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Holmgren meets with Browns over 'czar' of football job

  • By Associated Press
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CLEVELAND -- Mike Holmgren remained unemployed. Eric Mangini stayed on the job, and the Cleveland Browns were still a mess.

That was about the extent of things following a drawn-out Tuesday with scarce information as the Browns, searching for a leader to head their football operations, continued talks with Holmgren, the former Seattle and Green Bay coach who wants back into the NFL.

Holmgren, with one Super Bowl title and success brimming from his resume, spent his second day meeting with owner Randy Lerner at the team's suburban headquarters. Despite the lengthy stay, there was no indication that a deal was imminent.

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In an e-mail to The Associated Press, Lerner suggested the sides still were talking but gave no specifics.

Holmgren arrived Monday after being invited to Cleveland by Lerner, who wants to hire a proven executive. On Tuesday, Holmgren was back at the team's facility along with agent Bob LaMonte. The length of Holmgren's visit, and LaMonte's inclusion, points to the 61-year-old's strong interest in taking on the Browns, who have had just two winning seasons since 1999.

Mangini, whose future could hinge on whom the Browns hire, told WTAM that he met with Holmgren.

"I have a ton of respect for Mike, and we'll see where it goes," Mangini told the club's flagship radio station. "They are still in the early stages."

Lerner has been focused on finding someone to fix his failing franchise. Last month, he said he wanted to hire a "serious, credible leader" to run the Browns.

Holmgren fits that bill.

He appeared in 12 postseasons and three Super Bowls before stepping down after last season with more wins than any other active coach. Holmgren, who had a spotty four-year run as both Seattle's coach and general manager, is a proven football authority.

He took a sabbatical after the 2008 season to spend more time with his family. But Holmgren has been itching to get back into pro football, and the Browns would be a new challenge. It's not known if Holmgren wants to serve as GM or as an overseer similar to Bill Parcells' role in Miami.

Holmgren recently told a Seattle radio station he found Cleveland's front-office job appealing.

"There's something in my personality, too, that taking on those types of projects, that kind of gets me going. But there's a lot of work to do," he said. "The important thing, going into any organization is that all of the principles, all of the decision makers are pointed in the same direction, with the same motives, the same desires, and then you have a chance."

Even if they reach an agreement with Holmgren, it's possible the Browns may have to conduct further interviews to comply with the league's "Rooney Rule," which mandates that a team must interview at least one minority candidate before filling a front-office vacancy.

Holmgren spent 10 years with Seattle and seven with the Packers, leading them to a Super Bowl title in 1996. The Seahawks made the playoffs six times under Holmgren, including their only Super Bowl appearance when they lost to Pittsburgh to end the 2005 season.




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Holmgren said last week he "absolutely" wanted to talk to Seahawks owner Paul Allen and chief executive Tod Leiweke about returning to the team, which relieved Holmgren of his GM duties after the 2002 season. Seattle is looking for a GM following Tim Ruskell's resignation on Dec. 3, and Holmgren could be using the Browns as leverage to get a deal with his former team.

As of Tuesday, the Seahawks were still in the process of what Leiweke last week called "a thorough audit" of the slumping team. They have not started the process of interviewing candidates.

It's not known what impact the hiring of a football "czar" would have on Mangini's status. His first season in Cleveland has been defined by lopsided losses, a suspect draft, players grumbling about practice methods and fines, and the firing of GM George Kokinis.

Mangini has said he would be open to Lerner bringing in someone to head the team's personnel decisions. Following the Browns' upset of Pittsburgh last week, Mangini said he would welcome a chance to show a "czar" what progress he has made in Cleveland.

"They can sit down and talk to the coaches, sit in on any meeting, watch our practices," he said. "Come to our meetings. See how we teach. See how we function as a staff because it's good and it's right. Come take a look because it's a good product."

Lerner recently began a front-office overhaul by hiring Fred Nance as the team's general counsel. Nance was one of five finalists to succeed former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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