Mike Holmgren and the Browns Won’t Be Different Until They Win


Cleveland is different. There’s no other way to put it, and there is nothing Mike Holmgren can do about it but win. Just win baby.

The Colt McCoy concussion fiasco is a big deal. It wouldn’t be anywhere else because nowhere else is Cleveland, and coming off defensive and combative steers the issue toward what he begged the scribes to ignore.

The media has nothing else to write about, and their constituents have been tortured like no other. No other city has been without a championship for 50 years in any major sport. No other city had to watch their football team move and win a Super Bowl in another city. That is the job Mike Holmgren took.

He clearly thought the Browns would be better than they are now and he let dismay show in an angry press conference. The media has their samples ready for him, we all do. We’re all seeing the same thing. Jim Harbaugh is shining as a rookie head coach in San Francisco while Pat Shurmur looks like a failure. But the 49ers play in a bad division that was there for the taking. The Browns play in a division with two of the top-five teams in the league based on any national outlet’s power rankings. Cleveland is different.

The Houston Texans are in the playoffs, winning their first division title in the history of their expansion franchise, another thing the Browns have also not done. And that took a year where every other team in the AFC South is suffering through reconstruction, and the best player in the division (Peyton Manning) hasn’t played a down.

There are no more five-year rebuilds in the NFL. Every team in the NFL can leap from despair to triumph in just one year. But the unrelenting turnover of the Browns franchise since 2008 has left them with no core and no foundation. This will be at least a five-year haul. Cleveland is different.

Mike Holmgren knows this and should proudly stick to his guns. Get tough, not pissy. The only thing that will justify any work he is doing is winning, and he should know that game better than anyone. The only catch here is, winning will be harder than any other job and will take more time and consideration than the media and fans have to give. No guarantees, and stay tough, because this thing might take longer than five years.

The Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks were never so outmatched under Holmgren, but he wanted a challenge and this is what he got. Rather, this is what he chose.

The Browns need stability and patience. They need to ignore the fans and media, keep drafting well, wait for Big Ben to get old, keep drafting well, and catch a few breaks along the way. I admit, I won’t be able to stomach another few years of this, and hearing Mike Holmgren lash out at my hysteria (funneled through a reporter) made it worse. But everything makes it worse when you’re losing. Winning is the only cure.

Concussions, grumpy running backs, fumbles and wasted time-outs happen to every team every year. But it’s a story to those who aren’t winning. That’s not anyone’s fault.

Just look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers – the James Harrison suspension is a national story too. He is the poster boy for helmet-to-helmet violence, has spoken out against the commissioner, and brings negative attention to his team. That would be a HUGE story in Cleveland too, but there is no conspiracy in Pittsburgh because they win. Ben Roethlisberger’s checkered history is manageable because they win.

Mike Holmgren should remember that he took this job because of how hard it was going to be. It’s time he embraces our hysteria, because once the losing turns to winning there will be no greater payoff.

Cleveland is different, and that’s what makes it the ultimate quest.

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