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Holmgren visits with Browns for second day

| Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns may have finally found their leader.

Former Seattle and Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren, with one Super Bowl title and success brimming from his NFL resume, is spending his second day meeting with the Browns about running their football operations.

Holmgren arrived Monday after being invited by Cleveland owner Randy Lerner. He was again at team headquarters in Berea, Ohio, on Tuesday along with his agent, Bob LaMonte. Holmgren is not scheduled to leave Tuesday, a sign that could indicate the sides are working out details on a contract.

Browns spokesman Bill Bonsiewicz said Holmgren was scheduled to meet with coach Eric Mangini, but he did not know if that meeting has taken place.

The length of Holmgren's stay — and LaMonte's inclusion — points to his strong interest in taking over the Browns, who have struggled since returning to the league as an expansion team in 1999. Cleveland has had four coaches, just two winning seasons and one playoff appearance in 11 years.

Lerner has been solely focused on finding someone to fix his failing franchise. Last month, he said he wanted to hire a "serious, credible leader" to run the Browns.

Holmgren fits that criteria.

He appeared in 12 postseasons and three Super Bowls before stepping down after last season with more wins than any other active coach. The 61-year-old Holmgren, who for a four-season span served as both Seattle's coach and general manager, is a proven football authority.

He took a sabbatical after the 2008 season to spend more time with his family. But Holmgren has been itching to get back into pro football, and the Browns would be a new challenge.

He recently told a Seattle radio station he found Cleveland's front-office job appealing.

"There's something in my personality, too, that taking on those types of projects, that kind of gets me going. But there's a lot of work to do," he said. "The important thing, going into any organization is that all of the principles, all of the decision makers are pointed in the same direction, with the same motives, the same desires, and then you have a chance."

Holmgren spent 10 years with Seattle and seven with the Packers, leading them to a Super Bowl title in 1996. The Seahawks made the playoffs six times under Holmgren, including their only Super Bowl appearance when they lost to Pittsburgh to end the 2005 season.

Last week he said he "absolutely" wanted to talk to Seahawks owner Paul Allen and chief executive Tod Leiweke about returning to the team, which relieved Holmgren of his GM duties after the 2002 season. Seattle is looking for a GM following Tim Ruskell's resignation on Dec. 3, and Holmgren could be using the Browns as leverage to get a deal with his former team.

As of Tuesday, the Seahawks were still in the process of what Leiweke last week called "a thorough audit" of the slumping team. They have not started the process of interviewing candidates — and Leiweke didn't sound as if he was ready to instantly hand the job to Holmgren.

"We've got time," Leiweke said last week. "We're going to be very, very careful going forward to ensure that we find just the right person to lead the organization. ... We're going to find somebody that, we're not going to join them, they're going to join us."

It's not known what impact the hiring of a football "czar" will have on Mangini's future. The Browns have struggled in Mangini's first season, which has included lopsided losses, players grumbling about practice methods and fines, and the firing of general manager George Kokinis.

The Browns (2-11) are coming off a 13-6 upset of the Steelers and play at Kansas City on Sunday.

Mangini has said he would be open to Lerner bringing in someone to oversee the team's personnel decisions. On Monday, Mangini said he and Lerner have not discussed the search for that person.

"That hasn't really been the focal point of our conversations," he said. "It's more a function of the things that we're trying to do week in and week out. We'll visit some more and I'm sure we'll see where that is."

Lerner recently hired Fred Nance as the team's general counsel. Nance was one of five finalists to succeed former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

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