Time to step back, Jimmy
Now that he has blown out his second front office regime in 16 months, it’s time for Jimmy Haslam III to stop and pull back.
The Browns owner, acting somewhat as mercurially as the victims of his latest whacking, needs to disappear for a while and let the guys he now trusts to do their jobs.
He needs to let Ray Farmer cobble together the kind of football team Browns fans have been aching for since 1999. He needs to let Mike Pettine do what he was born to do.
And he needs to either butt out or sit back and watch silently as these guys do their thing. He has done all that needs to be done. Now, it’s everyone else’s turn.
It’s one thing to stick his nose in everybody’s business. He is the owner and paid more than a billion dollars for the right to do so. But there comes a time when his constant interference becomes an annoyance.
In an effort to get it right, Haslam seems to have done mostly wrong. He is listening to the wrong people. Once he corrects that, he should be OK.
As he frankly admitted in the news conference Tuesday announcing the latest round of radical changes, he is still learning. “I underestimated this,” he said. “It’s a learning curve to be an NFL owner. If you want to look at me as a work in progress, that’s fair to say or to do.
“I will tell you this: These are the last major changes we’re going to make in the organization. But we’ll continue to . . . tinker with the organization to continue to finds ways to improve it and make it better.”
Haslam continued the self-flagellation. “I will accept comments and criticism about change,” he said. “I will accept responsibility for some of the changes that have been made. There is no primer for being an NFL owner. It is a learn-on-the-go.”
In a world where those with thin skin have trouble surviving, Haslam has shown some toughness. At the same time, he has either chosen to suspend reality when it comes to outsiders’ perception of his team or decided to ignore it.
He distastes the dysfunction label that has been pinned on the manner in which he has run the Browns. “I would disagree with that,” he said almost defiantly at the news conference.
“I think it’s a perception that you all have set out there. . . . As I talk to people around the league or at the Super Bowl last year, people view this as a great franchise. It’s a great football area.”
There is no question Cleveland is a great football area with a fan base equal to, or better than, any around the National Football League. That’s what makes all this losing for the last 15 seasons so frustrating and hard to take.
Maybe it’s the naïveté of the man, but he has to understand his fellow owners are not going to be perfectly honest with him. They will not point out the many blemishes his club owns. That’s all on him to fix.
It’s now up to Haslam to become a sponge. Watch and learn. Make the Browns, not his truck stop empire, his No. 1 priority. Devote most of his energies to his team.
Maybe it will take a year or two, but when he looks back at what has actually happened during his neophyte year and a half as an NFL owner, he might do so with a more jaundiced eye, see how bad and embarrassing it really was and understand why others came to their inevitable conclusions.
It’s also probably safe to say this is not how Haslam expected his first 18 months as an owner to unfold. The gleam is no longer in his eyes. The luster of being a member of the NFL’s elite Gang of 32 has worn off.
Now it’s time to get down to the business of being a successful NFL owner. Sacking Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi is a good start.