Jim Brown is the greatest running back of all time, but when it has come to what he says in public, he is a man that can carry a grudge as well as he carried the football. So when it came to Brown discussing Mike Holmgren, there was some expectation that he might go too far and try to dig too deep to make his point. He had some strong words for Holmgren, but it is difficult to disagree with what he said and he comes with the credibility of being Jim Brown, which tends to carry a great deal of weight with not only Browns fans but with the NFL; at times perhaps too much.
Brown upstaged Holmgren in the first place by going on Inside the NFL on Showtime as opposed to a local radio show in Seattle. First, he tackled the topic of the Trent Richardson trade.
“I was surprised, but then I thought it was a brilliant move … Because first of all, Trent [Richardson] couldn’t have carried the kind of load that Cleveland needed.”
This seems like a real shot at Richardson’s ability, which it probably is in certain respects. Brown had described Richardson as ‘ordinary’ heading into the NFL Draft process. Although Richardson has had injuries that have slowed him down, Brown’s assessment so far has been exactly right. Moreover, it seems like an honest evaluation of where the Browns offense is at this exact moment in time. Richardson could not carry the load the Browns needed. They needed an Adrian Peterson type back to make this rushing offense function at a high level. Richardson was supposed to be that player when drafted, but he simply was not and most likely will never be. Peterson is not only destined to end up in Canton with Brown, but he is the best back of this generation.
The running back position is important. Individual running backs are not. With the exception of Peterson, no back in the league is bigger than their team. Getting a second or even third back is becoming a necessity rather than just a luxury. It gives teams financial control in they do not have to overpay a back, a position that is notoriously short lived; great for teams, bad for individual players trying to get a big payday in the NFL.
Then, Brown turned his attention to Holmgren, a person he has not been happy with since his exit from the team in an official capacity basically since Holmgren was hired.
“[Holmgren] had all his boys that were going to come in and take advantage of the kind of money that he could pay his guys and never really be there. He took advantage of Randy [Lerner] and it was just a shame. Randy’s a good guy. Young owner. Wanted someone to take the pressure off of him. Mike came in, saw the weakness and took advantage of it.”
Difficult to argue with Brown here. Lerner paid Holmgren a fortune to come in and be the President of the team, be the face and produce a winning product. It was not long into Holmgren’s tenure before criticisms about how often he was there and how hard he was actually working in that capacity came about. Needless to say, Lerner did not get his money’s worth from Holmgren. Brown continued about his dealings with Holmgren.
“Mike is not from Cleveland. I’m a Cleveland Brown. So he gave me a choice of taking three dollars and doing a little dancing for him out there. I said, ‘Mr. Holmgren, I’m sorry … I don’t dance … become a mascot type of guy.’ And I cracked up but I wrote him a letter. And I stated those things, and I had a little humor with it because I knew ultimately I would probably be back because Cleveland is my home. I have great roots there and I love the people and the people love me.”
There is definitely a sense that Holmgren tried to give Brown a token job to get him out of the way. In Holmgren’s slight defense, it is unclear what Brown does that is of any value in terms of an advisory role now or in the past. It has always seemed like he was getting paid to be Jim Brown.
Brown is right though in that Cleveland will always welcome him back to the city. This is a city and fan base that loves their sports heroes unconditionally and Brown is a perfect example. Considering his past with women, it has to be nice for him to come to Cleveland know that no one is going to look at him as anything but the legendary running back he was.
None of this is an area that Holmgren should want to discuss, because none of it looks good for him. Especially as the vote gets closer to possibly enshrining him into the Hall of Fame, even though he was not a coach in Cleveland and was the President, voters may hold Cleveland against him, so the less said about time with the Browns, the better. Holmgren’s track record as an executive has been terrible from his time with the Seahawks when they took total control away and gave him a general manager to his Presidency of the Cleveland Browns. He is a great coach and that is enough, but he was dreadful when it came to the NFL Draft. Brown, on the other hand, came out and was pointed with his comments without going overboard.