BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Mike Holmgren left Cleveland after an extended stay without accepting a job to become boss of the Browns.
His aura lingered.
The former Seattle and Green Bay coach’s flirtation with the team dragged on Wednesday with little word from either side. Holmgren spent two days talking with the Browns about assuming control of their football operations, but hasn’t decided if Cleveland will be his next NFL stop.
"I don’t want to comment on the specifics of the discussions," Browns spokesman Bill Bonsiewicz said of the meetings. "Both sides got to know each other and there is no timetable for a decision."
It is presumed the Browns offered Holmgren the job during his visit and it appears he is weighing his options, which could include several other teams in the days and weeks ahead. He wants to talk to the Seahawks about coming back following general manager Tim Ruskell’s recent resignation.
Messages for agent Bob LaMonte, who accompanied Holmgren on his visit to the Browns, were not immediately returned.
Jim Donovan, the team’s play-by-play announcer, reported Wednesday night that Cleveland’s offer to Holmgren is for between $8 and $10 million per season.
Browns coach Eric Mangini, whose destiny could be decided by Cleveland’s new football czar, was placed in the awkward position of having to answer several questions about Holmgren’s courtship. He put on a brave face and insisted that he’s not fazed by owner Randy Lerner’s quest to find a "serious, credible leader," one who will ultimately control the coach’s fate.
"It’s not unsettling, at all," said Mangini, 2-11 in his first season with Cleveland. "What I’m focused on, and what I asked the players to be focused on, is the task at hand, the opponent at hand."
Mangini met with the 61-year-old Holmgren during his visit, which began Monday and concluded Tuesday evening without a deal being completed. They’ve known each other for a few years, and Mangini said they reminisced about a previous discussion when Holmgren gave him some advice about buying a summer home in Cape Cod.
"I think he’s a good guy," Mangini said. "I know him some through Andy Reid and through Bill Parcells. I thought it was a good conversation. Obviously, he’s very talented as a coach. It was a good, positive conversation."
Mangini would welcome the addition of an overseer of Holmgren’s distinction.
"I’m all for anybody that can come in and help us organizationally be more successful," he said. "That’s a great thing. The more smart people, talented people you can put in the building that have the same approach in terms of being focused on winning, that’s the best thing you can have.
"You can’t ask for a better situation than to get a group of people who are all focused on the same task. That’s what you want. That’s what you strive for organizationally. That’s what you strive for as a team."
Mangini had no sense of Holmgren’s interest level in the perpetually rebuilding Browns, who have made the playoffs just once since 1999 and are on their fourth coach in 11 years. He also doesn’t know if there is any advantage in putting a "football czar," a term first given to Bill Parcells when he took over in Miami, in place before the end of the season.
"I haven’t been involved in czar searches before, so I don’t know what the best path is," he said, cracking a smile. "I’m not sure what the best path is. I think the most important thing is to get the right person in place and to move forward, whether that’s today, whether it’s three weeks from now. Whatever point it is, the key thing is to get the right person and move forward organizationally."
Holmgren was the topic du jour in Cleveland’s locker room. The Browns got back to work after an extended break following their Dec. 10 win over Pittsburgh amid rumblings of more change.
Although none of the players admitted seeing Holmgren, most were aware that he had been in the hallways of the team’s headquarters.
Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas grew up in Wisconsin and remembers Holmgren from his days with the Packers.
"He was the Super Bowl coach when I was like 12," Thomas said. "So obviously his name holds pretty good value, especially where I come from. They even named a street after him: Holmgren Way."
Offensive guard Floyd Womack was drafted by Holmgren and played eight seasons for him in Seattle. He has no doubt the three-time Super Bowl coach could help the Browns.
"He’s a smart man. He knows football and he’s been around for a good while in this league," Womack said. "If he was to come, I think he’d do a good job."
If Holmgren does agree to take on the Browns, there’s a chance he could decide to keep Mangini, who was fired after last season by the New York Jets. Although they seem to come from different philosophical schools, Womack believes a Holmgren-Mangini team could succeed.
"In this business, anybody can get along together," Womack said. "The main goal is to win."
Mangini, who may have to build a case to convince Holmgren he should stay, feels his ideas and principles could mesh easily with Holmgren’s.
"Oftentimes you’re labeled with family trees and philosophies and things like that, but the philosophy that I think we all want is winning," Mangini said. "Whether it’s West Coast, East Coast, it’s winning. Mike ran really physical, demanding training camps. I don’t think there’s anything inconsistent about that philosophy. His goal is to win. That’s it. However you get to that point."