Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren spent the five days of the NFL owners’ meetings explaining why Green Bay let a half-dozen starters get away to free agency.
Most of their rivals just chuckled.
“They lost one player,” another general manager said. “They’ll be right back up there.”
Holmgren and Wolf said as much about a team that won the Super Bowl two years ago and the NFC championship last year. But they’ve drafted well enough that they may have the backups to replace the six guys they lost.
The only loss that surprised them was the one they can most afford - punter Craig Hentrich, who signed with the Oilers. They replaced him with Sean Landeta, who kicked for Tampa Bay last season and seems to be able to go on forever.
“We sat down at the end of the season and talked about losing some guys,” Holmgren said. “The one that surprised me more than any other was the punter. Otherwise, you get six teams that come after six players and pay them more than anyone else at their position is getting. We made the decision that it was too much.”
In addition to Hentrich, the Packers lost defensive end Gabe Wilkins to San Francisco; cornerback Doug Evans to Carolina; running back Edgar Bennett to Chicago; and safety Eugene Robinson to Atlanta. They also expect to lose guard Aaron Taylor and Reggie White could retire.
The only two in that group they expect to really miss are Evans and Wilkins, plus White, of course.
“Someone please find me some defensive linemen,” Wolf pleads.
George Young stepped down as general manager of the New York Giants to take a job in the league office because, at 68, he wanted to travel less and spend more time with his wife. He even sold his home in New Jersey and found an apartment in New York City.
Then he was appointed last week to oversee the personnel operation of the expansion franchise that will start play in Cleveland in 1999.
While he won’t travel as much, he is the de facto president of the Browns, who don’t have an owner yet. He’ll oversee Joe Mack, the former assistant general manager in Carolina, whom he appointed to run the scouting operation.
“I’m retiring and all of a sudden I get hit with Cleveland,” Young sighed as he accepted a record fifth executive-of-the-year award at the meetings.
Cowher and the Browns
There were reports this week that Bill Cowher, who is under contract with the Steelers through 1999, is interested in the Cleveland job if he can’t work out a deal with Pittsburgh that would put him in the $2 million a year category paid to coaches like Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson.
But considering the Browns don’t have an owner yet, who knows what will happen?
“As long as he’s under contract, he could be appointed King of Siam and he’d still belong to the Steelers,” commissioner Paul Tagliabue said when asked about Cowher.
Johnson, who spent his first year in Dallas (1989) shedding players and is still rebuilding in his third year in Miami, is a bit envious of the Cleveland job, but he wouldn’t consider moving to a non-tropical climate.
“They can start from scratch,” he says. “I’ve been spending time clearing out people who don’t fit my system.”
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