Mike Holmgren Making Power Play for Cleveland Browns Head Coaching Job?

By Jarrod Argobright (Contributor) on November 25, 2010 1,084

There have been many positives for the Cleveland Browns this fall as the 2010 NFL season has played out.

First among them has to be Peyton Hillis, the power running back the Browns acquired in the offseason from the Denver Broncos for quarterback Brady Quinn.

Hillis already has over 1,000 total yards of offense along with 10 touchdowns, both of which have to place him in the top third among running backs in the league this season. Hillis' athleticism continues to impress all, as his track-style hurdle of a would be tackle last Sunday versus Jacksonville is highlight reel stuff.

Then there is the emergence of rookie quarterback Colt McCoy from the University of Texas. McCoy showed he belongs on the big stage leading the Browns to victories over not one, but two, former Super Bowl winning quarterbacks in New Orleans' Drew Brees and New England's Tom Brady.

McCoy proved he has the moxie it takes to be an NFL qb by insisting he stay in the game Sunday to lead the final drive versus the Jags despite suffering an ankle sprain.

Finally there is the play of the defense, led by rookies TJ Ward, who leads the team in tackles with 80, and Joe Haden, whose three interceptions also leads the team. The opportunistic play of the defense has kept the Browns in almost every game they have played (Pittsburgh possibly being the lone exception), and has many people talking about defensive coordinator Rob Ryan as a potential head coaching candidate.

However, with Cleveland only 3-7 after their first ten games of the season, there are still people out there who believe head coach Eric Mangini's job might still be in jeopardy.

What is worse is that the media in Cleveland believe that team president Mike Holmgren is setting up Mangini to fail, only to fire him during the offseason. They then go on to surmise that once Mangini is gone, Holmgren will step down as president of the Browns and assume the position of the new head coach.

So is Eric Mangini still on the hot seat in Cleveland? And is Mike Holmgren, the Browns' Jedi Master, making a power play for the head coaching job?

At first glance, one would have to assume Mangini's job is safe, at least for another year. The Browns 3-7 record is better than last year at this point in the season, and with the remaining schedule they have there is no reason to believe they couldn't finish at least 7-9. Cleveland has not really been blown out in any of there losses either, another factor in Mangini's favor.

But the victories in consecutive weeks against the Saints and Patriots may have raised the bar. Fans no longer expect close games, but victories, and management may be expecting the same.

The Browns are coming off losses in consecutive weeks to teams the could have beaten, and the next three weeks face teams that are also very beatable. Failure to win at least one, or maybe two of their next three could have Mangini right back in Holmgren's doghouse.

Then there is the way team president Mike Holmgren has set up this year's version of the Browns. The Browns' are markedly more competitive this year, and that no doubt is a direct result of some of the aforementioned offseason personnel moves.

Obviously, owner Randy Lerner hired Mike Holmgren as the Cleveland Browns next team president because he knew that he needed to get someone who has had years of experience evaluating NFL talent.

Holmgren has not disappointed thus far, and the bargains that Browns got for both McCoy (third round pick, 85th overall) and Hillis (not only did the Browns only give up Quinn for Hillis, but they also got a sixth round pick in '11 and a conditional pick in 2012), have made Holmgren look like a front office genius.

But does Holmgren have designs beyond just working in the Browns front office? Cleveland's front office guru has received the moniker "Jedi Master" from this author, in large part due to his reluctance to answer that very question.

Indeed, in his introductory press conference, Holmgren conceded he still had the itch to coach, and while he did not come out and say it directly, one could not wonder if Cleveland would be the opportunity he was looking for.

Holmgren's handpicking of both McCoy and Hillis fit nicely in his west coast offensive philosophy, which he has basically had to jam down Mangini's throat. Should Holmgren decide to step down and assume the head coaching job, he would have a nice base team to work with.

For now, it appears Eric Mangini will still be the coach as the Cleveland Browns head into 2011. But, as everyone knows, things can change in a moments notice in the NFL, and, with six weeks left in the season, there is still a lot of football to be played. Only time will tell if Mike Holmgren really wants to see Eric Mangini succeed, or if he is setting him up for failure so Holmgren can step in and run the show.