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Published: Tuesday, 11/27/2012

Holmgren steps aside with most goals unmet

ASSOCIATED PRESS

BEREA, Ohio — 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.

After re­ports sur­faced that he would be in­ter­ested in coach­ing in Dal­las if Ja­son Gar­rett was fired, Hol­mgren said he did not know where those ru­mors started. How­ever, they gained more trac­tion when he re­cently met owner Jerry Jones on the field be­fore the Cow­boys hosted the Browns.

Hol­mgren said he called Jones be­fore­hand, and they agreed it was OK to be seen to­gether pub­licly.

"I phoned him and said if this caused any prob­lem for any­one I apol­o­gize for that," Hol­mgren said. "He said ab­so­lutely not."

Hol­mgren, who last coached for Se­at­tle in 2008, in­sists he isn't close to mak­ing a de­ci­sion on a re­turn to coach­ing.

"As of right now, I re­ally ha­ven't given it much thought other than the fact there are no plans right now," he said.

Ban­ner said if Hol­mgren de­cided to coach, the Browns don't have any agree­ment where they would be com­pen­sated.

Dur­ing what he called "bru­tally hon­est" con­ver­sa­tions with Ban­ner, Hol­mgren gave strong en­dorse­ments not only for Shur­mur and Heck­ert, but oth­ers work­ing for the Browns. Be­fore leav­ing, he wanted to make sure some of the peo­ple he had hired were given a fair chance to keep their jobs.

FILE - In this June 5, 2012 file photo, Cleveland Browns  president Mike Holmgren walks off the field following an off-season practice at the NFL football team's headquarters in Berea, Ohio. Outgoing Browns President Holmgren still hasn't decided if he wants to coach again. Hoping to squelch a weekend report that he would be interested in a coaching job with the Dallas Cowboys if Jason Garrett gets fired, Holmgren said Monday, nov. 12, 2012, he would never float a story about any interest in replacing another coach and "I haven't talked to a single soul" in Dallas. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File) FILE - In this June 5, 2012 file photo, Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren walks off the field following an off-season practice at the NFL football team's headquarters in Berea, Ohio. Outgoing Browns President Holmgren still hasn't decided if he wants to coach again. Hoping to squelch a weekend report that he would be interested in a coaching job with the Dallas Cowboys if Jason Garrett gets fired, Holmgren said Monday, nov. 12, 2012, he would never float a story about any interest in replacing another coach and "I haven't talked to a single soul" in Dallas. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)
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