A little after 1:00 ET on Friday August 3, 2012, the future of the Cleveland Browns significantly changed forever. It’s been an excruciating thirteen years since the return of the Orange & Brown, and finally, there is reason for legitimate optimism.
Jimmy Haslam III stepped to the podium for his introductory press conference as the new owner of the Browns (pending an official NFL approval that is guaranteed) and provided an enthusiastic explanation of what he wants for the Browns. While he refused to speak about personnel and financial specifics, the billionaire owner of Pilot/Flying J truck stops presented a basic outline of how he will run the franchise.
Mr. Haslam immediately addressed the issue of a possible relocation of the team by saying there was “zero chance” that would happen. He excitedly proclaimed that he has “one mission and one mission only: to bring winning back to Cleveland.”
This was more than just lip service. Mr. Haslam, wearing a suit with a Browns’ tie and lapel pin, appeared honest an genuine in everything he said. This press conference was no facade.
He greeted every question with a “Hi” or “Hey.” He also repeated each reporter’s name prior to answering his/her question. Mr. Haslam is engaged and will soon be entrenched in Cleveland.
Dealing With H2
There are a lot of questions to be answered, once Mr. Haslam gets established and has a full grasp of the organization. At the top of the list of issues to resolve will be the future of President Mike Holmgren. During the press conference, Mr. Haslam praised Holmgren and even called him a “future Hall Of Famer.” Mr. Haslam complimented the draft classes of Holmgren and General Manager Tom Heckert from the last two years and gave the impression that there was no sense of urgency to fire Holmgren and/or Heckert.
Mr. Haslam said he will be around the franchise a lot to “listen, learn, observe.” Nevertheless, a regime change often means a complete overhaul. It’s been reported that former Eagles President Joe Banner is a part of Mr. Haslam’s inner circle. This could lead to the ousting of H2, but no one knows for sure at this point. How the Browns perform in 2012 may be a bigger determining factor. Also, Holmgren, who will be paid his $8,000,000 salary regardless, may see the ownership change as an opportunity to ride off into the sunset of television commentary.
As for Heckert, he could survive if Holmgren leaves. That will depend upon the reality of the relationship he had with Banner while the two were in Philadelphia. Again, Mr. Haslam was extremely diplomatic on Friday, so we won’t know for sure until well into the season.
Second-year Head Coach Pat Shurmur has the hottest seat in Cleveland. Even if H2 remains, Shurmer will likely be fired if wins are few and the Browns perform as poorly as last year. The base of talent in Cleveland is strong enough for a good coach to win games and be very competitive.
Mr. Haslam spent the last few years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom he referred to in many ways including “that other team.” Because of this, winning is what he has become accustomed to and winning is the only option for the Browns. ”There’s no reason this can’t be a winning franchise,” he said. Mr. Haslam also said he is “100% committed to making the Cleveland Browns a winner, and he will “take whatever steps necessary” to ensure success.
There it is… Presented in a very simple manner… Just win, Shurmur, and everything will be fine.
The Browns carry with them a huge history with loyalty from fans that is deeply rooted. Mr. Haslam appears to have a grasp of this, and he discussed his thoughts regarding culture. He isn’t in Cleveland to change the traditions. He’s here to restore, and in my opinion, create, a winning team that will consistently put the Browns at the top of the NFL.
Nothing short of a Super Bowl matters to me, and the Browns appear to be finally led by a man with the same goal.
- Expect naming rights to be sold on Cleveland Browns stadium. This is long overdue. With $1,000,000,000 to recoup and money to spend in the future, Mr. Haslam must do this.
- There will be a push to make the Browns a top team in merchandise sales. While some are concerned about logo or color changes, I’m not ready to speculate on that yet. However, I do anticipate updates that will enhance the marketability and attractiveness of the team.
- Fans attending Family Night may get a chance to shake hands with the new owner. Mr. Haslam will be very visible and accessible.
- Mr. Haslam will be sitting in the stands, rather than the owner’s box, for the first pre-season game.
- Sports Time Ohio began the press conference poorly. Just as Mr. Haslam stepped to the mic, the station went to commercial… OOPS!
- It’s likely tha the other NFL owners will officially approve the sale prior to the next scheduled owners meeting in October.
- Mr. Haslam met Randy Lerner on July 2. They closed the deal August 2. That is ridiculously fast. Mr. Haslam WANTED the Browns, and that’s a great thing for fans.