A delusional owner
After the Browns’ 15th loss in this 16-game season Sunday in Pittsburgh, team owner Jimmy Haslam III was cornered by the Cleveland media and offered his thoughts on the future of this franchise.
The man envisions a bright outlook in the immediate future for his team and said he “could not be more pleased with the job the staff is doing. I’m really pleased with our personnel group. I think we have the right people in place.”
One normally hears praise like that from an owner basking in the glow of another appearance in the postseason, not one who has labored torturously through a season that produced just one victory and that one was fortunate because a field goal that would have made 2016 winless sailed wide right.
“This time last year,” Haslam said, “we said it was going to be a multi-year rebuilding. Was this year harder than we thought it would be? Yes.”
Then he went on to cite three objectives – he called them keys – for next season. “We’ve got to resign our key players,” he said. “Number two, we have to be appropriately aggressive in free agency and three, we’ve got to have a great draft.”
While he lauded the work of his current front office, Haslam accepted the blame for the club’s performance. “Our record as an owner is terrible,” he admitted. “But we’re not giving up. Has it been fun? No. Has it been discouraging at times? Yes. But we are not going to give up. We are more determined than ever to get this thing right.”
More Haslam realism: “We were 1 and 15. I don’t want too sugarcoat things. We’ve got a long ways to go.”
And finally this: “It’s important to have continuity (in the front office). I think until you get the right people in place, you’ve got to keep making moves. Like I said before, I think we have the right people in place.
“I’m excited about working with that group going forward and more determined than ever to turn this around. I think they are working exceptionally well together.”
And with that, this personal plea is offered.
It’s time, James Haslam III. It’s time. Time to rip apart your professional football team. Time to recognize nothing has worked since you took over in 2012.
In the five years of your stewardship, your team has done nothing but fail. That means you have failed. No matter who you select to run the club, you fail. The buck stops at your desk.
The numbers do not lie. They say your Browns have won 20 games in those five very long, very arduous, very frustrating, very sad seasons. Those teams have lost 60 times.
You paid a billion dollars for a team that has logged winning seasons only twice (2002 and 2007) since returning to the National Football League in 1999. It has logged double-digit losing seasons in all but four of those 18 seasons.
The Cleveland Browns have become the NFL’s quintessential losers. You have done nothing to remedy that situation in your five seasons. That is your fault. Do not point fingers of guilt at anyone but the man you see in the mirror.
Not that you haven’t tried, but you seem to have made numerous unwise choices as your team annually successfully defends its title of laughingstock of the NFL. You’ve gone through head honchos Tom Heckert Jr., Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, Ray Farmer and now Sashi Brown.
Then there are the coaches under your watch: Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski, Mike Pettine and now Hue Jackson. Only the names change. It is a litany of failure. The results have not changed. And this season’s 1-15 is a low that most likely will never be replicated.
You think you have the right people in place. No you don’t and the sooner you realize that, the better. Sashi Brown has no business being anywhere near the football side of your organization.
You need more help than you think. You need someone who can reset the culture of the Cleveland Browns because the one now in place has produced horrendous results with no relief in sight despite your protestations to the contrary.
There is someone out there on the periphery of the NFL landscape who can help. Someone who has totally rehabilitated several moribund NFL franchises before and knows exactly what it takes to be successful.
He’s retired right now. He doesn’t work for the league, but has an indirect connection with it as an analyst for ESPN. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015. Oh, and he is 74 years old; a spry 74. With him, age is but a number.
Bill Polian is an experienced hand at taking franchises on life support, pumping life back into them and making all the right moves to rebuild them. He did it in Buffalo, Carolina and Indianapolis. He is a six-time NFL executive of the year and wears a Super Bowl ring. Right now, no one on your payroll owns credentials like that.
I’m not exactly sure how he did it with those franchises, but it’s easy to see that whatever formula he uses, it works. Resetting the culture of a losing football teams is like second nature to him.
Now I’m not certain Polian would come out of retirement at his age, but it sure would be interesting to find out whether taking on the ultimate challenge of turning around the Browns would be that appealing and intriguing to him. It would be the greatest challenge of his distinguished career.
He wouldn’t have to control everything on a day-to-day basis after resetting the culture. Just oversee it with his wizened ways. Be there when important questions need answering. Issue a guiding hand when direction is required.
Let him initially chart the future of a franchise that hasn’t had proper direction in at least two generations. He knows how to craft winners. Turn him loose, let him do it his own way and pay close attention to how he does it.
This franchise needs a sagacious guide to the immediate future, someone to finally point it in the right direction and instill stability. Polian provides all the essential attributes in that regard. That can’t se said of anyone currently in Berea.
It is worth a shot by Haslam to gauge Polian’s interest in such a venture. Bring him in for two years to right all the wrongs that have been foisted on this franchise. That’s all it will take. Let him structure the new front office in his image. Then sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labor.
What harm would that do? After what happened this season, it is time to get dead serious about changing the direction in which this team is headed. The 1-15 record was not an aberration, but a confirmation of just how bad this team was. Enough is enough. Time to be proactive and finally get your money’s worth.
But based on what Haslam said Sunday in Pittsburgh, that’s not going to happen. And you know what they say about people who fail to learn from history. They are doomed to repeat it.