Holmgren agrees to become president of Browns’ operations

Published 3:22 am Tuesday, December 22, 2009

BEREA — Serious. Credible. A leader. In Mike Holmgren, Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner hit the trifecta he desperately wanted.

Holmgren, who returned Green Bay to prominence and raised Seattle’s profile during his NFL career, on Monday accepted an offer to become president of the Cleveland Browns, a tradition-rich franchise needing a major makeover after a decade of losing and front-office incompetence.

Lerner said he reached a preliminary agreement with Holmgren, a Super Bowl-winning coach who brings immediate credibility to the down-and-out Browns.

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“We are pleased to announce that Mike Holmgren has agreed to join the Cleveland Browns,” Lerner said in a statement. “We will spend the rest of the week finalizing the details of the agreement and will make a formal announcement next week.”

As part of a front-office shakeup, Lerner said current president Mike Keenan will become the club’s chief financial officer.

The 61-year-old Holmgren is coming to Cleveland strictly in an executive role. Last week, he indicated his job offer with the Browns could include a return to the sideline. But Holmgren will remain upstairs and serve as the camera-shy Lerner’s top executive.

With his trademark mustache and distinct, rounded features, Holmgren is the new face of the Browns.

While embraced by Cleveland fans, Holmgren’s arrival could be trouble for coach Eric Mangini, who is just 3-11 in his first season. Holmgren, who will likely bring in a general manager to oversee personnel decisions, may also replace Mangini.

But with Cleveland’s 41-34 win over Kansas City on Sunday, Mangini may have strengthened his chances of staying and will have two more games to impress his new boss. Mangini is convinced he has the Browns, who have lost at least 10 games in six of the past seven seasons and made the AFC playoffs just once since 1999, headed in the right direction.

Mangini can only hope Holmgren agrees or it will be one-and-done for him in Cleveland.

Holmgren refused to speculate on Mangini’s status last week during a radio appearance. He praised Mangini’s coaching ability and work ethic, and said he would give any coach a chance, especially one in his first season.