Trent Richardson and Mike Holmgren in August, 2013. (David Richard/AP)
In his time as a head coach with the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks from 1992 through 2008, Mike Holmgren established himself as one of the finest offensive minds of his generation. However, there were always questions about his front-office acumen when he was the Seahawks' general manager from 1999 through 2002 and the Cleveland Browns' team president from 2010 through 2012. Holmgren was demoted from GM in Seattle after the 2002 season, though he stayed on as head coach and guided the team to its most successful era. Holmgren's brief tenure with the Browns was defined by two first-round picks in 2012 -- running back Trent Richardson with the third overall pick, and quarterback Brandon Weeden with the 22nd.
Now that the Browns have changed all the names in the building under new owner Jimmy Haslam, and traded Richardson to the Colts for a first-round pick in 2014, it's clear that the Holmgren era is a thing of the past, and the new regime is doing as much as possible to move along.
When he went on Seattle radio station KJR-AM for his weekly appearance on Thursday, Holmgren, who is now an analyst for the station, minced no words about the Richardson trade and what the Browns are doing now.
"Philosophically, if I am the coach and someone came in anywhere and did that, I'd say 'OK, fire me, or I'm going to quit,'" Holmgren told KJR's Dave Mahler, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "Or we're going to both go into the owner and talk about this and then we'll see who's still standing.'''
Unlike many modern NFL executives, Holmgren wasn't shy about selecting running backs high in the first round -- he picked Shaun Alexander 19th overall in the 2000 draft for the Seahawks -- and he was quite puzzled at the Browns' ability to dispose of a player he thought was so valuable.
"How do you make your team better by trading your best player?'' Holmgren said. "He's the best offensive player. He's a valuable, valuable guy.''
In fact, had Holmgren been the head coach of the Browns when this trade had happened, it's quite possible that the Browns would be looking for a new head coach as well.
"I'd shake hands and walk. I would. Because if I disagreed with it vehemently, and I couldn't buy in, I mean, I'm not saying I'm right, I'm saying that's what I would do, because you have to be true to yourself in this business.''
Richardson heard about the trade on the radio, and Holmgren heard about the trade from his daughter.
"I thought she was kidding around. I didn't believe it. I went on my computer and saw it. I had a lot of emotions, because I really liked the young man and I really think he's an outstanding football player. It was something that we needed, and he had a really fine first year and he played through pain and injury, so I was startled by that. ''
"On the surface, I tried to make sense of it. I wanted to know what in the world? It appears after seeing the press conference, they're not coming out and saying it, but they're preparing for next year's draft. I listened to the coach and he says we want to be competitive. Who's going to be the running back? They don't even know who's going to be the running back this week.''
Well, the just-signed Willis McGahee might get a shot, but point taken. The Browns are also not committing to Weeden, and 2012 second-round pick Mitchell Schwartz has allowed five sacks and 18 total pressures pre Pro Football Focus, good for the worst marks in the NFL in both cases. So maybe the Browns are within their rights to question how their predecessors did things.
Holmgren also said during the interview that he was ready to give up his entire 2012 draft to move up from third to first and select Andrew Luck.
"And now a year later, they get both of them," Holmgren said of the new Luck-Richardson combo. "If you asked [Colts GM Ryan Grigson] last year, 'Would you trade your 24th pick in the first round for Trent Richardson,' you would do that easily.''