The Browns are trying their best to prevent speculation about lame-duck president Mike Holmgren’s reported interest in coaching the Dallas Cowboys from becoming a distraction, but the story line doesn’t appear to be fading.
And it won’t if Cowboys owner Jerry Jones continues to fuel the fire. Jones voiced his support for Cowboys coach Jason Garrett on Tuesday morning, but he also praised Holmgren, who will leave the Browns at the end of this season, if not earlier, now that owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner are in charge.
“I’m fired up about [Garrett] and what he can be coaching the Dallas Cowboys,” Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. “Mike Holmgren is someone that I can’t tell you on an individual basis how much I respect him. He’s everything that you would want as far as a coach is concerned. I appreciate, it was a compliment, when he was talking about how he was impressed with our talent and the fact that we could work together, and that’s just the case. But make no mistake about it, I’m saying that because of Mike. And he doesn’t need me to talk about what a great guy he is. Our fans probably need to hear that he’s a great guy. But bottom line is it’s all about Jason with me.”
It was the second time Jones has made public comments about Holmgren since Jason La Canfora of CBS cited sources while reporting Sunday on NFL Today that Holmgren “has serious interest” in coaching the Cowboys if the job opens. Holmgren, who has not ruled out a return to coaching, met with reporters Monday and insisted he has not expressed interest in the job. Still, he never said he wouldn’t be interested if the opportunity presented itself.
Meanwhile, the Browns (2-7) are trying to hit the reset button following their bye and finish strong in their final seven games of the season. The Browns are 5-5 in their past 10 games coming off a bye, and 0-1 under coach Pat Shurmur in that situation.
The Cowboys (4-5) are aiming to build on their 38-23 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys’ defense, led by former Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, scored two touchdowns in the win.
Clarence Hill covers the Cowboys for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He discussed the team in the following question-and-answer session:
Q: There has been a lot of talk about Garrett being on the hot seat. What is the feeling in Dallas about this issue and what do you make of the report about Holmgren?
A: “If the wheels fall off this season, certainly anything could happen, and the Cowboys could make a change from Garrett. But they do like Garrett. They do think he has potential to be a very good head coach down the line. The problem is they think this team is ready to win now, and they don’t want to wait on a guy learning on the job. So if he can’t get them into the playoffs and really looking positive toward the end of the season, then they certainly would consider making a change. Regarding Holmgren, it was funny because I was listening to what he told the local media on Monday trying to shut down the rumors. He never said he wouldn’t be interested in the job. He just said he hasn’t talked to anyone about it and would never do that to Jason Garrett. As we all know, the [main parties] never talk to each other. It’s always through back-channel contact, especially when a job is not open. So it doesn’t mean his agent or someone else hasn’t reached out and put feelers out in that situation. It’s interesting. Obviously Holmgren’s not going to be with the Browns next year and possibly would want to return to coaching. He and Jerry have a chummy relationship that goes back a lot of years, but right now Jerry says he’s all about Jason Garrett.”
Q: What identity has the defense developed under Ryan and what approach do you expect him to take against his former team and its rookie quarterback, Brandon Weeden?
A: “I expect him to be fired up and certainly motivated to look good in front of his former team. Actually, Rob has lost a lot of weight and cut his hair. He’s trying to be a head coach. He’s actually cut back on some of his outlandish statements as advised by Garrett. Last year, he talked a lot of talk and said some things that were repeated in the newspapers and motivated other teams. He has toned it down a lot, and the defense is better for it. The team is better for it. The defense is a top-10 defense.”
Q: Starting running back DeMarco Murray has missed the past four games with a sprained foot. What’s his status for Sunday and how is the offense different without him?
A: “The Cowboys are going to be cautious with Murray. They’re hopeful, but they’re not going to let him return till he’s 100 percent, and right now he’s not 100 percent. He can’t do everything they need him to do as far as running and cutting and everything else. … He takes a lot of pressure off [quarterback] Tony Romo because he’s the best running back on the team. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, get the tough yards inside as well as take it the distance. They’re looking for him to come back and really have the balanced offense they had last year, so they need him back. Felix Jones has been up and down. He had a strong game against the Eagles, but he’s been up and down for much of the year. People were down on him. He’s been injured. He came into camp out of shape. But he looks to be in the best health he’s been all season. He certainly ran strong against the Eagles, and he will be the guy to go if Murray is out for a fifth straight game.”
Q: What would the Browns need to exploit to upset the Cowboys?
A: “The Eagles did a really good job going after rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne. He had five penalties. He was burned for a touchdown. He’s a very talented rookie, but he’s a rookie. ... If they want to make big plays, I think they’d be smart to go after Morris Claiborne.”
Q: What should the Browns fear the most when they visit Cowboys Stadium?
A: “I think they should fear the receivers on the outside. Dez Bryant, I think he’s come into his own. He certainly had a big game last week, and he’s looking to build on that. Dez Bryant is a playmaker and the Cowboys will try to get him the ball.”
The Browns signed defensive end Ricky Elmore to their practice squad, the team announced Tuesday.
Elmore, a sixth-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2011, spent three weeks this season on the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad before being released Sept. 25. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Elmore had 25½ sacks during his career at the University of Arizona.
Read Clarence Hill’s coverage of the Cowboys at www.star-telegram.com/cowboys. Follow him on Twitter: @clarencehilljr. Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj.