Jimmy Haslam sounds like the Browns owner we always wanted

 Jimmy Haslam Steely

Maybe 2013 will go down in Browns history as a strange outlier. Maybe we’ll all laugh about it as the trial by fire (of a thousand suns?) that Jimmy Haslam needed in order to figure out how to run a football team and be the kind of team owner he always envisioned becoming. After reading his latest Q&A with the media from the NFL meetings in Orlando, I’m starting to see the possibility that Jimmy Haslam can be the owner we all hoped he would be when he secured ownership of the team from the Lerner family.

Make no mistake, Haslam’s trip to this point hasn’t been a good one. Jimmy got some bad advice, namely whoever told him to align himself with Joe Banner. But as owner, he also owns the bulk of the responsibility. There’s little doubt that Haslam’s first year on the job was never going to go to plan considering what he was dealing with at Pilot Flying J. This isn’t to paint Haslam as a sympathetic figure of course. It’s a mere observation of fact.

Regardless of whether you like Jimmy Haslam or not, you have to assume that more often than not in his role as owner of the Browns that his goals are aligned with fans of the team. Now that he’s realized a bulk of mistakes and streamlined the Browns, he’s starting to really come off like the guy we wanted him to be.

The one overriding question about Haslam after he cleaned house of micro-manager Joe Banner was how the team would operate going forward. Would Joe Banner’s removal clear the decks for Jimmy to fashion himself as an Al Davis, Jerry Jones or even a Jim Irsay type who are more involved with personnel than they should be? At least at this point, when asked if he would step in and pull rank in the draft room, Haslam says there’s “zero chance.” That is in complete opposition to what the Browns likely had with Joe Banner — a non-traditional “football guy” — lording over the GM and coaches.

QUOTEJimmy Haslam now seems to have his priorities in the right place. With the prospect of losing Alex Mack after touting the number of Pro Bowlers on the team, even if Mack somehow finds his way out of Cleveland, you can’t blame Haslam. He put his money where his mouth was after the Browns adminstered the transition tag. He didn’t sit back with that hammer lording over the player; he got a plane together and took everyone who is anyone to in the Cleveland Browns organization (including Ray Farmer, Mike Pettine, Sashi Brown, Alec Scheiner, Kyle Shanahan and offensive line coach Andy Moeller) to visit the free agent center. That’s the way you want your impulsive billionaire to be with his excess of riches.

There is still a concern that Haslam might be operating a little bit like Randy Lerner where he seeks outside opinion and then seemingly follows whichever advice he heard last. Haslam buys the team and someone tells him to hire Joe Banner? OK. At the Super Bowl Jimmy Haslam meets with Peyton Manning who indicates Joe Banner will never enable the Browns to be successful? OK. Who was next on Jimmy Haslam’s list of influencers? Is it Bill Parcells?

Haslam doesn’t sound like he’s out there bowing down before others’ opinions. In his discussion about meeting with Parcells, he had the following:

“And I said if I’m ever down there (Jupiter Florida,) would you have lunch with me? He said sure and I was down there 2-3 days after Christmas, called him, and I was back down in late Jan or Feb. Bill’s a very smart, very confident guy and he likes to talk football. So to spend talking to him about football I think is 1. Interesting, 2. It’s fun, and it can’t hurt the Browns. But it’s no more than he’s nice enough to spend time with me talking football.”

Maybe that’s just more lip service, but it seems like less of a needy, scared owner and more like the confident one we were hoping would replace Randy Lerner two years ago.

Of course, the Pilot Flying J risks are hanging out there until they’re not, but for now, it feels like the Browns are in a better place than they were just about a year ago. It feels like a team that shouldn’t be as capable of the kind of dysfunction that we saw through all of 2013, whether hunting for coaches or firing them after just one year. Maybe it’s just perception, but until we have proof, perception is all we have to go on. The good news is that right now my perception of the Browns is in as good of a place with regard to ownership as they have been since 1999, and who knows how long before that.

  • whosevelt

    It does seem like the guy knows what he’s doing. I am not as opposed to Banner being involved as others are, nor am I opposed to a non-football guy developing expertise. But Haslam has been open about how he is learning the process, and while we might not like the time it takes a prospect to develop, if he gets good he can do it for forty years.

  • Tim Sielschott

    We have replaced all

  • humboldt

    I’ve always wanted the Green Bay collective ownership model.

    “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!”

  • cmm13

    Yeahhhhh…… so as smart as Jimbo may be, I’ll still never understand his acceptance of the Banner/Lombardi tag team.

    EVERY… and I mean… every person in the city saw that train wreck coming a mile away.

    Now, maybe there was nobody else he could get at the time, maybe the NFL said to him “if you want this team you need these guys with you”, maybe Joe promised him a lifetime of free tailoring… who knows?

    It’s just very concerning that this man not only wrecked his daddy’s billion dollar gas station and the Cleveland Browns in less than year.

  • Harv 21

    My perception of Randy was that he just wanted the noise to stop, to be left alone. That’s why he caved to the fan drumbeat to fire president john Collins and give greater authority to a newbie like Phil Savage, that’s why he was attracted to the idea of one “NFL expert” – Mangini. Holmgrem – he could toss the keys to and fly back to New York.

    Before there was a “Steeler Way” Art Rooney picked the brain of someone, maybe a Halas or Mara and after a very long period of futility got it right. I have no prob with Haslam picking brains as long as he knows what he doesn’t know, as long as he gives his football guys a chance to do their jobs. At this stage we have no idea what Haslam is. But I was distraught about Banner’s self-serving heirarchy, and I’m fine that Haslam recognized the disease, quickly amputated it and took the heat. Maybe he amputated too much but I don’t see Ray Farmer as the hidden svengali who talked him into it.

  • cmm13

    Also.. i wouldn’t put too much stock in “sounding”
    Holmgren sounded like the president we wanted, Savage sounded like the GM we wanted, Butch Davis and then Eric Mangini sounded like the coaches we wanted, all of the QB’s put through the revolving door that sounded like we wanted.

  • Jason Hurley

    Yes. Haslam wrecked the Browns in one year. Because they were functional and successful before. Got it.

  • Harv 21

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the Haslam/Banner thing was NFL-arranged, or at least Jimmy wanted a known NFL exec to make sure his ownership bid was approved by the league.

    And to be fair, it was Jimmy, not his Daddy, who grew that business into the enterprise it became.

  • Agreed. This is finally a structure that I like too.

  • Jason Hurley

    Isn’t the difference on this that we’re discussing the owner. All the other guys worked for someone who by all accounts was a bad owner and allowed the dysfunction to continue because he handed them the franchise and basically walked away.

  • MrCleaveland

    One thing you can say about Banner: for good or bad, he didn’t sit around on his duff like Holmgren. In his short time, he renamed the stadium and put 10 mil in Jimmy’s pocket, he designed a stadium makeover, and he got the process of new uniforms under way. That’s in addition to cleaning house twice, of course.

    I don’t like him, but I can understand why he was shocked to be fired. He did quite a bit.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Talk is cheap lets see what the product does before we start slapping Slim Jim on the back. That mistake was made once I see no reason to repeat it.

  • mgbode

    I firmly agree with the structure. As noted (before they fired Banner), I like the GM, President(business), and HC all reporting to the owner. That way each can focus on their POV and any conflicts can be hashed out equally.

    President – making money, having a good business structure
    GM – team building with long-term focus
    HC – getting the pieces to work together, short-term focus

    There has to be interaction w/o the owner between all three, but there will be and should be minor conflicts that Haslam helps navigate.

  • cmm13

    I knew when i typed that it would get that response.
    No, the Browns prior to Haslam were not a functional success.
    But prior to Haslam the Browns had never had a one and done Head Coach, nor turned over an entire front office in such little time as well.

  • cmm13

    I’m with you on the arrangement of Haslam/Banner/Lombardi, it may have even been a stipulation of the approval that he take with him at least Banner as his guide.

  • cmm13

    Precisely why he’s gone.
    He seemed to do everything except the thing he wanted to do the most… acquire cohesive football talent and put a winning product on the field.

  • jewpants47

    I hope you’re right, but I fear it’s just the annual spring time off season optimism.

  • Toddyus

    If It were legal, I’m convinced we’d have that.

  • Talk is cheap, but in my mind it’s on the heels of axing Banner and Lombardi which is far more than just talk. We’ll see of course.

  • Toddyus

    Another way to look at it: Before last year, we held on to incapable or even incompetent people and untenable situations longer than necessary.

  • And the question must be asked. How much of that stuff was Alec Scheiner who did so much work on the Cowboys new stadium when he worked for Jerry Jones?

  • It’s U.S. legal, just not NFL legal. Maybe this is where we need to focus our efforts. Finding a legal remedy that results in municipal team ownership of the Cleveland Browns. 🙂

  • MrCleaveland

    In organizations that have a general manager, are there any others in which the head coach bypasses the GM and reports directly to the owner? This has always struck me as unusual.

  • MrCleaveland

    Did Scheiner report to Banner? I can’t remember. If he did, he probably didn’t like it.

  • Toddyus

    I always saw Randy Lerner as a reluctant billionaire. That his father was the aggressive business man and Randy was more than smart enough to keep things going, but would have been just as happy staying in dad’s shadow.

    Jimmy Haslam is not that by any means. The best leaders, in my experience, seek out new information, make the best decisions they can with the information they have then make small corrections regularly. When they get it completely wrong, they don’t waste time cutting bait and they don’t fear admitting they were wrong.

  • Toddyus

    Yes, I should have said that more clearly. Although, knowing Cleveland fans, I’m not sure collective ownership is a better direction…

  • cmm13

    i like this view.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Nah this is the kind of thing people tell themselves in order to feel better about Haslam’s horrible inaugural season. Haslam himself has said nobody chose Banner but him.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Everyone reported to Banner why would Scheiner be any different?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    He went from one extreme to another I’m not ready to crown him owner of the year in Cleveland. It’s time these professional sports teams actually produce before being applauded regardless of the team.

  • lol

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    You laughin’ at me, are you laughin’ at me what am I some kind of comedian? 😉

  • MrCleaveland

    Well, gee, I don’t know, Sham. Pardon me for being so damn dumb.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I never said/meant/or eluded to that I was just saying Banner headed the asylum, on everyting…everyting? Everything!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Btw Craig can you have some more pop-ups on WFNY? I got a new computer and I never knew just how much “extra” I was missing out on here!

  • Garry_Owen

    When it’s other people’s money, it’s easy to make those calls that we as fans always do. I can understand, however, Haslam’s decision to be extremely careful in relying on people actually within the business so as to protect his (HUGE) investment. To his credit, he also quickly recognized that this was a mistake and corrected it, again, to protect his (HUGE) investment.

  • MrCleaveland

    Or is it damb dumn?

  • I was laughing at the “everyone reported to banner” comment. I practically feel like *I* used to personally report to Banner to at this point too.

  • Garry_Owen

    I can’t confirm, but I would certainly think there are. In my mind, the HC and GM are more peers than anything else. Each performs a different role on basically the same level of hierarchy.

  • bupalos

    Having peeped into the financial history on PFJ, Jimmy gets props for navigating them into and out of their partnership with Marathon which really powered about 2/3rd of the growth (and just about all the debt). But to be fair to pops, going from 1 to 60 locations in the 60’s & 70’s is a heck of a lot more of a story than consolidating a bunch of stuff in the late 80’s and 90’s.

    But yeah, a lot more active than what Randy would have done with MBNA.

    I’d still take Randy, seeing as how he’s not quite as directly connected to the destruction of the planet.

  • Turkey Sandwich

    I agree with most of the football-related stuff you wrote; I’m loving Ray Farmer, Pettine, and all of this year’s free agent signings so far. Yet, on a foundational level, I don’t know if it’s possible for me to disagree with this article more.

    Whether or not he gets indicted, Jimmy is a massive fraud. And if anyone still wants to argue even that point, then you can’t deny he’s a piss-poor owner to allow such massive fraud to occur under his leadership at Flying J. Again though, I think to interpret the facts that way would be insane. NO WAY he didn’t know what was going on.

    The case isn’t even over, but if he ends up able to get out of it, there is no way he will ever be the kind of owner I would want for the Browns. That dude is shady, and the fraud committed at Flying J is absolutely deplorable. So deplorable, that not even a Super Bowl could really make me ignore, forget it, or be OK with it.

    “Jimmy Haslam now seems to have his priorities in the right place.”

    …that’s pretty ridiculous. Read the affidavits and details of the case, and he comes off more like a stereotype of a corporate CEO. The kind no one thinks would be low enough to exist. Preying on the naivety of lower-class people who he thought too stupid to notice all the money he stole from them.

    He doesn’t deserve to own the team, and in my opinion (which, obviously, hey, you guys don’t have to give a crap about), he’ll never deserve to.

  • nj0


  • humboldt

    Also a Muslim-Athiest, btw

  • Also on the heels of axing Chud. Regardless of Banner/Lombardi urging him to do so, the final call was Haslam’s and it was impulsive and really really suspect.

    I don’t fully believe him when he says he’ll be hands off in the draft room. (If you’re not going to contribute, why be in the draft room?) But on the other hand, if you or I had been in the draft room last year we wouldn’t have passed up the Rams trade back offer in favor of a thin redundant edge-rusher.

    All that said, yes, since the Banner whacking, so far so good.

  • Kenny_Chill

    I’m not even in fear of it anymore. I think everyone is talking themselves into things being ok when the Browns are a dumpster fire.

  • Petefranklin

    There were plenty of people hanging around here who liked last years draft, and all the cap room we had, plenty.

  • Petefranklin

    I don’t fully believe him either. After lunch with the fat guy, he’s probably coming away thinking he’s football smart now.

  • Petefranklin

    Well for some strange reason I seemed to have stopped drinking heavily since Banner got axed. Coincidence? Probably not.