Friday, July 27, 2012

Buh-bye, Randy

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.


  1. Hi,
    What are your thoughts on the possibility of Joe Banner replacing Holmgren? It might mean Heckert would be gone because I've been told that it was Banner who pushed him out of Philly. I never liked Banner when he was in Philly. He seemed arrogant and his hand-picked guy for GM, Howie Roseman, quickly made such a dubious name for himself in NFL circles that he was shunned for a time by other front office types because he wasn't to be trusted.

    Of course, there has been plenty of arrogance in Berea recently, but while it looks like Heckert has improved the roster, would his loss hurt that much? Thanks!

    Paul from Seattle

  2. Hi Paul,

    It looks more and more as though Banner will be the head man in Cleveland once the sale is approved by the league. If, indeed, he's the guy, Holmgren is most likely gone and Heckert probably won't be too far behind.

    Front-office politics in Philly landed Heckert in Cleveland, so it will be very interesting to see what goes down when Banner arrives. If his arrogance produces winning teams, bring him on. Arrogance can be tolerated much more in that event.

    Whether Heckert's presumed loss makes a difference depends on who replaces him. I'm willing to sit back and watch what happens in the next month or two before reaching any conclusions.

    Right now, I'm confining my pleasure to Lerner's impending departure.

  3. This is just great. As soon as the Browns finally get a stable or semi-stable upper management Lerner decides to sell the team. I'm not saying Holmgren & Heckert are the Browns saviors, but come on give them a couple of years to see if this infusion of young talent provides the results everyone wants to see.

  4. The Browns don't need another front office shakeup...we'll never win if we don't have stability there...It's time for the Browns to win and win now...the NFL will favor Cleveland if they finally try and do the right thing...with Joe Banner coming in we'll be like the Indians,"treading water knowing they need power hitters",but sacrficing wins by being stingy(Dolans are Milburn Drysdale of Beverly Hillbillies)...The game has passed Joe Banner by,I don't want him as team president.We need to continue building this team for he long haul and i don't see that w/Banner!Philly got rid of him,we don't want him.

    1. Anon,

      Who knows? The new owner might not shake up anything. Don't jump to conclusions. I hope he does, though.

      Not sure what you mean by "the NFL will favor Cleveland if they finally do the right thing." Makes no sense. What is the right thing and how would that influence the NFL?

      As for Joe Banner, he's had a history of success in Philadelphia and whether or not you like it, he probably will be the new club president once the sale goes through. And your reference to the Indians makes no sense, either.

      One final question: In what way has the game passed Banner by? Not sure I know what you're talking about there.

      Next time, pls sign your name or handle. Tnx.

  5. mdoogal,

    We've already given the H&H guys two years and all they've produced are nine victories. At what point do you pull the plug on a front office that is nothing better than mediocre?

    Under the Lerner leadership, the fans have been subjected to bad front offices. From Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark to Butch Davis and Pete Garcia to Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel to Eric Mangini to the current group, Cleveland pro football fans have been subjected to awful football.

    Thats why a whole new culture the new owner is certain to bring in is a welcome sight.

  6. Rich, I do not see why there is so much disparaging of Heckert. The man has drafted more viable talent in the last three years than was drafted in the previous eleven years before his tenure. If the putative new club President Joe Banner cannot recognize Heckert's abilities, I do not want him. The Eagles got rid of him for a reason. Front office instability is the PRECISE reason why this team has struggled since returning. Stick with Heckert, Shurmer and his staff and let's see what happens.

  7. Hi Chuck,

    Can't disagree with you that Heckert's drafting in three years has been better than the previous 11 years. That's more an indictment on the first 11 years, though.

    But I don't think either of us has a say-so in whom Banner chooses as his GM once he arrives. Therefore, we are stuck. Maybe it'll be Heckert. We don't know. The guess here is Heckert will remain for at least one more full season.

    When both were in Philly, Banner let Andy Reid conduct the draft with Heckert's input. Reid had the final say, however. Reid still calls all the shots there with GM Howie Roseman helping.

    Banner is more of a business type who puts personnel people in place. I think Shurmur is more in jeopardy than Heckert at this point, but that is subject to change, of course.

    Tnx for checking in. Don't be a stranger.