A while back, Mike Holmgren was a great football man, Super Bowl winner and heir to the Bill Walsh legacy, perhaps Walsh's most distinguished heir.
He no longer is a great football man, hasn't been in a long time. His decline is relevant around these parts. Reports say he's a candidate to run the Raiders. If he gets the gig, that would be unfortunate.
Understand, I have nothing against Mike Holmgren. I knew him when he coached for the 49ers and I've known him after, and he's a nice man. But he's all wrong for the rebuilding Raiders.
Here's a quick rundown of his history after leaving San Francisco.
He went to Green Bay in 1992 as head coach, and got the Packers a Super-Bowl trophy in January 1997 because, at the time, he was an excellent coach. He also had Ron Wolf, a personnel genius, acquiring players. Wolf had been the personnel genius behind the Raiders' glory years with Al Davis.
Holmgren thought he wasn't getting enough credit for building the Packers with Wolf on the premises. That was the perception around the league. So, after the 1998 season, Holmgren packed up and went to Seattle as head coach/president, the man in charge of everything.
He led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl appearance in February 2006, but he was weak at the front-office stuff, with drafting and personnel decisions. His heart was in coaching, not into the grind of researching players around the league and in college, and building a team — stuff Bill Walsh loved. In 2002, he was terminated as general manager but continued on as head coach.
Holmgren's coaching record in Green Bay had been superlative, 75-37. In Seattle not so superlative, 86-74. His final season, 2008, the Seahawks went 4-12. Holmgren's contract was up and the Seahawks did not bring him back.
In 2010, Holmgren took the position as president of the Cleveland Browns, a rebuilding job if there ever was one. He signed for five years at $35 million. He liked the money and the power, and there was something else. I believe he wanted to sanitize his front-office record after flopping in Seattle. This would be a last-ditch effort to improve his standing for potential election to the Hall of Fame.
In Cleveland, he expanded the Browns' budget by bringing in offensive consultants Gil Haskell and Keith Gilbertson, and defensive consultants Ray Rhodes and Nolan Cromwell. The front office became consultant-heavy, if you will, with Holmgren's friends.
Holmgren's agent is Bob Lamonte. Cromwell's agent was Lamonte. Lamonte was agent for general manager Tom Heckert, head coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Brad Childress.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with hiring a bunch of guys who share your agent. But it made the Browns look clubby and inbred.
Shurmur generally was not considered ready to be a head coach. He's the nephew of Fritz Shurmur, Holmgren's defensive coordinator at Green Bay. It was Holmgren's job to bring Pat Shurmur along, to mentor him. Maybe Holmgren mentored the guy, maybe he didn't. One way or another Shurmur was a failure — his record in Cleveland was 9-23. He got fired after last season.
The Browns also terminated Holmgren at the end of last season. ESPN called Holmgren's work ethic in Cleveland "abhorrent."