Wednesday, February 12, 2014

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. 


  1. Let me see if I understand you correctly, Rich.
    1. "And he needs to either butt out or sit back and watch silently as these guys do their thing."
    2. "Watch and learn. Make the Browns, not his truck stop empire, his No. 1 priority. Devote most of his energies to his team."

    He's butting out while at the same time devoting most of his energy to the team. So assuming he learns something from all of that energetic devotion, he should butt out anyway?

  2. Anon,

    He should butt out of the everyday running of the club. Devoting one's energy does not necessarily mean he should butt in. It means making certain everything is running smoothly. He should be sort of an overseer with minimal interference. Football, not the trucking business, should be his main focus.

    Pls sign your name next time. Tnx.

  3. Rich, its very hard signing in here. I always try but usually give up. Glad Haslam is trying his best. Its hard not to like the guy. Very glad he's rich and spending it on my team.

  4. Hi Unknown,

    To be known, you have to use the dropdown (Comment as:) to Name/URL, type in your name and hit continue. It's easy from there.

    Hope that helps. If that fails, just type in your handle or name at the end of your post.

  5. Off topic: The PD(a rag IMHO) ran an article today on what Mike (The Leech) Holmgren thinks of the FO changes. My question, why and who cares? After the fiasco of his supposed leadership, how can anyone take him seriously? Or is the PD just trying to stir things up? Just looking for your opinion.

  6. Saw the same piece and wondered why, too. Like you said, who cares? I always believed he was a better head coach than front office exec. And no, I didn't take him seriously during his Cleveland stint.

    As for the PeeDee being a rag, it sure wasn't during my salad says there. From 1964 to 1984, it had one of the best sports sections in the country.

    Wow! I can't believe we actually agree on something, Must be something in the water.

    1. Be careful, be very careful. That's actually two things(FO shakeup). I agreed with it too, but its no fun posting when I agree with you.

    2. Make that salad days.

  7. South . . .

    I guess that means I have to work a lot less to engender your wrath. Less thought behind what I write seems to provoke your dark side. Gotta work on that to keep you busy.

    1. Just a note on my "rag" comment. Today is a perfect example. More MKC BS. "Pettine shocked at shakeup...". At no point in the three minute interview did Pettine say anything about being "shocked", never even used the word, but never-the-less she chose to amp up her headline by using the word "shocked". My definition of rag journalism(I won't even get into Bud Shaw's drivel).

  8. She doesn't write the headline. Someone else at the paper is responsible for the headline. All she does is write the story.

    Give her credit, though, for the piece explaining exactly what happened to bring about Haslam's stunning moves. Nice inside stuff. And well written.

    You don't like Mary Kay, You don't like Bud. Anyone else?
    Never mind. That was a rhetorical question. Here's one that isn't rhetorical. Who do you like at the PeeDee?

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  10. Frankly, I hate myself for wanting to believe we may have accidentally lucked into a situation that might just be the best thing that could've happened. Don't get me wrong, I despised those two ghetz and I'm more than happy to see them go, but Jimmy is still here. And I don't feel like turning the other cheek, unless it's my bottom pair, BUT!!! Maybe, just maybe, he can be the hero we need.

    Frankly, he'll probably turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to this town and franchise...and THEN get tossed in the pokey.

  11. If Haslam stays in the background, then this new setup has a chance to work. He needs to be there for any possible hand-holding, but nothing more than that. Farmer and Pettine need space in order to grow on the job.

    If The Third sticks his nose where it doesn't belong, all bets are off.

    And please don't hate yourself for anything related to the Browns. Always remember sports is the toy department of life.

  12. Now the dust has settled a bit after last week's franchise changing upheaval, I'm still not sure I quite have a handle on exactly what happened. There are conflicting reports. Some say Banner & Lombardi were at odds (or worse) and that this contributed to the coaching search fiasco that Haslam ultimately lost patience with. Others have said that it was Banner/Lombardi who lobbied Haslam to fire Chud, but even others stated prior to this upheavel that it was Haslam who let his impetuous nature get the better of him and he was behind Chud's firing.

    Some say that both Banner & Lombardi were completely blind-sided by this move. Others have said that Lombardi's ouster, at least, was weeks in the making and that this was a not-so-secret secret.

    Of course, everyone points to the toxicity of the Browns front office. But can we truly lay all of this at the feet of Banner/Lombardi or has Haslam contributed mightily to this state of affairs, choosing to scapegoat Banner/Lombardi somewhat.

    Of course, there are the Manning rumors and that he may, in fact, have given Haslam an earful that led to Banner/Lombardi's ouster. Or was Haslam waiting in the wings to let these guys go after the Chip Kelly fiasco. Based on everything I read, the Browns & Kelly had been negotiating a few weeks before they actually met. Then when Kelly actually met the Browns brass, he promptly said no thanks. Certainly, Haslam used Banner to set up the business side of the Browns and he used Banner to get most, if not all, of the stadium issues and money tied up. And 2013 was more-or-less a throw away season. Was Banner "played" by Haslam and that his early ouster was in Jimmy's mind for some time?

    Maybe none of this really matters except that it may have a huge bearing on the future. Will Farmer be given the time to build a roster? Was he really Haslam's first choice or is he a stop-gap to fill the front office void? Will Pettine be given time to grow as a HC or, as some have suggested, he has to produce seven wins minimum to survive the season? Will Manning join the front office as CEO and blow the whole thing up in a year or two or three?

    There seems to be a lot of uncertainty moving forward with the Browns. We can only sit and watch. In the end, while I'm glad Banner & Lombardi are gone (I couldn't stand Banner in Philly long before his name ever surfaced regarding the Browns), it remains to be seen just how much they were responsible for the toxicity of the front office and if it has truly been eradicated. Obviously, I think about this stuff too much, but I wanted to get it out there. Thanks for reading. Best regards, Paul from Seattle

  13. You're right, Paul. You do think about this too much.

    With so many different variations of what actually happened, it's easy to get confused. For what it's worth, whenever that happens, I choose to ignore all that does not seem believable.

    I pick and choose the reporting that makes sense from a practical standpoint. And then I shove it into the background and concentrate on the future.

    My take is that Haslam was fed up with the heft of the front office and decided to streamline it. Too many voices. Now, all he will hear is two (not counting Scheiner because I think he has proven himself to Haslam).

    Again, for what it's worth, I believe Haslam did the right thing as awkward as it seemed at the time. If he is true to his word and allows his people to do their respective jobs, then this setup should work out well. And you can bet Farmer and Pettine will be provided with long leashes.

    Now come on back to the real world and, as you wrote, sit and watch. There is nothing else we can do but respond, anyway.

    Just know Banner and Lombardi were toxic and Haslam provided the antidote. For that alone, sit back and know the club is in capable hands for the time being. Sanity has returned to Berea.