Later this summer, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will formally induct Ron Wolf for his decorated career as a front office executive that included stops with a handful of teams including the Green Bay Packers. In an interview with CantonRep.com, Wolf discussed his career after leaving Green Bay in 2001.
When he initially retired in 2001, Wolf had no immediate plans to work for another team. That changed in 2004, when the Cleveland Browns, still in transition after the death of owner Al Lerner, looked to Wolf as a stabilizing force. "I had a hell of a deal," Wolf said of the arrangement. "I would come in and spend a certain amount of time and that was it."
Those words probably don't inspire much optimism from Browns fans, but with the organization being pulled in multiple directions -- president Carmen Policy, new owner Randy Lerner and head coach Butch Davis each had separate visions for the team -- it's not difficult to see how Wolf's expertise came to little avail. By the 2004 combine, the former Packers general manager had left Cleveland. "I was there maybe 2 1/2 weeks," Wolf explains. "Butch Davis got a bee up wherever one gets a bee up. He wasn't too happy with me being there ... so I left."
That departure may have cost the Browns a franchise quarterback. Wolf may not have remained in Cleveland long, but he did provide a scouting report on Miami of Ohio's Ben Roethlisberger.
"The only thing that disappointed me about Roethlisberger was that he didn't have a very good game against Iowa," Wolf recalls. "But that was the first game of (Miami of Ohio's) 2003 season. He did some good work in other games."
Roethlisberger's college coaches believed that the Browns had designs on their pupil. Instead, Davis moved up one spot to select Miami tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. at No. 6. Of course, Roethlisberger landed with the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers, leading the team to three Super Bowls and two championships.
The Browns sputtered for several more years. Eventually, Lerner called upon Wolf again to advise him on how to move forward. Wolf recommended former Green Bay headman Mike Holmgren.
"(Wolf's recommendation) led to a series of visits. One was with Mike and his wife in his home in Arizona. After let's say an hour and a half listening ... I understood very quickly that I was not interviewing Mike Holmgren. I was recruiting Mike Holmgren."
Lerner hired Holmgren as team president prior to the 2010 season. However, like Wolf, his tenure in Cleveland did not last long. He survived just long enough to fire inherited head coach Eric Mangini and replace him with Pat Shurmer. As Wolf explains, Holmgren's failure to acquire a franchise quarterback but short stewardship of the Browns.
Not that Holmgren didn't try. He invested a third-round pick in Colt McCoy in 2010. After realizing the team still didn't have it's signal caller, Holmgren selected Brandon Weeden in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Holmgren's decision to take Weeden still puzzles Wolf.
"I was shocked when they brought Weeden in," Wolf said, "only because, from being around Mike, the first thing about a quarterback was feet.
"It was the first thing Mike talked about ... feet. That guy had no feet."
As with everything in football, it comes down to the man under center.
"To me, the No. 1 tenet in the game is, you've got to have a quarterback. If you don't have a quarterback, then you can't play.
"They didn't get that guy."