The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for

Owner is king


Less than a year after Eric Mangini was hired as the Cleveland Browns' savior, Mike Holmgren's name has surfaced as the new savior -- essentially one who will save the 1-7 Browns from Mangini.

Farcical. And very sad for fans who are among the most loyal in the game.
Washingtonians, of course, know all about saviors -- Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier and Joe Gibbs II to name three.

But here's the thing about them -- IF they're any good, they're still only a small piece of the answer to building a winner. The most critical person is the one who hires the savior, Randy Lerner in the case of the Browns. Think Dan Snyder and you'll get what I mean.

Saviors are in vogue these days because after going 1-15 in 2007, the Miami Dolphins hired Bill Parcells to run their football operation. Parcells hired Tony Sparano as coach and the Dolphins went 11-5 in 2008. Never mind that the Dolphins are 3-5 this year, they're still a lot better than they were when Parcells arrived.

Holmgren seems to be Lerner's guy although there are other credentialed administrators and coaches out there -- Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Mike Shanahan and Tony Dungy. Not to mention two former general managers who are well past retirement age: Ernie Accorsi and Ron Wolf.

I've known Holmgren since he was an assistant coach for the 49ers under Bill Walsh in the late 1980s. Walsh was the ultimate savior, of course, building teams that won five Super Bowls for the 49ers, the first three of which he coached himself.

Holmgren has his own tree -- his Brett Favre-led Super Bowl teams in Green Bay had on their staff such future NFL head coaches as Gruden, Steve Mariucci, Andy Reid, Ray Rhodes and Mike Sherman. As well as Sherman Lewis, the "playcaller'' for the Redskins. But he was only so-so when he went to Seattle as combination savior and coach and finished his career there last season with his administrative duties severely diminished.

What would he do in Cleveland?

He's a Californian with a laid back style that would probably clash with Mangini's intensity -- I've never heard of him asking players who made minor mistakes in practice to take laps, as Mangini does. His offensive style is West Coast, which needs a quarterback the Browns don't have.

But it still comes back to Lerner, who might seek advice elsewhere -- from Atlanta owner Arthur Blank.

When Blank was seeking someone to rebuild the Falcons after the Michael Vick debacle, he asked around and ended up hiring Thomas Dimitroff, who had worked for Bill Belichick in New England. The unknown Dimitroff ended up hiring Mike Smith, who was as anonymous as his name, as his coach. They drafted Matt Ryan with their first choice in the 2008 draft and the Falcons are respectable again.

In other words, a savior doesn't have to be a name.

In fact, it might be better that way.

By Dave Goldberg  |  November 9, 2009; 9:45 AM ET  | Category:  Cleveland Browns , Seattle Seahawks Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Great piece, Mr. Goldberg.

Posted by: delOH | November 9, 2009 12:56 PM

Lerner botched the last coach/GM hire by hiring in reverse order. He fell for Mangini and allowed him to hand pick his GM (who apparently had no real power).

With Lerner being a hands off owner the Browns need a head of football operations and a general manager. Fill these positions and let these folks decide what to do with Mangini.

As a Browns fan I'm not expecting miracles or a savior. Just someone with experience who has been successful in the NFL who can right the ship.

Posted by: floucka | November 9, 2009 1:52 PM

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