Jimmy Haslam approved as new Browns owner

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.

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Impressions of Jimmy Haslam

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.

What’s next for Mike Holmgren now that Browns sale is final?

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.

Browns keep everyone guessing

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.

Browns hire Brad Childress

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.

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