesterday.  I also made a promise to Eric a long time ago that I wasn’t going to determine his fate by one football game.  That doesn’t make any sense to me at all.  While I was disappointed and kind of angry at the outcome, not at the people, I wasn’t going to base my decision just on the one game.”

(On how it felt to see so many Steelers fans at the home game yesterday)- “I’ve been through that before in the Super Bowl.  We played there and I’d swear it was a Pittsburgh home game.  The stadium was full of terrible Towels when we played in Detroit.  I don’t like that.  When I first went to Seattle, when they were first constructing the new stadium that was on television last night, the team had been struggling and we had trouble selling tickets.  When we played certain teams like the Steelers, their fans travel well.  There was a section of our stadium there that was the other color and until we got to be competitive and good, they bought those seats.  I didn’t like it at all, so then it’s up to us to make the team such that those seats aren’t available.  I didn’t like it and that’s one of the things that hopefully we can change.”

(On if he would like to be hands on in developing McCoy if the new coach would allow him to do so)- “Okay now there are two questions there.  I would love to be hands on, but I’m not the coach.  I love the young man. I liked working with quarterbacks, that’s what I did.  Once I hire the man to be the next head coach here and he hires his staff, those guys have the primary responsibility of developing our young quarterback.”

(On if he would help out if the new coaches asked him to do so)- “They’d have to pay me some of their salary to do that (joking).  Seriously, I don’t see them doing that first of all.  I would always feel I have the freedom to talk to any player on this football team, I reserve that right.  We are going to hire coaches to do that and they are going to do a heck of a job with it.”

(On if an offensive-minded coach would be more desirable to him and if a defensive-minded coach would really have to impress him)- “I don’t want to be painted into a corner on that, I really don’t.  I think that there is an attractive part to both.  We lost a lot of close games, a lot of low scoring close games, so I would like to put a little bit more pizzazz, but that’s not necessarily really the head coach.  That’s the staff, that’s the players we give him and all of those things.  I’m just not going to paint myself into a corner on who I want and who I look for on this list.  Those questions though will be asked as part of the interview, absolutely.”

(On if Mr. Lerner gave him a budget of how much to spend on a head coach)- “No, there is no budget.  He said, ‘We are to do what we feel we have to do.’”

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