The scariest part is the not knowing. Even knowing what we think we know about who won’t be in Cleveland next year – namely Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert – that uncertainty about who will replace them is even scarier.
I think most have resigned themselves by this point to just about any alternative to Pat Shurmur. I know that’s not 100 percent in the fan base at this point, but there’s certainly enough evidence to suggest that the team could improve in that area to the point that even the supporters have a tough time clinging to much more than concept of continuity first and foremost. The scariest part is not knowing about Joe Banner who begins to look a bit like Skeletor if you decide that he might be somewhat nefarious. That’s ridiculous, of course, because I’ve read enough about Banner to know that there’s a genuinely compassionate human behind the tough, unbending businessman.
In particular I remember a fascinating profile of Banner from Philadelphia Magazine that described the same control freak businessman as a baby-cuddling softy walking around his office cooing a visiting baby. Being informed of that Joe Banner makes it a little bit easier to cast aside the most facile short-hand that seems to be used for the man who made the Eagles business hum after Jeffrey Lurie purchased the team. No doubt he’s controlling. Look no further than the fact that every person in the new Browns organization other than Jimmy Haslam will apparently report to him. That’s only a scary arrangement if you don’t trust the man at the top of the organizational chart.
That seems to be what most Browns fans are struggling with right now.
Is it possible to trust anyone who might get rid of Tom Heckert? Heckert has undoubtedly done the best job of any GM in Cleveland since the Browns have been back in 1999. I guess I could be convinced otherwise if someone with greater knowledge than I points back to a time period before I started watching football in the 1980’s, but even then Heckert’s job would still be a good argument. So, how can you possibly trust a man who might remove one of the best drafting GMs in team history?
That silence you hear is me trying to figure out what to say next. There’s no way to trust in that, except to know that Banner and Haslam desperately want to succeed and will do it the best way they know how. Sometimes that doesn’t include even the most successful people who work in a different style. So while you can’t blindly trust Joe Banner to get everything 100% right, you have to at least trust his motives and motivation. Even with me saying that, I find it a very tough sell for myself, let alone trying to sell it to anyone else.
So Joe Banner wants control of the 53-man roster. I don’t see any big problem with that in theory. As an undeniable cap expert, you want the cap guy to have the hammer to keep the draft / free agent mix under control so the team has the flexibility to keep the best of their young players while also supplementing them to remain competitive. In that sense, I get why Banner wants that even if on some infinitesimal chance Tom Heckert sticks around.
At the same time, people are terrified of having even the most aggressive attorney/accountant/business expert type person making football judgements. Sure, we like to fashion ourselves draft analysts combing through YouTube, but I don’t think any of us would really relish the opportunity to have the draft room waiting for us to make a selection. The fear is that an overconfident businessman will all of a sudden believe he’s an expert in actual football player evaluation. That seems like a surefire way to turn an up-and-coming team into a bust-fest like we’ve seen continually since 1999.
Again, that’s something we don’t know. Will Joe Banner replace Tom Heckert with other football people to do all the football analysis? To a fan, I haven’t talked to a single person who doesn’t want to be sure there are great scouts and talent evaluators in the organization. That’s where I take the most solace in recent moves. The Browns proactively went out and hired a president, Alec Scheiner, who is regarded as one of the best at what he does. I think it is also reasonable to assume that even if the Browns eliminate the Tom Heckert role as it exists today, they won’t eliminate top-notch talent evaluation from their business plan. You just have to assume that Haslam and Banner value that and recognize that as an absolute necessity in this NFL. It’s common sense, really, but doesn’t it just feel good to say it aloud? Say it with me. A top-notch NFL franchise can not consider itself top-notch without a premier-level talent evaluation department running the draft, scouting undrafted free agents and making free agent recommendations.
Feel better? Yeah. Me either. We’ll just have to see who they hire. What’s your other option?