July 28, 2014

Banner and Haslam lack answers, need to figure out GM position

Les Levine asked Joe Banner about what kind of time frame he thinks it will be to turn the team around. Joe Banner just started laughing, as did Jimmy Haslam. They weren’t mocking Les and his question, but after the laughter subsided, Jimmy Haslam revealed that he’d been pestering Banner with the same exact question.

Banner and Haslam spoke to the media today and candidly,1 they didn’t have a lot of answers. How could they? They take over a team in the middle of a season and still have about eight more days before Joe Banner starts working in Berea full time on October 25th. They’re in and around the team, talking to players, executives and employees, but this is the time of year for the team on the field to be tweaking its strategy for upcoming opponents. No matter how bad the coach might be, this is may be the worst possible time to swap a head coach out.

It’s also a bad time to try and make major changes to the gameday experience at Cleveland Browns stadium. There are procedures and facilities and employees in place, and the worst type of plan execution is one that isn’t given a full cycle of preparation first. With that in mind, it makes sense that Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam didn’t have a lot of answers, except one. Banner and Haslam consistently said that everything will be evaluated at the end of the year. Sounds fine at first, but there’s one position where that doesn’t work especially well. That’s Tom Heckert.

Tom Heckert has reportedly been putting out feelers for new jobs since the ownership announcement in August. The cycle of a GM’s job is based around a few annual events. Obviously first and foremost is the NFL draft. Then there’s the start of free agency. Finally, there are some smaller opportunities in free agency throughout a season depending on injuries and waiver opportunities. I guess you could pull off an in-season trade or two, but those are rare.

Let’s use the draft as the primary objective for Tom Heckert. That occurs in April about three months after the NFL regular season has finished. So, you’re telling me that Banner and Haslam are going to make their decision on Tom Heckert when he should be in the heart of building his draft board with scouts? Swapping out a GM at that time of year could be a calamity for the draft.  And if the Browns whiff on a draft because they botch the transition with regard to Tom Heckert and the GM position, there won’t be anyone laughing at Les Levine’s question about time-frame for turning this thing around.

Haslam and Banner haven’t made a mistake regarding this issue just yet, but candidly,2 it is looming largest in terms of uncertainty for their group going forward. The fans that Banner and Haslam proclaim to be the business’s largest asset will be crying and / or angry once again.

——-

Other notable quotes from the press conference…

  • Continuity is important, but only once you have all the right pieces in place. Browns might have the right people. Might not.
  • Banner on fans, “I know these fans have been through a lot of ‘hopeful starts…’” he said before adding, “We just have to deliver.”
  • Haslam claims that he hasn’t done homework on past failures in Berea and chooses to be “forward-looking”
  • Joe Banner speaks to his evolution as an executive saying he learned to not be so competitive in negotiations. Re-defined “win” as sometimes looking for common ground.
  • Joe Banner candidly3 proclaims that the Browns aspire to be the most “fan-friendly organization in professional sports.”

___________________________________________________

Footnotes:

  1. Jimmy Haslam says “candidly” a lot []
  2. Jimmy Haslam says candidly a lot. I kid the Browns new owner. If that’s his biggest downfall, I’ll take it. []
  3. Jimmy Haslam says “candidly” a lot. []
  • Garry_Owen

    He’s wearing Broncos colors! To arms!!

  • mgbode

    80s era Cavalier throwback tie.

  • mgbode

    speaking of colors. Banner is in blue and red. By far, the 2 most popular color choices for sport teams. Yet, noone in the AFC North utilizes either color. Very peculiar.

  • Garry_Owen

    So, there won’t be an uprising?
    /turns slowly around, dragging his pitchfork sulkily on the ground.

    But wait! A similar photo on another website appears to clearly show that these are, in fact … gasp! … Michigan colors!!!
    To arms!!

  • etc

    So, what, he’s a spy for the Bills, snuck in to learn all our secrets?

  • Garry_Owen

    So, the helmet will remain all orange, with the brown and white stripes, but the jerseys and pants are going to be blue and red, huh? That is going to look WEIRD.

  • mgbode

    sorry, Toledo Rockets. he was trying to make amends for excluding NW OH in the ad. he had just figured that noone living that close to Michigan had the internet yet.

  • Garry_Owen

    Secret No. 1: “How to suck worse than you already do.”

  • mgbode

    UnderArmour is going to consider it their Sistine Chapel

  • Garry_Owen

    Dang it. This guy is smoooooth. Yet another PR success! Rest assured, Cleveland, we have the PR successyest FO in football! For now.

  • mgbode

    naw, we put all our secrets on papers and let the wind take them during games.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Banner is supposedly a contract guru so maybe this means the team will be more active in that area. It might help shorten the time frame for a turnaround. Just an idea.

  • NamedMyKidPrice

    Reading the transcript from yesterdays press conference then reading this i thought i had missed out on the candidly memo until i read the bottom.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Since a lot of other comments are on his tie… anyone notice he wore the same tie two days in a row? And he’s a billionaire? It’s totally OK for me to do that now! Nice.

  • Harv 21

    I know I’m obsessing about this but man, Jimmy can emasculate just by walking into the room.

    For gawd’s sake, Joe, sit up straight, shoulders back, toss the Just for Men and get some contact lenses. You’ll have that ol’ confidence back in no time.

    Before taking propecia, please consult a doctor to make sure you are healthy enough …

  • dwhit110

    I agree with the premise of the article, but maybe it won’t be such a nightmare if we lose Heckert, and retain the scouting staff? Heckert is not Phil Savage, he’s not on the road 24/7 scouting these players himself, he’s got a staff of scouts doing that. Banner and Heckert used to work together with the Eagles, so it’s possible that they’re both comfortable with a very similar system of rating and evaluating players. I get it, probably not an ideal situation, but definitely still workable.

  • dwhit110

    I agree with the premise of the article, but maybe it won’t be such a nightmare if we lose Heckert, and retain the scouting staff? Heckert is not Phil Savage, he’s not on the road 24/7 scouting these players himself, he’s got a staff of scouts doing that. Banner and Heckert used to work together with the Eagles, so it’s possible that they’re both comfortable with a very similar system of rating and evaluating players. I get it, probably not an ideal situation, but definitely still workable.

  • Harv 21

    Obviously from January to April is not a great time to switch GMs but I commented on another thread that mid-season while college scouting is going on is not a great time either. I’m assuming that GMs trust their own scouts and have their own metrics for what they want their scouts to be looking for during the college football season. Maybe June is the best time but firings occur in December/January, so that’s a great time to snatch promising people from other deposed regimes.

    If Heck is canned I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t immediately land at least an assistant GM position elsewhere. He is competent at worst and it’s possible that when assessments of the 2012 draftees + Josh Gordon are clear his work here may be viewed as better than that.

  • Harv 21

    Obviously from January to April is not a great time to switch GMs but I commented on another thread that mid-season while college scouting is going on is not a great time either. I’m assuming that GMs trust their own scouts and have their own metrics for what they want their scouts to be looking for during the college football season. Maybe June is the best time but firings occur in December/January, so that’s a great time to snatch promising people from other deposed regimes.

    If Heck is canned I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t immediately land at least an assistant GM position elsewhere. He is competent at worst and it’s possible that when assessments of the 2012 draftees + Josh Gordon are clear his work here may be viewed as better than that.

  • thepaledragon

    I want Heckert to stay but this is a good point. Most of the scouting staff will stay in place so the work they’re doing now won’t be lost. Furthermore, whoever the new GM is, he is already doing draft prep for whatever team he is with, so it’s not like someone will come in mid-January and be drawing up a draft board for the first time. As for what needs this team has, that’s what Banner can try to figure out over the next three months during the transition with Holmgren.

  • mgbode

    needs are so easy that fans can figure it out:
    CB2, DE, FS, OG, TE, FB, WR

    How to fill them is where a GM makes their $$$.

  • Natedawg86

    Ol school cavs colors

  • Natedawg86

    I am going to start writing a book, “From Toilet Bowl to Superbowl”

  • MrCleaveland

    The only “gameday experience” I care about is cheering a win.

    I hope our new overlords don’t waste even five minutes worrying about useless dreck like stadium music and dance teams and exploding player introductions.

    I’ve always liked the low-key game presentation here. High school cheerleaders and marching bands is perfect for our Middle America sensibilities.

    Leave the annoying peripherals to the Gladiators.

  • Natedawg86

    BPA

  • CBI

    Do you think were OK at linebacker? I have (in order of importance) CB, FS, LB, FB, DE, WR, OG

  • mgbode

    Gocong, DQ, JMJ/Robertson/Fort

    I think we can use an upgrade there, but the other “needs” I have listed are great IMO.

  • maxfnmloans

    Right there with you Craig. This is a very busy time of year for scouts and getting things together for when draft preparations begin in earnest once the season ends. I think a good hedge may be to give the scouts some assurances about the stability of their positions, no matter what the situation may be with the GM (In this scenario, I’m hoping Banner may know a lot of the scouting staff from Philly).

    If not, then the scouts might fall victim to worrying more about their exit and landing than their actual jobs. I’m not saying these are bad people, but I’ve been in this situation before, where an entire department knows it could be whacked, and distraction from duties that may disappear shortly is inevitable. The first rule of nature is to survive.

    Unfortunately, if Haslam and Banner are going to evaluate everything until year’s end, I suppose “scouting staff” comes under the banner of everything (NPI).

    Here’s hoping Banner and Haslam realize that this is the meaty time of year for scouting and draft preparation, and don’t set themselves up for failure.

    This reminds me of the fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper insofar as I hope Haslaam and Banner realize that now is the time for the scouts to be making hay and if they don’t want their maiden draft to be skrooed, then they better figure this out quickly or they may get a bunch of half-arsed scouting reports made by a bunch of guys who weren’t looking for the same things the (potential) new guys may be looking for.

    Candidly, other than the scouting/draft prep issue, I don’t think the timing for this could have been better. Sure, this season is blown to Hades, but we were not going to the playoffs anyway. Now, they can come in, see things in action and really get a feel for things, what works, what doesn’t, what they’d like to change, etc. It’s almost like an extended test drive on a car. If they are smart, then they will really be ready to hit the ground running once the season ends. Lord, hear our prayer. Amen.

  • mgbode

    “if they don’t want their maiden draft to be skrooed”

    which is why many first drafts of regimes are worse than later ones. hopefully, we do not suffer from such indignities for the reasons that you mentioned.

  • maxfnmloans

    I was thinking another possibility is Haslaam and Banner already have scouts they’d like to use in mind, and they are already started on their work. That flies in direct contravention of the “no changes til after the. season” stance though, as it essentially means they have already reached a decision

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeremy-Humbert/100001904340553 Jeremy Humbert

    He is also suppossedly cheap as hell, which doesn’t exactly bode well for the players, though non of ours are turning down other jobs right now….
    My feeling is that Banner will put his pictures up in his office and Heckart will bolt on him then and there… If he already sees the writing on the wall, what is the point of hanging around surfing the internet message boards (like me) when you could be making yourself available to KC for an interview…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeremy-Humbert/100001904340553 Jeremy Humbert

    From what I have read on Banner, he likes to be in control, much like Holmgren… I think that bodes well for Shurmur (who is used to it), but bad for Heckert. All I can really do, is sit here and hope for wins. Whoever gets us there, is my man…But it would be nice if Shurmur has had enough time to figure out how to be a HC in this league, and starts the winning, less turnover would be a good thing…

  • mgbode

    Banner is CEO, not GM. Even if he doesn’t keep Heckert, he will likely hire a GM.

    And, he was the “bad guy” for the Eagles. He had a salary structure and when players got too old and/or too expensive, he was the guy who parted ways. That doesn’t mean he’s ‘cheap’ (and the current CBA almost makes that nonexistant as all teams will be spending relatively the same amount)

  • hopwin

    We still need a run stopper. No more 200+ yard rushers ever again.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    “Joe Banner candidly proclaims that the Browns aspire to be the most “fan-friendly organization in professional sports.”

    So he’s gutting the PR department too?

  • mgbode

    visions of Gocong stoning Mendenhall dance through my head

  • BenRM

    I’m inclined to agree w/ everything you said.

  • BenRM

    I hope so! Is there a professional sports team in the big 3 with a worse PR record? Maybe the Sacramento Kings?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeremy-Humbert/100001904340553 Jeremy Humbert

    True…

  • mgbode

    no changes to personnel does not mean that Banner couldn’t direct the scouts to utilize his preferred grading system, methods, etc.

    and, since most of them have worked with him (and Heckert) in Philly, the systems are likely similar. Banner, afterall, was the cap guy and Heckert the scout/grading guy (as Reid was the real GM). So, I would think that most of Banner’s methods on scouting/grading would be similar to Heckert’s.

  • Big Z

    Agreed.

    Candidly, the best “gameday experience” is not feeling like you’re trudging off the assembly line at the “factory of sadness” every single Sunday. I could care less how long the line for chili dogs is.

  • Big Z

    I’d definitely say that Heckert has been the best GM we’ve seen here since ’99. That said, it’d be awesome to have a GM that could actually produce winning teams. None of Heckert’s squads have even approached that. I also feel like we overrate much of the talent he’s put on the team. Another team can take him – bring us a winner!

  • Big Z

    The draft already? Well, I guess it is mid-October…

  • mgbode

    we definitely over-rate our talent from time to time. we “hope” on kids to produce and progress (like Little).

    however, producing a winner overnight does not happen. not even in the NFL. look at the youth we are starting on offense and how that offense is producing. it’s really exciting.

    if we part ways with Heckert, then so be it. but, I will appreciate him for helping start us on the path.

  • Big Z

    I agree. A lot of the winning / losing also has to do with coaching, strength of schedule etc. It’s also a shame for Heckert that the Browns’ record could easily be reversed right now.

  • Kildawg

    Nice reference. Apparently KC is becoming West Cleveland in football.