Holmgren plans to be more out front with Browns

Associated Press Published: June 14, 2012

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Mike Holmgren plans a major change in his third season as president of the Cleveland Browns.

And it starts at the top of the organization — with him.

Aware of outside criticism that he's been detached since coming to Cleveland and sensitive to questions about his commitment to the franchise, Holmgren vowed to be more available to the media and fans than he has been since joining the Browns in 2010. Holmgren chose to stay in the background during his first two years so he wouldn't upstage his coach or general manager.

The coach they called "The Big Show" in Green Bay and Seattle for his larger-than-life persona, is moving back out front.

"I want it to help," he said. "I do not want it to be a burden on the coach or our general manager. And if I can help and open things up and make some things a little clearer for our fans, that's my goal and that is my only goal."

With the opening of training camp more than one month away, Holmgren spent nearly an hour Thursday addressing a variety of topics including the team's quarterback competition, rumors owner Randy Lerner plans to sell the Browns, the team's rift with Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown and expectations for next season.

After presenting an award to the 100,000th fan to join the Browns Backers — Cleveland's global fan club — Holmgren opened his remarks by explaining his intentions to be more visible during the upcoming season. He said his past reluctance to speak about football matters as a front-office executive stemmed from his time on the sideline.

"As a coach, for a long, long time, anytime the president got involved with football stuff it used to irritate me a little bit," he said. "We had many discussions about that, if something is going to be said about the football, I would like to be the one who says it. I think it's important to have one voice."

Holmgren has assured Browns coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert that he has no intention of interfering with their work. He hired them to run the football team and that's what he'll continue to let them do. However, Holmgren does want to take on a more prominent public role to perhaps make things easier for them.

Holmgren said he's gotten feedback and suggestions to be more accessible.

"I'm hardheaded," said Holmgren, who will turn 64 on Friday. "But I've started to listen to some people I would meet around town saying, 'Gee we would like to hear a little bit more from you about things.' So this year that's what I'm going to try to do."

Holmgren's aware there are risks in expanding his role as president, a job he never held before Browns owner Randy Lerner hired him to fix a franchise that has made just one playoff appearance since 1999. He knows signals may get crossed, but he's going to do all he can to make sure everyone's on the same page.

"There can't be any controversies created by things that I would say or Pat would say or Tom would say," he said. "The hard part about it is at times there will be a little thing that comes out and it will be easy to say 'wait a minute' — he said 'this' and he said 'this.' That's kind of the danger of this a little bit. But as long as they know I have their back."

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