Jimmy Haslam, that “breath of fresh air” who took over for the Cleveland Browns a little over a year ago, ranks 31st among 32 NFL owners in a list constructed by NBC Sports’ Rotoworld.com.
In a tier titled “Alone at the Bottom,” Patrick Daugherty discusses a botched transition that could only happen in the city of Cleveland.
Haslam was gifted with a unique opportunity when he purchased the Browns in 2012: Deliverance. Outside of the Chicago Cubs, the Browns are the most-tortured fanbase in American sports. Haslam could have been the savior, the man who erased Tim Couch, Art Modell and “The Drive.” He could have been a new lease on life for a Dawg Pound that’s sick and tired of the jokes and the losses. Instead, he’s become subject of a federal investigation, and employed as many head coaches in 18 months as the Steelers have in 45 years. Haslam isn’t just more of the same in Cleveland, he’s everything that’s wrong with the modern owner. Haslam is an arrogant, rash, amoral man who believes the law doesn’t apply to him. Someone who will cut as many corners as necessary to ensure he gets as many dollars as possible. Someone who — allegedly, of course — spent years ripping off the exact kind of people who make up the bedrock NFL fandom, a bedrock that is gradually being priced out of attending games. Maybe Haslam will beat his federal rap. He is, after all, a billionaire with more lawyers at his disposal than the average man will ever meet. But Haslam will never beat back the impulses that have made him a(n alleged) criminal and clueless owner, for that would require two things he could only dream of: Humility and empathy. Even if he eventually wins, Jimmy Haslam is not a winner.
Good news for Browns fans who are desperate for something to cling to: Washington’s Daniel Snyder is seated firmly behind the Tennessee businessman. In his first week on the job, Haslam attempted to make Browns fans feel as if he were one of us—the dude sat in the Dawg Pound and greeted fans at the gate. The honeymoon phase, however, ended abruptly, leaving fans with an owner who would be dead last if not for the one who has spent the last 15 years building an “edifice to ignorance.”
It wasn’t all that long ago that Haslam was greeted by his peers with a standing ovation. To Haslam’s credit, the man has—at least over the last several months—taken the proverbial bull by the horns, ridding Berea of self-inflated bottom feeders like Joe Banner and a GM who never showed his face in Mike Lombardi. No longer can the wins and losses of Haslam’s reign be attributed to other men. It’s his show now, and only he can decide which direction his legacy goes, regardless of how little downside there truly is.
(Photo: Joshua Gunter/Plain Dealer)