When Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren made a coaching change prior to the start of the 2011 season, he stated that a 5-11 record was not good enough.
After watching the Browns make late-game mistakes which led to a 4-12 mark in 2011, Holmgren is even more resolved to helping the team improve on its record during the 2012 regular season.
“I expect to take a good, healthy jump this year on the field and I’m talking about the record,” Holmgren said in a press conference Thursday. “I know we’re a better football team. We’re a more talented football team. I think there is more continuity on our coaching staff. We’ve had the offseason program. We’ve added some things; we’re coming together nicely.”
Although the Browns went 0-6 within the AFC North Division last year, Holmgren was able to draw positives from the games against the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns were within one score in the fourth quarter during five of the six matchups with the Ravens, Bengals and Steelers.
All three of the Browns’ divisional foes qualified for the postseason last year, the Ravens as the division champion and the Steelers and Bengals both as AFC Wildcard teams.
“I think all three teams in our division -- Pittsburgh and Baltimore are the most obvious -- set a pretty good bar,” Holmgren said. “We were very competitive in all those games. We fell short, but we were very competitive. Everyone’s trying to get better, but our team compared to those, is a pretty young team. We’re in different eras of the building process. You build your core, stay steady. You keep getting better.”
On Thursday, the Browns held their ninth of 10 organized team activity sessions. Last week, they completed a three-day mandatory minicamp with both the veterans and rookies able to participate on the field.
As the Browns prepared for the offseason program and the start of training camp, Holmgren had a list of things he wanted to see improve during the 2012 season. Holmgren wanted improved measurables, including interceptions, fewer sacks allowed by the offensive line, more productivity in the running game and less dropped passes.
“We had way too many last year and it hurt us tremendously,” Holmgren said of the drops. “We are catching the ball better this year. Just take
Holmgren also feels creating space was not necessarily a problem for Browns receivers last fall.
“Getting open isn’t just a matter of being the fastest guy on the field,” Holmgren said. “Our receivers have good speed, not sprinter-type speed, but good speed. You couple that with the teaching we’re doing right now, I think you’ll see a better group this year. I like the fact that we have that little guy (
SECOND TIME AROUND
A season ago, Browns coach Pat Shurmur began his tenure with the team by installing the West Coast offense and switching back to a 4-3 defense, but had no offseason in which to work with the players. The systems were installed during the first few days of training camp, shortly before the Browns opened the preseason with a game against the Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
“He went through a lot of things his first year that a lot of times, you don’t even get for three or four years,” Holmgren said of Shurmur. “He emerged scarred, but healthy and raring to go. He told me today that it makes such a difference having an offseason program and having minicamps. He’s much more comfortable in his role. He understands and knows the players and they know him. Like every good, young head coach, you learn every year and he just had a lot of things to deal with last year. I still believe in him very, very strongly and he’s going to be fine.”
TACKLING THE BALL CARRIER
Looking back on the 2011 season, Holmgren expressed his happiness with the way defensive coordinator Dick Jauron educated his players on how to correctly approach and wrap up a player when making a tackle.
“Dick’s a wonderful coach, has been coaching for a long time and has a real good idea of how to coach defense,” Holmgren said. “When you’re teaching tackling, it’s hard and you’re a little bit nervous about doing too much in training camp because of the injury factor. You have to be really smart in what drills you use and talk technique a lot. You just have to have guys willing to use the technique that you teach. They listen to Dick; they listen to Ray Rhodes. They’re great communicators and our defense shows that.”
NOT FOR SALE
Despite recent speculation about the future of the Browns franchise, Holmgren made a clear and concise point during his press conference.
“The Browns are not for sale,” Holmgren said. “I talk to (owner) Randy (Lerner) all the time and I assume he’d tell me because we have a very open and honest relationship. There’s no truth to that.”
BROWN IS BACK
The Browns utilized an all-white uniform for their home games last fall and only wore the brown jerseys at home during the preseason. That will change depending upon the weather when the Browns take the field Sunday, Sept. 9, against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“We really do listen to our fans,” Holmgren said. “There are certain things they don’t like and then, there (are) certain things they’re okay with and certain things they love. We’re going to have brown and white at home and the main factor behind that is weather and teams do that around the league. That was probably the main consideration. We’re probably going to split it.”