Source: Holmgren on Browns' wish list
One of the first people Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner will contact to run his team, if he hasn't contacted him already, is former Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren, according to a team source.
Holmgren is itching to return to football and the opportunity he would have in Cleveland would be an attractive one. Lerner is looking for someone to perform for the Browns the same role that vice president of football operations Bill Parcells performs for the Dolphins. The job, for the time being, is Holmgren's to lose.
If Holmgren were to take it -- and there are some people who think he still would prefer to coach -- he would be returning to the Midwest, where he built his reputation as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers.
Holmgren is one of at least four names on Lerner's wish list, though he is considered the top target. The others are former New York Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay and former Packers general manager Ron Wolf.
Accorsi is a family friend of the Lerners who has made it clear that he will not take a full-time job with the Browns. Accorsi was close to Lerner's father, and the Browns owner has an emotional attachment to and great respect for Accorsi. McKay serves in the same type of role in Atlanta that he would be asked to do in Cleveland. Wolf hired Holmgren as the Packers' head coach.
Lerner will offer whoever takes the job a broad array of powers. One of the chief ones will be the ability to hire whom the person wants as his general manager, in the same way that Parcells hired Jeff Ireland as the Dolphins general manager. Even though the Browns and their former general manager George Kokinis parted ways last week, Lerner has no plans right now to do away with his head coach, Eric Mangini.
Those who have spoken with Lerner in the past week said the Browns owner is determined to stick with Mangini for the time being, giving him the time that Kokinis did not get. Kokinis spent 18 years with the Baltimore Ravens, and nine months with the Browns.
Ultimately, Lerner might not even make the final call on Mangini -- it likely will be up to the team president and general manager that he hires. They will be the ones to determine whether to keep or dispose of Mangini, who is coming under heavy criticism in the Cleveland area for leading the team to a 1-7 record with an offense that has scored one fewer touchdown this season than the New Orleans Saints defense that has six. Those who know Kokinis say he expected to be let go from Cleveland at least one month ago. The Browns even tried to get him to resign long before last week.
Kokinis had grown so disconnected to Mangini and other members of the Browns front office that the two rarely, if ever, had any contact. Kokinis grew increasingly withdrawn to the point where he looked and acted so unhappy, the Browns ordered him into counseling, according to sources.
Essentially, the two sides divorced long before it became official last week.
What's next for Kokinis depends largely on when he and the Browns will be able to resolve their contractual differences. But Kokinis has a sterling reputation around the league, and is highly respected amongst numerous front-office men. He will have no difficulty landing a job, and it's quite possible he could return to Baltimore, where he still owns a home. Many around the league believe he will be back with the Ravens.
Adam Schefter is ESPN's NFL Insider.
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