Jim Nantz called in to the Bull and Fox show on 92.3 The Fan and delivered an epic rant about the new Browns organization. You can listen to it here.
His basic message was simple – Jimmy Haslam has assembled an impressive group of people to turn the Browns around, and that Browns fans will soon realize it as they get to work and start winning. He strongly defended his friend Mike Lombardi and took some tough shots at Tony Grossi without mentioning him by name regarding his harsh criticism of Lombardi.
Let’s consider some of the things Nantz said.
First, I agree with him that the overall team assembled by Haslam is impressive, and I’m optimistic about the future direction. This is coming from someone who thought Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert did a ton of the dirty work in turning around the franchise and were heading in the right direction despite some mistakes. Rob Chudzinski is an excellent coordinator, and he seems to have the charisma and leadership qualities necessary to make him a good head coach. I like Haslam’s general style and think he’s looking for the right qualities when considering head coached. Chud has also assembled a very impressive staff, with Norv Turner and Ray Horton leading the pack.
As for Mike Lombardi, I understand both the concerns expressed by people like Grossi along with the praise coming from people like Nantz. Still, Grossi’s comment on the radio the other day that Lombardi was not qualified for the job is ridiculous. People can question past draft picks but he’s certainly developed a resume that prepares him for this job. I also like the fact that Lombardi has been with the NFL Network for 5 years. Anyone with a brain would gain some excellent perspective from that job and would leave there knowing practically every coach and personnel guy in the league.
Also, it’s not like Haslam has handed Lombardi the keys to the organization. The biggest problem with Randy Lerner wasn’t necessarily the people he hired, but the total lack of oversight and accountability that existed after the introductory press conference. Guys like Butch Davis and Eric Mangini desperately needed a strong owner and GM to push back when their desire to control everything led to silly decisions. With Joe Banner and his “team” approach to decision making, no one person can make rash decisions without intense oversight, and you can bet Haslam will be in the room to make sure everyone knows they’ll have to answer for mistakes.
So I know Lombardi isn’t perfect, but I have no problem with a guy like him in the brain trust. Of course Jim Nantz is totally biased in arguing that Lombardi is a football genius. Nantz worships at the Bill Belichick alter, so he’s seems to see everything through that filter. Still, I’m more than comfortable giving Lombardi and the rest of the team a chance.
On the other hand, I think Nantz took some cheap shots at Tom Heckert. Of course Bull and Fox just gushed and didn’t push back on that, which is disappointing given that Heckert rebuilt an old, pathetic roster.
Now, there are legitimate debates on some of Heckert’s picks, and Nantz did raise good points as well. Taking Trent Richardson with the third pick after trading up is certainly debatable, as many believe drafting a running back that high is a mistake. Nance points out late round picks that did well, but pointing out a running back that scores touchdowns in the potent New England offense like Shane Vereen is ridiculous. The question is how would a guy like Vereen have fared with the Browns, who were desperate for some weapons on an offense that didn’t have a great quarterback. I think his point was more persuasive when he brought up Doug Martin who went to Tampa Bay. The Browns could have gotten him at the 22nd pick, and you could argue that young QB Ryan Tannehill at #4 and Martin at #22 would have been better than Richardson and a much older Brandon Weeden.
The real cheap shot was bringing up Russell Wilson, who was passed over by everyone and frankly dropped into the perfect situation. Wilson had a great first year, but he really didn’t flourish until Pete Carroll started running him, and that style of play doesn’t necessarily lead to long-term success.
These are all debatable points, and Nantz brings up a good point that Heckert’s record isn’t pristine. Still, he fairly noted that Richardson could be incredible under Norv Turner, and many think Weeden could flourish there as well. So it will take time to flush out Heckert’s record.
At least the Browns recognize that a foundation has been built, and hopefully the new brain trust can build on it. Overall, I’m glad to hear that Lombardi has guys like Nantz will to speak up on his behalf.
As for Tony Grossi, I understand his reservations, and it will be interesting to see how the soap opera plays out now with Lombardi, Grossi and Nantz. To his credit Grossi has said he’s giving Lombardi a clean slate. Let’s see if he lives up to it.
I’ve always thought this was a possibility, however remote, after Jimmy Haslam purchased the Browns. Mike Holmgren was still under contract, ans having him coach seemed like an interesting possibility in the even Pat Shurmur faltered. Then we had Joe Banner come in and Holmgren basically said goodbye to Cleveland, so it no longer seemed like it could happen.
Then the Dallas rumors started after Holmgren suggested he might want to coach again, and then we had this nugget from Pat McManamon.
Word is that Haslam did not have a pleased expression on his face as Holmgren chatted with Jones, and that there is a feeling within the team that this might hasten Holmgren’s departure. Some in the league would be surprised if he’s in Cleveland in December. Too, there are also rumors that Holmgren would be willing to coach the Browns if Joe Banner and Haslam decided to make a move. Holmgren can’t and won’t address this issue because the guy he picked is coaching the Browns. But if he wants to coach again, it would make sense for Holmgren to step down from the front office to coach in Cleveland. He knows the system, knows the players and knows the media. It would almost be seamless. And it might have been possible a month ago, but now that Haslam and Banner have been around Holmgren and seen this dance with Dallas, the feeling is there’s no way it will happen. Does any of this stuff happen with other teams?
McManamon brings up a good point – there’s no way Mike or the Browns would hint at this publicly while Shurmur is still coaching. But I don’t agree with the other implications from this blurb. If Haslam and Banner really feel that this team is close and that Holmgren could take it to the next level, then a sideline chat with Jerry Jones is totally irrelevant.
In another impressive news conference, Jimmy Haslam introduced Joe Banner to the Cleveland media today. We heard many of things that we often hear when a new regime takes over, but for the first time the chief executive was joined by an owner who is committed to being involved in the management of the franchise. After Randy Lerner’s absentee ownership, Haslam and Banner came across as a breath of fresh air.
Many in the media are quite giddy, and for good reason. Just having a leader like Jimmy Haslam coupled with a smart and capable NFL executive should bode well for the Browns in the future. That said, nothing Joe Banner said was materially different from what Mike Holmgren said when he took over as team president. The goal was to get a team of smart people who would all be on the same page working towards a common goal. Both emphasized building through the draft. Banner seems open to strategically using free agency, but he emphasized that free agents can be counterproductive if you sign them before a team is ready to compete.
Frankly, Holmgren has started a youth movement with the Browns that should provide a nice foundation for Haslam and Banner, regardless of whether they keep Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur. On that front they seem genuine in their statements that both men will be evaluated at the end of the year. But assuming they don’t do something stupid, like bring in a GM and head coach who want to run the 3-4 over the 4-3, they should be fine as long as they can identify good coaches and GM candidates. I do hope they keep Heckert, and Shurmur should get consideration if he turns the season around, but Haslam and Banner need to get comfortable with these guys.
On offense, the system matters less, as all of these players can fit into another system. But on defense, switching to the 3-4 and in effect throwing away three productive drafts that have built the foundation of a good defensive front would be idiotic. I don’t expect that.
Many are enjoying kicking Mike Holmgren while he’s down, but his legacy is hardly set in stone. He and Heckert have gone with a dramatic youth movement. If the Browns are in the playoffs in the next couple of years with guys like Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon, Brandon Weeden, Phil Taylor and Joe Haden leading the way, many of us will happily credit Holmgren and Heckert for building the foundation of that success.
It’s official. Jimmy Haslam has been approved by the NFL owners as the new owner of the Cleveland Browns, ending the disappointing Lerner era.
Now we can move from the silly speculation we hear every day on talk radio to hearing from Haslam himself along with Joe Banner.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on what he’ll do. I’m just going to wait and listen. Based on what Haslam has said so far, he’ll probably make more changes to the business side of the Browns operation before he makes changes to the football operations. Also, he’s expressed his philosophy of building through the draft, so we can expect him to build upon the current youth movement.
It’s been reported that he’ll wait until the end of the season to make changes to the football operations. Let’s see if he confirms that today or tomorrow. It would be the smart thing to do. Regardless of your opinions of Pat Shurmur, Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren, we should wait until the end of this season before passing judgement on the rebuilding process. Just several weeks ago, some talking heads were ready to write of Josh Gordon for example, but after the past two games he looks like a real threat at the wide receiver position. And of course we had some fans calling for Brandon Weeden’s head after his awful debut, but we’ve since seen him develop nicely.
I’m excited about the new ownership. Randy Lerner was loyal to Cleveland and he spent money, but the man was clueless. Let’s hope Haslam’s business experience leads to a better era for Browns football. It can’t be much worse.
You only have one chance to make a first impression, and Jimmy Haslam took full advantage of his first news conference to win over Browns fans and the media. Here are some of my first impressions:
Confidence without arrogance
Jimmy Haslam is a very confident man, but he doesn’t come across as arrogant. He talked about listening and learning. He stressed the importance of “collective wisdom,” explaining that having five smart people in the room to hash out an issue is better than four. So he’s smart enough to know what he doesn’t know, and he’s confident enough to surround himself with smart people. He sounds like a natural leader.
Has not made final decision on Mike Holmgren
All of the haters in Cleveland, particularly certain radio talk show hosts, will have to wait a bit, and perhaps much longer, to dance on Mike Holmgren’s grave. Haslam acknowledged that this young team seems to be heading in the right direction and he made sure to mention Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert. Haslam made it a point to say he would not be commenting now on personnel, but he stressed the importance of putting in place the right team, and he implied he would have an open mind toward Holmgren.
We just might see Holmgren around here for a while. Of course his role will change as Joe Banner is expected to come in as the new team president. Banner is an expert on the business side of football as well as putting together the football operation. With Haslam’s business background and Joe Banner, there’s no need at all for Mike Holmgren to have anything beyond a transitional role on the business side of things.
But when it comes to football operations, Joe Banner’s philosophy is very consistent with what Mike Holmgren has been trying to do here.
Here’s a great profile of Joe Banner, which among other things points out that he isn’t perfect, and that many sports talk radio hosts can be idiots in every NFL town. Here’s one interesting detail:
From the get-go, it was a stretch for Lurie and Banner, two guys with zero experience in professional sports, to think they could march into Philadelphia and take over the Eagles. But they believed, in fact they were dead sure, that they would figure it out. Take the hiring of Andy Reid in 1999, which is Banner’s favorite story. No one had ever hired a head coach who hadn’t run a college team or overseen an offense or defense in the NFL; an impressive coaching résumé was deemed crucial. That was completely backwards thinking, Banner decided. He and Lurie analyzed the qualities the most successful coaches shared — scrupulous attention to detail, absolute commitment to a philosophy, obliviousness to public criticism … hello, Andy Reid! Never mind that Reid was an obscure Green Bay assistant coach. Banner’s and Lurie’s huge risk — just to remind our listeners out there — became the winningest coach in team history.
The “absolute commitment to a philosophy” is exactly what Mike Holmgren has created here in Cleveland, including most importantly Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur. When it comes to football operations, there seems to be a way for Banner and Holmgren to work together, at least for a little while as Mike eases into retirement.
Yesterday on WKNR, the Hooligans seemed totally shocked when Sal Paolantonio stated that of course Joe Banner could work with Mike Holmgren, citing the fact that Banner is not the football guy. His job is to put the right football people in place.
Given Haslam’s “listen and learn” approach, the fact that the Browns are young with potential, and that Holmgren has established a football philosophy, I don’t expect Haslam and Banner to “blow things up” as others have reported. If the Browns improve this season, I suspect they will strongly consider keeping Heckert and Shurmer in place, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Holmgren stays on as a consultant.
Haslam will be committed to Cleveland and the Browns
Tony Grossi reported that Haslam went to every Steelers game, home and away, in the four years he was a minority owner. He will be passionately committed to the Browns, and he also indicated a desire to become involved in the community in Cleveland.
Technically the NFL owners still need to vote for final approval, but the sale of the Browns was completed today for over $1 billion according to ESPN reports and Jimmy Haslam will be the new owner.
Naturally, there’s plenty of speculation of what will happen to Mike Holmgren now that the sale is complete. The haters on the radio are dancing on his grave and wondering if he’ll be gone by tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the young team that Holmgren assembled is on the field at training camp, with Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden and Josh Gordon all looking like major upgrades.
Anyone who thinks Holmgren’s legacy in Cleveland will be tied to the team’s record in the first two years of his regime has to be smoking something. Holmgren worked with Tom Heckert to tear down an old roster to rebuild the team with young players through the draft. Much of his work is complete, and we’ll see how they do. But he may have put together the nucleus of a team that can compete for years.
I’m hoping Holmgren sticks around as a consultant. None of us has any real idea of what Haslam is planning to do, and anything is possible. We’ll know more in the next couple of days.
Peter King talks about the Browns in his recent column about the NFL Draft:
2. The Browns are the pivot point of the first round at No. 4. You have the big quarterbacks going 1-2, and then Minnesota is praying it can stir up interest at No. 3. Not going to happen, according to the teams I’ve talked to, because there isn’t enough love for another of these five prospects — tackle Matt Kalil, running back Trent Richardson, cornerback Morris Claiborne, wideout Justin Blackmon or quarterback Ryan Tannehill to move up to three. Or four.
If the Vikings stay where they are, it’s most likely they go for the long-term protector of second-year QB Christian Ponder instead of a desperately needed cover man like Claiborne. Then, Cleveland. I heard different things over the weekend from people I trust. GM Tom Heckert loves Blackmon and that would be his pick; president Mike Holmgren is still trying to decide with finality if Tannehill is the franchise quarterback worth taking here. The safest pick? Richardson, at a need position, even though receiver is a bigger need.
The Browns are obviously keeping all their options open and I suspect that they haven’t finalized their decision. Everything King said makes sense, but any or all of it could be misinformation floated by the Browns in order to influence other teams in the draft so the Browns can get the trade they want or the player they want at #4. If they want Richardson, for example, they might be worried about Tampa Bay trading up to #3 with the Vikings to get him.
Barring a trade, I still prefer Trent Richardson at #4, then hopefully the best wide receiver at #22 and then Brandon Weeden at #37. As King notes, everything may hinge on how Mike Holmgren feels about the quarterbacks. I’m not pulling for the Browns to get Ryan Tannehill, but if Holmgren thinks he can be a franchise quarterback, then they have to consider taking him.
Brad Childress. REUTERS/Eric Miller (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Other than a few angry people masquerading as “experts” on sports talk radio, most people seem satisfied with the decision by the Browns to bring in Brad Childress as the new offensive coordinator. The guy is clearly an expert in the West Coast Offense, and he’s been a part of very successful teams with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings over the years.
The perpetual critics will always be able to point to something in his record that supports their assertion that this hire is a “disaster.” He’s also known as “Chilly” for his sometimes tough demeanor. That, of course, misses the point. Pat Shurmur worked with him in Philly, so he obviously feels the two can work well together.
None of us know whether this will work out. Sometimes a young, innovative coach is the answer. Other times, an experienced guy like Childress who also has head coaching experience can be a great fit. Fans, writers and radio big-mouths will all have their opinions, but at some level it’s appropriate to give the organization the benefit of the doubt, even if they are coming off a bad season. Organizations take time to build, and I see Mike Holmgren putting together a good group of professionals who are all on the same page. Some might scream about irrelevant facts, like how these guys all share the same agent, but I don’t care about that at all if these guys can build an organization that is built to last.
Andy Reid is biased of course, but Mary Kay Cabot got some good quotes from him on this situation:
“Pat’s a heck of a play-caller, and Brad’s a heck of a play-caller, and I think that’s a heck of a combination,” Reid told The Plain Dealer. “Both of them can bounce things off of each other. That’s what Brad did here with me, and that’s what Pat did here with me. So, whether I was calling the plays or they were calling the plays, we had an open communication where we could talk and make the best of whatever situation there was.”
Childress, a former Minnesota Vikings head coach, was hired by the Browns on Friday to be the first offensive coordinator under Shurmur, who called his own plays last season. Shurmur and Childress spent seven years together under Reid in Philadelphia, going 70-42 in those years with four trips to the NFC Championship Game and one appearance in the Super Bowl, a loss to New England.
Shurmur will retain play-calling duties for now, but the two will have plenty of discussions about that, and nothing has been finalized yet, an NFL source said. Shurmur said during his season-ending news conference that he’d relinquish the play-calling duties if the right person came along.
“They were a great combo for me here, and we sure won a lot of games with those two at the helm of my offense here, and so I wouldn’t expect anything different,” said Reid, who ran the same West Coast offense the Browns have in place. “They work very well together, and it’s a great fit. The Cleveland Browns are getting a great person, No. 1, and a tremendous football coach. He’s got a great football mind, and he has a great relationship with Pat. It’s a win-win all the way around.”
Reid cited the tremendous job Childress and Shurmur did with quarterback Donovan McNabb, who went to three Pro Bowls with Childress as quarterbacks coach and three more with Shurmur in that capacity.
“They did a phenomenal job with Donovan,” said Reid. “Brad had Donovan when he was young, and Pat had him when he was a little older, and Brad never lost his relationship with Donovan when he became the coordinator. The two of them developed him very well. He was a great player, but they did a heck of a job with him.”
Reid is confident they’ll have the same impact on quarterback Colt McCoy, if the Browns decide to stick with him.
“Both of them understand it takes four years for a quarterback to fully mature or get close to full maturing in the NFL,” said Reid. “It’s not a bang-bang thing that happens overnight. They understand how to go through that process and how to teach quarterbacks and when to be a little tough on them and when you need to back off. They both have a great feel for that.”
Reid highlights many points that we all should understand. Coaching is about teamwork, and it’s critical that people can work together. Mike Holmgren stresses this all the time, and it’s also important that the coaches work well with the scouts and GM.
I want the Browns to build an organization that has continuity and that can rival the organizations in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. We’ll see how Childress works out, but he’s another expert in the system that this organization believes in. That’s a real positive to build on.
Here’s the explanation from The Plain Dealer about why Tony Grossi was reassigned from the Browns beat.
Here’s one part that’s worth noting:
• The Browns had nothing to do with the decision. None of the editors involved talked with anyone connected with the team before making the call. In fact, the Browns’ first communication with the paper’s leadership was not until Wednesday, after the decision had been made, when Egger met with Browns President Mike Holmgren and Lerner.
• The Browns did not threaten to remove Grossi’s media credential, nor did such a consideration play any role in the decision, as a radio talk-show host alleged last week.
What a shock! A radio talk-show host speculated that the Browns had something to do with this . . .
I think it was a bad decision. If I were working in Berea, I would argue that the Browns should come out and accept Grossi’s apology. But that’s their decision.
I’m not a fan of Randy Lerner. In many ways, I think he’s clueless on how to manage people. That said, he does spend money, and he’s at least trying to bring in experts to run the show. I think Mike Holmgren is his best hire, and I believe that Holmgren is building an organization that can be successful for the long term.
I also think that Grossi has been doing a good job. Most of the loud voices on Twitter seem to disagree, but everyone will have their own opinion. Grossi screwed up, but this change seems like an overreaction.
This story is just bizarre. Tony Grossi accidentally sent out a Tweet that he intended as a private message, insulting Browns owner Randy Lerner with the following statement: “He is a pathetic figure, the most irrelevant billionaire in the world.” Grossi quickly realized his mistake and took down the Tweet, but some saw it and copied it.
I like Grossi’s work, though I also understand that other Browns fans don’t, and many think he’s biased against the Browns. I think in the past year he was one of the few rational voices discussing the Browns. Many on the radio sounded liked emotional buffoons when discussing topics like Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmer.