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Holmgren’s future in Cleveland remains cloudy

Mike Holmgren, Ruston Webster, Mike Reinfeldt

While talking on the field during team warmups, Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren, right, shields Tennessee Titans director of player personnel Ruston Webster, left, and general manager Mike Reinfeldt, center, before an NFL football game on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011, in Cleveland. All three worked together in the past with the Seattle Seahawks. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)


On Friday, Browns president Mike Holmgren said that questions regarding his future would be “answered down the road.”

The question is how far down the road will those questions be answered?

Per a source with knowledge of the front-office dynamics in Cleveland, the contents of Holmgren’s contract are a tightly-guarded secret. It’s believed that the deal was negotiated directly by and between General Counsel Fred Nance, a former finalist for the position of Commissioner, and agent Bob LaMonte. It’s also believed that only Nance, owner Randy Lerner, Holmgren, and agent Bob LaMonte know the terms, including whether Holmgren has a Parcells-style parachute that allows Holmgren to walk away with full pay upon a change of control.

Bill Parcells’ deal with the Dolphins provided the template for the “cash-and-carry” coach-turned-executive contract, which gave Parcells the ability to quit and receive the balance of his pay once Wayne Huizenga sold to Stephen Ross. It would be a bit of a surprise, frankly, if Holmgren didn’t insist on a similar term when he agreed to become, in essence, a surrogate owner for Lerner, who by all appearances preferred to be an absentee landlord.

It doesn’t mean Holmgren will leave as soon as Lerner tosses the keys to truck-stop magnate Jimmy Haslam. The reported involvement of former Eagles president Joe Banner could help persuade Holmgren to stay at least through the end of the 2012 season, given Holmgren’s and Banner’s mutual ties to Eagles coach Andy Reid, a former Holmgren assistant.

It’s also possible that Holmgren will renegotiate his current deal, like Parcells did after Ross bought the Dolphins. Parcells had a 30-day window within which to pull the cord and pocket the money after the sale was finalized; he essentially parlayed that into a contract that gave him the ability to invoke the privilege at any point he wanted.

If Holmgren has a similar opening, he could try to do the same thing.

Of course, there’s no guarantee Haslam will agree to having the Big Show’s curtain constantly hanging over the new owner’s head. Haslam could say, “You’re all in, or you’re all out.” And then maybe Holmgren would choose to be all out.

Indeed, some believe Holmgren could be all out not long after Haslam takes over. As Holmgren said, those questions will be answered down the road. There’s a chance that the road won’t be very long, or very winding.