Holmgren not sure of his football future

TOM WITHERSAP Sports Writer Published:

BEREA (AP) -- Mike Holmgren's run as a team president is over, ending prematurely and before he planned.

For weeks, he has hung around Cleveland's offices doing what he could to help new owner Jimmy Haslam. Holmgren attended meetings, practices and games. He talked with players, coaches and consulted with his replacement, CEO Joe Banner, now in charge of running the Browns.

Holmgren made his pitch for the team to keep coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert beyond this season.

And now, there's nothing left. It's time for Holmgren to move on to the next phase of his life, which may or may not include another foray as an NFL coach.

Last week, he knew his work was finished.

"I was done," he said. "I already passed the baton."

Less than three years after signing a five-year contract with former owner Randy Lerner to fix Cleveland's franchise, Holmgren is leaving. His final day with the Browns will be Friday, and after that he and his wife, Kathy, will return to their home in Arizona, where the 64-year-old will contemplate his future.

"We are going to fly to Phoenix on Saturday and catch my breath a little bit and take it easy and ride my motorcycle," Holmgren said. "I honestly don't know if I'm going to go back to work immediately or not and I don't know if it's going to be in football."

This was not the exit he envisioned.

Holmgren thought he would leave amid a playoff push or as Cleveland celebrated finally winning a Super Bowl title like the one he helped bring to Green Bay. But everything changed when Haslam bought the Browns for $1.05 billion and hired Banner, who built the Philadelphia Eagles into perennial contenders.

Holmgren was the odd-man out.

He stayed to assist Haslam and Banner with the transition, and while he got some things accomplished, it became obvious he was no longer needed.

The Browns went just 12-31 under Holmgren, but he's proud of restoring the business side of the Browns and an on-the-field turnaround that may not be evident for several more years.

As he walks away, Holmgren was asked if he feels somewhat unsatisfied.

"Any time you don't reach your goals in this business on one hand then, yeah," he said. "Having said that, though, I really can feel good, and the guys who have been here can feel good about what the future holds. But time will tell."

It wasn't until he left the sideline that Holmgren realized how much he missed coaching. He longed for the interaction with players, and the chance to teach. He still hasn't gotten comfortable watching games from the press box, and he's hinted that he might coach again -- in the right situation.

Holmgren exits the Browns with one regret -- not winning enough.

He feels he did all he could, and although he thought he understood the city's passion for the Browns, it was only when he came here that he fully grasped it.

He's leaving, but some of him will stay in Cleveland. When he watches the Browns from now on, he'll do so with pride.

"When they do well, I'll feel good about that," he said. "I'll feel good for the players and I'll feel good for the coaches and the organization and the people because I was here. I am very thankful that I got this opportunity to do this."

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