It will be extremely difficult to imagine the Cleveland Browns of the 21st century owned by anyone other that someone named Lerner.
The last 13 seasons under the Lerner brand have produced some of the darkest days, weeks, months and years in the history of this storied franchise. Under that brand, the Browns became the laughingstock of the National Football League.
If there was a bad move to be made, Randy Lerner somehow made it. He and the men he chose to run the team plunged professional football in Cleveland back to the Dark Ages.
In those 13 seasons, the Browns registered just two winning campaigns and one appearance in the playoffs. Double-digit loss seasons became commonplace – 10 to be exact.
And now comes the dawn of an era that certainly can’t be any worse than what Browns Nation has been forced to suffer through in what has turned out to be those unlucky 13 seasons.
Now comes a fresh face, a new name and hopefully a whole new attitude and approach. Here comes Jimmy Haslam III, a southern gentleman on the verge of buying the Browns from Lerner.
Haslam, whose Tennessee family fortune is reportedly in excess of $3 billion, is what Lerner is not. And I don’t mean billionaire, although Lerner’s wealth has diminished to the $900 million neighborhood. Haslam is a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool football fan who couldn’t care less about soccer.
When his purchase of the Browns is complete, he will divest himself in his 16% ownership of the Pittsburgh Steelers and begin a whole new era of pro football in Cleveland. The dark clouds that have hung over this franchise will disappear.
Haslam, who tried to buy his native Tennessee Titans a few years ago, will be a refreshing new face. The stolid Lerner ownership, which appeared to accept losing with way too much casualness, will be gone. Finally.
How quickly the Haslam way of doing things translates to the Browns won’t be known for a while. However long it takes, it promises to be a lot more exciting than what we’ve had to endure under the Lerner brand.
Fresh blood is what this franchise needs and fresh blood is what it will get. It is assumed Haslam will not tolerate losing, especially with a team that seems headed in the right direction.
It will be very interesting to see how long the new owner, once the sale goes through, waits before making decisions that affect the team.
Browns President Mike Holmgren has to be wondering how safe his job is although he still has three years remaining on his contract. And what other dominoes could fall if Haslam decides to clean house?
How safe are General Manager Tom Heckert Jr. and coach Pat Shurmur? If Haslam’s intent is to change the culture of the organization, their jobs definitely could be in jeopardy.
Most new owners like to bring in their own people. Rarely do those on board at the time of the purchase survive. Job security be damned. New owners feel much more comfortable surrounded people they know and trust.
When Haslam takes over, a constituency that has clamored for Lerner’s departure for the better part of the last decade will welcome him unconditionally. He very well might become one of the most popular men in town. That is, of course, if he decides to move to Cleveland.
Even if he chooses to be an absentee owner and remain in Knoxville, Tenn., all will be forgiven if he molds the Browns into a winner. It doesn’t take much to gain that kid of popularity in Cleveland.
It also shouldn’t take long before Haslam realizes what a great fan base he’s buying into. As a minority owner of the Steelers, he has seen up close just how great the Cleveland-Pittsburgh rivalry can become again.
If nothing else, it will be oh so refreshing to see someone else at the top of the team directory.