It has been a tortured run for the Browns ever since they returned to Cleveland in 1999, and this year is no exception.

But with Mike Holmgren now aboard as the team's top football man, there is reason for optimism. Team owner Randy Lerner has taken gobs of grief for his hiring of Eric Mangini, and the ill-fated move met with disastrous results right from the start.

But Holmgren is one of the best football minds in the game, and he will undoubtedly make a difference. Not that he didn't have his own issues with personnel in Seattle, where the Seahawks eventually replaced him as general manager with Tim Ruskell.

But Seattle's Super Bowl run after the 2005 season was made largely with the players Holmgren acquired in previous years. And there's no reason to think he can't build a respectable roster in Cleveland. That might mean the Browns will dispense with acquiring any Jets' player they can get their hands on - as was the case with Mangini.

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But Holmgren will no doubt add the kind of players who will begin to turn this team around. And who knows? Holmgren hasn't ruled out a return to the sidelines, although for now, the role is strictly as an executive position.

Holmgren said on his weekly radio show in Seattle last Friday that if he took the job, he'd give Mangini a chance to prove himself. He said it's not fair to fire a coach after one season, but didn't entirely rule out the possibility.