Heckert’s signing official
CLEVELAND — He’s secured the coach, lured Philadelphia’s general manager to Cleveland and brought some stability to the wobbling Browns.
After one week, Mike Holmgren is loving his new, powerful gig.
“I’m the big boss,” he said, chuckling. “I get the say in everything.”
Holmgren continued Cleveland’s makeover on Monday by hiring Tom Heckert away from the Eagles to be the Browns’ new GM. The 42-year-old Heckert had been with the Eagles since 2001, spending the past four seasons as their top personnel executive.
Heckert helped build Philadelphia into a perennial NFC power, but did not have complete control over the team’s roster. Those decisions belonged to Eagles coach Andy Reid.
With Cleveland, Heckert will have final say over the Browns’ 53-man roster with input from Holmgren.
“He’s going to set up the 53-man roster, but I would temper that,” Holmgren said. “He and I will be on close communication with that. But that’s his responsibility.”
Holmgren, whose first official day as Browns president was Jan. 5, touched upon a wide range of team-related topics during a 30-minute conference call announcing Heckert’s hiring.
Holmgren gave further details on his surprising decision to keep coach Eric Mangini; he remains optimistic the Browns can work out a new contract with Pro Bowl return specialist Josh Cribbs; and Holmgren said quarterback Brady Quinn has a Lisfranc foot fracture but likely will not need surgery.
Heckert takes over a Cleveland team that started 1-11 but won its final four games under Mangini. Last week, Holmgren decided that one season — stormy as it was — was not enough to fairly judge Mangini or his coaching staff and chose to bring them back for a second year.
Holmgren came away impressed with Cleveland’s coach following two days of meetings. Holmgren praised Mangini for being a good listener and his willingness to be a “team player.”
“It would have been easy for me, given the responsibility I have, to come in and just kind of change everything, particularly on the coaching level,” Holmgren said. “I wanted to make sure I didn’t make a mistake. Getting to know Eric allowed me to at least feel as though we have the guy in place already.
“The team got better as the season went along. It was rough in the beginning, kind of tough in the middle and strong at the end. That says something. I liked him (Mangini). I think he was very candid, honest. I think he was thrust in a position where he had to assume a lot more responsibility than was fair.”
Holmgren said any thought that he brought back Mangini because he has aspirations to coach again are off base.
“The idea of this being a one-year trial was not on my mind,” the 61-year-old said. “We’re going to be better next year. He is a good coach. I might be a little too old to get out there and run around.”
Holmgren also expressed optimism the team could settle its differences with Cribbs, who said he was insulted by the team’s last offer, and along with agents, went public with their beef with the Browns. Cribbs has threatened to sit out next season if the Browns don’t reward him. He has three years left on a six-year, $6.77 million deal.
“We would like Josh here,” Holmgren said. “He’s a part of the Browns and a wonderful player for us. He’s got three years left on his current contract. It’s almost unprecedented to change that in this business. Everybody, I think, wants this to work out. We’re looking at ways to change what’s going on with Josh and the offer.”
Quinn hurt his left foot while scrambling in Cleveland’s Dec. 20 win over Kansas City. He missed the Browns’ final two games, ending an uneven season for the three-year pro. Holmgren gave the most specific update on Quinn so far, saying it was an injury to the Lisfranc ligament.
“He needs some time, clearly,” Holmgren said, “but I don’t believe he is going to have to have surgery.”
Heckert, whose father, Tom, worked as a Browns scout in the 1980s, and Seattle pro personnel director Will Lewis were the only known candidates to interview for Cleveland’s GM job. Holmgren said it’s possible he will speak with Lewis again and would be interested in other members of Seattle’s front office, which is undergoing a massive shakeup.
As for his own front office, Holmgren is confident that he, Mangini and Heckert can work well together. Holmgren may have the biggest title, but he’s not going to rule with an iron fist.
“We’re looking at it as a partnership,” he said. “I’m there to break the ties. They’re bright guys. I’d be making a huge mistake if I didn’t use all the people I have.”
The Browns also hired Bryan Wiedmeier as executive vice president of business operations. He had been with the Miami Dolphins for 29 years, the last three as the club’s president and chief operating officer.
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