Randy Lerner broke his silence today with the biggest radio show in Cleveland, hosted by Mike Trivisonno on WTAM. Here were some of the more interesting quotes. I won’t begin to pretend this was a hard-hitting interview with tough, antagonistic questions, but they did delve into many of the topics involved with all the losing in the last decade plus. We will have a lot more on this interview, but I thought some of the raw quotes were pretty compelling all by themselves.
On the talk that Randy Lerner is an “Absentee landlord” when it comes to the Browns…
“I do care. Of course I care. I don’t know ways of showing you care are clear to me other than to provide support and show up. It sickens me when we lose games. It sickens me when we have a season like we’ve just had. But, I guess to my mind I also have to balance my responsibility to use some restraint emotionally and support the guys that I work with. I suppose if I don’t get that balancing act quite right, or the optics quite right I might appear to not care or to be indifferent, but that’d be a shame because that’s not how I feel.”
After joking (or maybe not) about being so frustrated with game outcomes that he might have thrown chairs before, Lerner talked about whether he wants to win even more than the fans do.
“I don’t know that I’d say that. I would like to say that, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to say that. I think people are exhausted from losing in this town. I think as a Browns fan from birth I’m exhausted too. I think people are irritated. They have every reason to be. You know. And it’s on me. I would like to think we’re moving this thing in the right direction.”
Regarding rumors about Mike Holmgren not being dedicated or “stealing” the Lerner’s money.
“There’s absolutely no truth to that. Nothing could be further from the truth. Look, in this business it’s unforgiving. People are going to voice their feelings and they’re going to do it on an unfiltered basis. I understand that. It comes with the territory. But, I can say with total personal clarity that Mike Holmgren is as honorable and committed a football leader as I’ve been around. I know he wants this team to do well. I know that he suffers the losses miserably. The impressions that you’ve outlined are just not accurate. They’re nowhere near my personal experience with Mike.”
On the biggest critics and his frustration with their criticisms.
“Most of the people who say that or feel that way or air those feelings do so because they care about the Browns. It’s not people necessarily out to get anybody. It’s people who are passionate about this team. They feel things, see things or sense things and air them. I’d rather have that than indifference.”
Let’s say that Mike Holmgren doesn’t get it done, what then?
“I don’t think it’s a “Mike get it done” equation. You’ve got Tom Heckert in the building. You certainly have coach Shurmur in the building. And there’s a lot of other guys. I would like to think that what we’re trying to do is spread responsibilities across guys with varying degrees of experience and an awful lot of hunger and commitment for the Browns. That’s going to grow and become more intense over time. I think Mike’s role as a mentor is very important almost as much as his role as an architect.”
Expectations when taking team over in 2002.
“I don’t know that I have a great answer for that. My life at that time was more chaotic certainly. My learning curve was different than it is now.”
On needing patience for Mike Holmgren and his staff.
“This is not an industry or business where you’re going to get time. I understand what you’re saying (Triv) and I understand that you’re trying to be sympathetic for what we’re trying to do. I think there are some basic things that have to get done that this organization is very focused on. The most fundamental is settle on a quarterback. Now far be it from me. I’m not a talent evaluator, to say the least, or anything like one. At some point as a Browns fan when you look around and see Pittsburgh needing a quarterback and dealing with Kordell Stewart or dealing with Tommy Maddox or whatever… They made a move. They committed to the move and they’ve succeeded with that move. And Baltimore with Kyle Boller and that didn’t work out. And they tried and made a move and got Flacco. I think one of the things that is crucial right now is to take a significant step forward is to try TRY if you can to get this quarterback situation settled.”
Can that quarterback, from the owner’s perspective, be Colt McCoy?
“(Joking) I suddenly lose the ability to speak when I’m asked that question.”
On longevity in the front office being important to all NFL franchises.
“No question. And a coach if you can. That continuity is without question the ultimate sign of strength within this business. No question.”
On running regimes out of Cleveland every couple of years.
“That goes back to trying to balance the frustration and trying to be conscious of it while also trying to get the results in the near term so that guys start to get comfortable with who is in the building. Because you’re not going to get anywhere if you keep turning this thing over.”
On the pressure placed on the owner with the passion of the fans…
“Yeah. I do. I feel that pressure. I get back to the same feeling that it is pressure but it’s a privilege. We haven’t been able to deliver. We live with that in this building every day. To a certain extent it gives you strength because you’re motivated to turn things around and get it right. To a certain extent it certainly wears you down. I’d like to think I’ve got a lot left in the tank so I’m ready to go.”
When things aren’t going well do you walk into Holmgren’s office and do you yell?
“I would say usually the scenario is that he’s already in his office yelling. And there’s usually things flying around the room… I view my role and my approach has been to make very clear that there is a mandate in this building. There is very real urgency about that mandate for all the reasons we’ve discussed. But I try to balance that with being respectful to a guy that I brought here who’s got many decades of proven experience. Probably not the greatest answer I’ve ever given, but that’s the balancing act I suppose.”
What do you do if you aren’t getting results from this regime?
“I can’t even get myself to think that way. I think that we had a very strong draft. I think while the season’s still raw, the feelings and the frustrations are still raw you have got at some point from a professional perspective, you’ve got to look for strengths. I’m not saying you take any great comfort. You’ve got to identify what you think you got done, obviously to help reveal what it is you think you need to get done in the near term. To continue to get stronger. Again the furthest thing in the world I’d do is walk around saying “let’s focus on our strengths.” That’s obviously not the case in any way. But, it is part of the process, I would say, of heading into the offseason, being sober about what you’ve just been through. But not getting so crazy that you get in the way of your principal objective which is continuity.”
On if it really does “all start at the top” with regard to responsibility when a hiring doesn’t work..
“It’s not my fault in creating some sort of massive penance, but it’s my fault because I have got to be held responsible for those hires. It’s my job to acknowledge that and deal with that. But it’s also my job to keep moving forward. I think one of my responsibilities is to keep that in perspective but yeah, ultimately it is my fault. You’re going to get a lot of credit for things you have nothing to do with in this business and you’re going to take blame for things you have nothing to do with. That comes with any position like this in any industry.”
On the upcoming draft with Tom Heckert and how it could turn the Browns around quickly…
“I couldn’t say it better. That’s my focus right there.”
On terrible towels being so prevalent in Cleveland Browns Stadium…
“Sickening… Sickening… Sickening…”