Browns walking the public relations tight rope in coaching hire

When he arrived in Berea back in August, Jimmy Haslam III was quick to point out how aware he was of the fans of the Cleveland Browns; the passion, the pride and, most recently, the frustration all playing key roles in those who are on the buying end of his newly purchased product. What Haslam purchased was a team not as much in need of wins (this part is obvious), but one that is in dire need of direction and relation. Not only do the fans have their pitchforks and in hand, but as the end user — those who supply the funds, both monetary and emotional — Cleveland fans as a contingent feel as if they have largely been ignored.

A perpetual public relations nightmare every year from August until January, you have a team that has failed to adapt to the changing mediums of fan relation. Ranging from half-hearted meet-and-greets all the way down to Instagram pandering, the Browns have been left in the dust as the rest of the league speeds ahead like Spaceball I in both success and support. Alas, Cleveland has cultivated a fan base that, after being ignored for years in the win department, yearns to have more input in high-level decisions. Look no further than newspaper pleas of who not to hire. But as much as the Cleveland Browns have largely ignored those who have paid for the PSL’s and $11 beers, it appears that Haslam and CEO Joe Banner, while considering the voice of the fans, will stick to their guns in making any moves.

“It would be nice [if the fans instantly embrace whomever we hire],” said Haslam earlier this week.  “But we want somebody who’s going to win. If we win, they’ll be embraced.”

This is Haslam’s way of saying ‘sure, we will take into account certain amounts of history and angst, but at the end of the game, we’re the ones in charge.’ The majority owner an the CEO have a vision of how things are going to be run and it is a hierarchy different from any that Cleveland has seen in recent years. Perhaps it was one that Randy Lerner yearned for when hiring Eric Mangini prior to naming a GM in George Kokinis, but it only took one draft to see that this would not be the way of the future if the Browns were going to build a winner in Cleveland. Haslam left no questions when he said that the top quality he is looking for in his new head coach is leadership. But how much of the needle will this “leader” have to move?

Surely Oregon’s Chip Kelly would be a headline-grabbing acquisition. Bruce Arians getting another shot in Cleveland — especially after his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers — following his storybook run in Indianapolis would provide decent narrative. Bill O’Brien could raise a few eyebrows if he decided to leave Penn State. And then there are coordinators du jour. All of these men have varying levels of personality when it comes to dealing with people and the media (Kelly, for instance, is rumored to be more Belichickian), as well as being leaders. The question will come down to, how much does the former weigh into the decision even though the latter is said to be of the utmost importance?

How many hands will the new head coach be forced to shake? How many babies will he hold during photo opportunities? How long of a leash will he have before he is turned into the next name on a list of coaches who said that they were in fact the ones who would be able to turn this ship of suck around, heading in the direction that the “proud, storied franchise” once called home?

Haslam and Banner bring a personality that has long been removed from the top of the food chain in Berea. They appear confident and they know what they want. They may come off as abrasive at times, but it’s a friction that is easily forgiven if wins begin to pile up.

The safety net in Berea has been removed. The taught, intertwined ropes comprised of names like Holmgren, Heckert and Shurmur have been severed. The mass exodus within the headquarters of the Cleveland Browns mean that the blame can no longer be passed — the glass that separates the owner’s suite from the fans and playing field may as well have been replaced with a mirror facing inward. This is just what Jimmy Haslam III wants: responsibility and  accountability is in place right out of the gate. But on this tight rope comprised of decisions good or bad, popular or loathed, it will be the fans of the Cleveland Browns who, ultimately, hold the gavel when it comes to deciding if the choices made within the next few weeks — and beyond — allow Haslam and Banner to get to the other end without falling to their approval rating demise.

Jimmy Haslam Browns (Joshua Gunter/Plain Dealer)

  • No playoff games to look forward to again, but I am truely excited about the removal Shurmur (the guy nobody else was chasing) for the prospect of getting a well thought of replacement… I actually had a dream about CHip coaching his brand of offense with the key guys we have in place: Gordon, Little, Watson, TRich, and Weeden (he will shine in a no huddle). If we can get him, then address our glaring needs at CB2 and OLB, we may very well be making a run NEXT year…

  • Al DiFranco

    Personally I do not see Haslam as “abrasive” at all…can’t say the same for Banner. But Haslam has a very confident, executive-like demeanor that is consistent with his long-standing role as leader of a large, successful business. We don’t need a grandstander like Cuban or Snyder.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    As I’ve posted before, the honeymoon is over and now the marriage begins for the new owner as well as ceo. Time will tell just how well they have chosen. I’m still pessimistic but that’s from 14 years of failures. Hopefully they strike gold on their first attempt to fill the front office.

  • dwhit110

    “Chip coaching his brand of offense” and “with Weeden” seem to clash. There’s a difference between the no huddle (or even an uptempo look) and Chip Kelly’s zone read offense. If Kelly is the new coach, to me, that spells the end of Weeden in Cleveland. He can’t run the zone read.

  • Harv 21

    “… it will be the fans of the Cleveland Browns who, ultimately, hold the gavel when it comes to deciding if the choices made within the next few weeks — and beyond — allow Haslam and Banner to get to the other end without falling to their approval rating demise.”

    Don’t quite get it, Scott. Does this mean fan disapproval will force Haslam to sell? If it means no PR honeymoon, don’t think they care. The indications to date are that Haslam/Banner may be following best practices by holding carefully choreographed pressers, not that they’ll bend to a bitching barrage like Lerner. They’re acting like doctors who have made a diagnosis and are determined to force feed the medicine no matter how much the patient screams. Fine by me. What’s the worst that can happen – we lose Weeden? We only win 3 games next year instead of the usual 4 or 5? Maybe I just thought I was getting better but they think I was always going to limp. Let’s go doc, if you’re really sure about this just gimme something to bite on and let’s do it. Because my last 4 doctors were quacks.

  • MallaLubba

    In an effort to dodge any constructive comments: Where is Haslam’s right hand in that picture?

  • Maybe not, but good coaches can design plays around the talent they have, and be successful. Weeden has the ability to run a hurry-up offensive scheme that includes fast paced decision making… This might be why he constantly looked befuddled in Shurmur’s WCO… too much jargon, too slow to develop, and a blatent lack of flexibility.

  • Jaker

    The fans want to win, the owner wants to win, get a head coach who will win. No one cares about media relations and baby holding if you win. If Chip Kelly is a guy that will come in and win football games season after season, then hire him. The pedigree and track record should be thrown out the window if you know this guy can get the job done.

    Hire the guy who will win.

  • Harv 21

    Moreover, why is Mrs. Haslam’s so pleased?
    (I see your whoopie cushion and raise you a towel snap)

  • maxfnmloans

    something I learned from Mike Belotti this weekend- when Chip Kelly was at New Hampshire, his offense was pass oriented, and only once he got to Oregon and had the multitude of backs to run the zone read did he alter his strategy to maximize the talent he had on hand.
    I have tried looking this up, but its difficult to find historical stats for 1-AA (they’re still 1-AA dammit, lol) teams, so this could just be Belotti pimping his friend.

    But if true, I figure he would also do the same for Brandon Weeden. It is interesting to consider, to say the least.

  • dwhit110

    Why is the media (WFNY included) beating the drum so much about these firings? I think we can all agree that Shurmur needed to go. Heckert certainly had a lot of fans based on his solid drafts, but we certainly haven’t seen that talent manifest itself on the field either (to the tune of anything better than 5 wins).

    Maybe you can make the case that a competent GM in hand is worth an over-achieving GM in the bush (so-to-speak), but I think if you polled Browns fans, we wouldn’t be nearly as doom-and-gloom on this “PR Tight Rope* as you’re calling it as you think. The media is shaping the debate.

  • Harv 21

    if that’s true, that’s the kind of guy I want.

    Or, as Bum Phillips famously said about Bear Bryant, “He can take his’n and beat your’n and take your’n and beat his’n.”

  • Harv 21

    agree with much of this, including that Heckert was solid to good, not great. But don’t agree that that the protests of his firing are media driven. I’m overreacting on my own, from legit draft PTSD created by Robiskie, Veikune, MoMass, Brady Quinn, Travis Wilson, Chaun Thompson, Rahim Abdullah, Gerard Warren …

  • No. No sale will be forced. But all the goodwill established to this point — breath of fresh air, if you will — vanishes.

  • The tight rope I’m referring to — and I will admit that it may have been able to have been worded better — is the *next* coach. These guys have one shot to prove that they’re different, that their plan is better, that wins will truly come.

  • Harv 21

    Well, I’d argue that any fan goodwill to this management team (as opposed to loyalty to the team itself) is so ephemeral after these past 13 years that it’s barely worth talking about losing it. After 3 years fans were finally starting to trust the Heckert drafts, at least to the extent that we no longer half-expected a major screw-up in the early rounds. While we all acknowledge their PR skills are better, not sure at this point there is true goodwill to Haslam/Banner, as opposed to a “I’ll wait to complain until I see your draft selection” attitude.

  • dwhit110

    That’s fair, and I might have too hastily lumped you in with Cabot, Grossi, and McMahon. I wonder though what “wins will truly come” is defined by. I know everyone is saying playoffs and championships are the goals, but The Browns won exactly 5, 4, 5, 5, and 4 games over the past 5 years. If the next coach averages 8 over a 5 year period, makes the playoffs once and loses his job after 5 years, it’s a step up, but we’re probably still wringing our hands.

    I don’t know, it just feels like people are already on the “don’t screw this up or we’re gonna be angry” bandwagon, and we’re so screwed up as is that we’re not really gonna know if it’s more screwed up for 2 more years.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Yeah, I think right now the vast majority of Browns fans are so sick of losing that they’re almost demanding immediate results. That’s rough on a new coach and certainly not fair, but I do think that’s the reality of the situation they are going to find when they get here.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    If this is the case, then that makes me really want Chip Kelly for HC. I would love to have a guy who can construct a dynamic offense with the tools he has at his disposal. You don’t necessarily need an amazing X’s and O’s coach to win consistently, but I still think this is a sign of an excellent coach.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    “Good game Brandon… why don’t you come over tonight for dinner?”

  • Speaking from a commentary perspective, I need 8-8 next season. Fair or not.

  • Henry Brown

    Wrong, he can’t run the option. The zone read doesn’t necessarily mean he has to run, he can zone read into a pass or hand off. Also Kelly runs zone read option because he has the personnel to do it, but he’s on record saying he can and will run the offense for the personnel he has, including the power I.

  • Henry Brown