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Mike Holmgren: 'I really should have coached' the Browns

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Mike Holmgren forgets that he didn't want to coach the Browns. (USATSI)
Mike Holmgren forgets that he didn't want to coach the Browns. (USATSI)

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After a forgettable three-year stint as Browns president, Mike Holmgren is probably better known as the guy who used Cleveland's two 2012 first-round picks on Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden than a Super Bowl-winning coach with the Packers.

The year before Holmgren took over, the Browns were 5-11 under Eric Mangini. The team went 5-11 again in 2010, Holmgren's first year on the job, and Mangini was fired. Pat Shurmur replaced Mangini and won four games in 2011 and five games in 2012.

Holmgren now says he should have been on the sidelines instead of in the front office.

“I really just should have coached the team, but he [owner Randy Lerner] didn't want me to," he told TheMMQB.com's Peter King last week.

Holmgren's probably right; he had plenty of on-field success in Green Bay and later Seattle. Plus, the fact that he was outraged when the Browns shipped Richardson out of town last September raises questions about his talent-evaluation skills.

"How do you make your team better by trading your best player?'' he said at the time. "He's the best offensive player. He's a valuable, valuable guy."

Richardson, it turns out, was terrible. The Browns were right to dump him on Indianapolis for an additional first-round pick. Just like they were right to dump Weeden, the quarterback Holmgren identified two years before as the team's future.

The problem: Holmgren could have coached the Browns if he wanted. Days before he was hired as team president in Dec. 2009, he indicated that the job offer could include a return to the sidelines. But as CBS Cleveland's Daryl Ruiter notes, Holmgren made it clear -- several times -- that he wasn't interested.

“At this stage of my life that's not what my first priority is,” Holmgren said after firing Mangini on Jan. 3, 2011. “I've relished the role that Randy Lerner had confidence to give me.”

We get why Holmgren might want to revise history -- nothing tarnishes a legacy quite like trying to salvage the Browns and failing miserably -- but the team's biggest problem wasn't going to be solved by where Holmgren stationed himself on Sundays. Because without a franchise quarterback, Paul Brown couldn't have coached that team to more than six wins.

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