Posted: Friday July 23, 2010 1:41PM ; Updated: Friday July 23, 2010 1:41PM
Ross Tucker
Ross Tucker>INSIDE THE NFL

Hope lies in the Browns' fresh front office approach; plus your mail

Story Highlights

Mike Holmgren went against prevailing wisdom in building a management team

The Falcons show diverse ideas and philosphies can help an organization win

A reader defends Brett Favre's unwillingness to attend Vikings training camp

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mangini-holmgren.jpg
Browns president Mike Holmgren (right) kept head coach Eric Mangini, but resisted the urge to surround himself with familiar faces.
AP

Real NFL football is finally here as the Cleveland Browns kick things off with the opening of their training camp today in Berea, Ohio. As the first team to officially take the field for the 2010 season, the spotlight is shining on an organization that appears to be making strides toward respectability. Nowhere is that more evident than in the way the Browns went about the business of setting up their organizational structure and hierarchy during the offseason.

For so long in the NFL it seemed as if the prevailing wisdom was to simply build an organization in which all of the key decision makers had worked together and were very familiar with one another. Think Miami Dolphins, for example. Bill Parcells was hired by former owner Wayne Huizenga to be the football Czar, so to speak, who oversees all football operations. The first thing Parcells did was bring in a general manager in Jeff Ireland and a head coach in Tony Sparano with whom he had worked in Dallas and was very familiar. The benefits of such an arrangement are fairly obvious. There is a high level of trust and comfort. It ensures that everybody is on the same page with a similar if not identical philosophy. Clearly, it has worked out for the Dolphins as they won the AFC East title in Year One of this regime and appear poised to make another run in 2010. But there could be some limits.

If everyone has the same philosophy and goes about their business the same way, is progress sometimes stifled? Ingenuity can be created by bringing together people with different backgrounds or viewpoints. That's why you have to like what is going on in Cleveland.

After Mike Holmgren was hired as team president, he resisted the urge to only hire people from his past. He kept head coach Eric Mangini, who has learned from working for guys like Parcells and Bill Belichick. Holmgren brought in Tom Heckert as general manager even though they had never worked together. Only time will tell whether the arrangement ultimately pays dividends for the fans in Cleveland who so desperately want and deserve a winner, but the potential is there. Having three smart football guys with different backgrounds and philosophies can help the Browns flourish -- as long as all three set aside their egos, which is not always easy in pro football, and row in the same direction, but that appears to be the case so far.

The Atlanta Falcons recently had the first back-to-back winning seasons in franchise history under the leadership of president Rich McKay, GM Thomas Dimitroff, and head coach Mike Smith. None of the three had ever worked together, yet they've produced previously unforeseen levels of success for the organization. The folks in Cleveland are hoping the same thing happens for them.

Mail Time ...

I disagree with your point on Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder needing to share more revenue with smaller clubs. The Packers making a profit of $9 million on a franchise worth an estimated $500 million is less than 2%. The Packers would do better to sell the team and put the money into a CD. Having employees earning more than the company means there is a compensation problem. JJ and Snyder do a lot to further their brands while others do not. For them to do all the work and others to get the profit takes away all motivation. Basing the CBA on the average income of the middle 10 teams would be a little more fair.
-- Rob Lowery, Lincoln, NE

All good points. The revenue-sharing issue among the owners is very complicated, and the fact that different franchises run their businesses in diverse ways, as you mentioned, only complicates things more. I wouldn't want to share any of my revenue if I were Jones or Snyder, but under a salary cap system, player compensation grows at the exact same rate as overall revenue for the league as a whole. The salary cap number is based on a percentage of that revenue.

Brett Favre doesn't need training camp. There is nothing he can do there that will help his chances of leading the Vikings this year. He would rather retire than go to training camp. That's the difference. If Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice were any good their last five years, they'd have had leverage to miss camp, but they weren't. Favre threw 33 TDs and seven interceptions and nobody questioned his leadership abilities last year. If Ray Lewis is willing to just retire rather than go to training camp, then the situations would be similar, but he's not. The Vikings desperately want Brett as their QB. Brett desperately wants to play, but ONLY if he doesn't need to do training camp. He's just saying. "If I have to be there, I'd rather retire." They are saying, "You don't need to be there." Once again, much ado about nothing.
-- Joe, Madison, WI

Fine, but does Pat Williams need training camp? I'm sure his 350-pound, 37 year-old body would rather be completely fresh for the rigors of the regular season, and I highly doubt that he gets much of a benefit from camp, if any. What about Antoine Winfield, Jared Allen, Steve Hutchinson, and even Adrian Peterson? Do any of them really need training camp? Besides, my column said nothing about Favre needing training camp. I agree that he probably doesn't. The question is: why is he so adamantly opposed to being there with the rest of his teammates in the first place?

1. Is there anyone, either from NFL or NFLPA, who is against changing the insane rookie pay scale? -- Bill_Prange @SI_RossTucker

No. As long as the money would still be paid out to veterans or retired players, everybody other than agents realizes the system is broken and needs to be fixed. The agents like the instant financial gratification that comes from top draft choices, but even they realize they are fighting an uphill battle on this one.

1. Might only interest your Canadian fans, but how'd you like your first three-down football experience in the CFL? -- HarryMclane @si_rosstucker

The Saskatchewan Roughriders at British Columbia Lions game I went to recently was really entertaining. What stood out to me was the fact that the NFL seems to be getting more and more like the CFL every year in terms of emphasis on getting offensive players in space and the need for speed at every defensive position.

 
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