August 18, 2014

To fear or embrace Joe Banner?

The scariest part is the not knowing. Even knowing what we think we know about who won’t be in Cleveland next year – namely Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert – that uncertainty about who will replace them is even scarier.

I think most have resigned themselves by this point to just about any alternative to Pat Shurmur. I know that’s not 100 percent in the fan base at this point, but there’s certainly enough evidence to suggest that the team could improve in that area to the point that even the supporters have a tough time clinging to much more than concept of continuity first and foremost. The scariest part is not knowing about Joe Banner who begins to look a bit like Skeletor if you decide that he might be somewhat nefarious. That’s ridiculous, of course, because I’ve read enough about Banner to know that there’s a genuinely compassionate human behind the tough, unbending businessman.

In particular I remember a fascinating profile of Banner from Philadelphia Magazine that described the same control freak businessman as a baby-cuddling softy walking around his office cooing a visiting baby. Being informed of that Joe Banner makes it a little bit easier to cast aside the most facile short-hand that seems to be used for the man who made the Eagles business hum after Jeffrey Lurie purchased the team. No doubt he’s controlling. Look no further than the fact that every person in the new Browns organization other than Jimmy Haslam will apparently report to him. That’s only a scary arrangement if you don’t trust the man at the top of the organizational chart.

That seems to be what most Browns fans are struggling with right now.

Is it possible to trust anyone who might get rid of Tom Heckert? Heckert has undoubtedly done the best job of any GM in Cleveland since the Browns have been back in 1999. I guess I could be convinced otherwise if someone with greater knowledge than I points back to a time period before I started watching football in the 1980′s, but even then Heckert’s job would still be a good argument. So, how can you possibly trust a man who might remove one of the best drafting GMs in team history?

That silence you hear is me trying to figure out what to say next. There’s no way to trust in that, except to know that Banner and Haslam desperately want to succeed and will do it the best way they know how. Sometimes that doesn’t include even the most successful people who work in a different style. So while you can’t blindly trust Joe Banner to get everything 100% right, you have to at least trust his motives and motivation. Even with me saying that, I find it a very tough sell for myself, let alone trying to sell it to anyone else.

So Joe Banner wants control of the 53-man roster. I don’t see any big problem with that in theory. As an undeniable cap expert, you want the cap guy to have the hammer to keep the draft / free agent mix under control so the team has the flexibility to keep the best of their young players while also supplementing them to remain competitive. In that sense, I get why Banner wants that even if on some infinitesimal chance Tom Heckert sticks around.

At the same time, people are terrified of having even the most aggressive attorney/accountant/business expert type person making football judgements. Sure, we like to fashion ourselves draft analysts combing through YouTube, but I don’t think any of us would really relish the opportunity to have the draft room waiting for us to make a selection. The fear is that an overconfident businessman will all of a sudden believe he’s an expert in actual football player evaluation. That seems like a surefire way to turn an up-and-coming team into a bust-fest like we’ve seen continually since 1999.

Again, that’s something we don’t know. Will Joe Banner replace Tom Heckert with other football people to do all the football analysis? To a fan, I haven’t talked to a single person who doesn’t want to be sure there are great scouts and talent evaluators in the organization. That’s where I take the most solace in recent moves. The Browns proactively went out and hired a president, Alec Scheiner, who is regarded as one of the best at what he does. I think it is also reasonable to assume that even if the Browns eliminate the Tom Heckert role as it exists today, they won’t eliminate top-notch talent evaluation from their business plan. You just have to assume that Haslam and Banner value that and recognize that as an absolute necessity in this NFL. It’s common sense, really, but doesn’t it just feel good to say it aloud? Say it with me. A top-notch NFL franchise can not consider itself top-notch without a premier-level talent evaluation department running the draft, scouting undrafted free agents and making free agent recommendations.

Feel better? Yeah. Me either. We’ll just have to see who they hire. What’s your other option?

  • mgbode

    Yep. Nothing to do but sit and wait and hope we beat Pittsburgh along the way

  • Garry_Owen

    Skeletor? Maybe. What I always think when I see that picture, though, is “What’s ‘chips,’ Precious?”

  • dan

    I don’t mind replacing Heckert (and Shurmur) per se, I’d just like it if good decisions were made about their replacements.

    Heckert may be the best GM in new Browns history, but he should be judged by NFL standards, and there’s an argument to be made that (a) Heckert hasn’t proven that he solved the QB problem, (b) he paid heavily in the last draft for a position — RB — that a lot of people believe can be filled in later rounds, and (c) after three years of supposedly successful drafts he still hasn’t turned the 5 win team he inherited into a 6 win team. Now, you may think that (a) Weeden will develop into a successful QB, (b) TRich will turn into the next AP, and (c) if Heckert is allowed to stay until 2023 or whenever the Browns will have a winning record, and if you come up with the billion dollars or so it takes to buy the franchise you can even make your opinion count, but until then Haslam and Banner, it seems, are choosing to reach the opposite conclusions.

    I just want the next people brought in to meet the following minimal standards:

    1) Rather than hire the unaccomplished disciple of a successful person, I would like it if the Browns hired as their head coach the person who was actually, you know, successful. That’s “successful” as in “was more than the offensive coordinator for two whole years for an undistinguished Rams team!” or “once worked for Bill Bellichick’s dry cleaner!”

    2) Hire a GM who can build on what is already here, rather than get rid of every valuable asset on the team for nothing so as to build the team anew.

    3) Hire a talent evaluator who is capable of evaluating talent. (You would have thought this didn’t need to be said, but Kokinis!)

    4) Hire a head coach who will adapt the system to the players and not the other way around. I admit I got a laugh out of Shurmur sounding like he was accusing Washington of cheating by changing their offense to match Cousin’s skills, but I’d like something more than a reason to laugh from the Browns, so please, if you have to draft a QB, stop drafting QBs who only work out of the shotgun and insist that they take every snap from under center. (But please don’t draft a QB in the first round this year, see #2 above and fix some other problem).

  • http://www.facebook.com/cb.everett.9 CB Everett

    On a couple of your points with a HC adapting for personnel and systems, I agree with you. A great head coach may have his “way” or his system, but he allows a certain degree of flexibility. I think what keeps Belichek consistently high in the ranks is his ability to bend & adapt (and cheat?!). For example, he picked Chip Kelly’s brain and implemented his version of no huddle, hurry up. They use guys they find off the scrap heap like Welker, Edelman, Troy Brown, Deion Branch, Vrabel, or Woodhead and maximize what those guys have to contribute. At the end of the day, I’m convinced Chip Kelly could be the guy here—although I wouldn’t be surprised to see McDaniels.

  • Ritz

    It’s not like Heckert’s drafting has resulted in a winning team. He drafted lots of players that start on a bad team – that’s it. Questionable pick of Weeden and passed on Julio Jones, who is turning into one of the NFL’s best receivers.

    I would say Heckert has done a solid job – lets remember the team’s record before getting too upset about letting go of the GM.

  • CBI

    I wouldn’t mess with Skeletor… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AT3XVnKcl2Y

  • Harv 21

    Agree with all this. One small correction: Don’t think Banner wants 53-man roster say, his preference is that it belong to the head coach, per his statements.
    My concern is that Banner views his role here as the antidote to his perceived lack of sufficient power in Philly. And that means he would actually create a new division of responsibilities here that has no history of success. For all we know, Reid’s ability to check and balance Banner’s opinions were as important to the Eagles’ success as Banner’s ability to do the same to Reid. But in the end Banner appears to be someone totally focused on the winning bottom line and I trust he’ll figure it out. It will just be sad if he axes Heckert because of his insistence on a new way, only to have to look for another Heckert if this way doesn’t succeed.

  • maxfnmloans

    please don’t switch to a 3-4…please don’t switch to a 3-4…please don’t switch to a 3-4.

    And please don’t gut the roster. Lots of good players here we should keep. Then again, those players have to want to stay and have good chemistry with the new coaching staff as well.

    Anyone know how Dee Milliner stacks up against some of the CBs that have come out of the SEC in the past couple years (like Patterson and Haden, for instance?)

  • EdgewaterJoe

    We have heard the talk that this regime wants a Super Bowl. We have also heard — particularly from Haslem — that “continuity” is a key to any winning organization (and considering how long both Banner and Scheiner were at their old jobs, that part of the equation is holding true). If both are true, then it seems to me the case to keep Heckert is strong enough to keep him at his job. That the Browns aren’t going to win more than six games this year (probably) shouldn’t block the clear progress the franchise has made. If you all recall, the Houston/Tennessee teams under Jeff Fisher had four straight 10-plus loss seasons before they broke through and were contenders for a decade. That’s where this team seems to be headed, and to hire someone to bust that up would be psychotic. (Shurmer can go.)

    I also think everyone — I mean EVERYONE (particularly the boobs at the PeeDee) — are WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY overreacting to the Washington game, particularly with Weeden. Yes, we need a younger guy because of his age (and if you presume that guy’s not Colt), but throw him out after a season when he clearly can make all the throws an NFL QB can make? Just makes no sense to me at all. None.

    Good piece. Waiting sucks. Go Browns.

  • EdgewaterJoe

    He’s an SEC DB. That automatically makes him better than about half the DBs in the league right out of the box.

  • Dan105

    I just hope that after the next couple 2-14 seasons, Jimmy Haslam will either wake up and fire Banner or sell the team. Here’s to continuing irrelevance.

  • maxfnmloans

    He was all over the field when I watched Alabama throttle Michigan (to be fair, by the end I was pretty drunk). I just didn’t want to get caught up in the hype because he plays for Alabama. We definitely need help in the secondary though.

    Is Milliner better than Te’O or do we take Milliner anyway (in this hypothetical I just made up they are both available for us to draft) because CB is more important than MLB? Today, I lean toward getting a lockdown CB2. Tomorrow, ?

  • Big Z

    Banner is doing the same thing as Woody Johnson in New York. Both are “capologists” who want to meddle with the football side of the house by having final authority on personnel decisions. Obviously, Woody has turned the Jets into a poop sandwich (not that they weren’t bad before), and there isn’t any reason to believe that things will turn out differently for Banner here in Cleveland. This will blow up in his face, and hopefully he’ll be out of here in 5 years.

    For the record, if you go by wins / losses, Tom Heckert is one of the worst GMs in team history… just sayin’.

  • Big Z

    Agreed. If you’re talking wins and losses, Heckert is one of the worst GMs in team history.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’m with you on the 3-4 I’ve always been a 4-3 guy eventhough I love me some linebackers! This kind of change would be bad considering three years have been spent restocking to play the 4-3 as opposed to a 3-4.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Almost anyone who played in the SEC is a step above most other recruits. Please note I said MOST.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Agree 1000% on the HC being adapatable this has been a problem since 1999 here.

  • Harv 21

    Tech question: has anyone else had trouble using Disqus on this site recently? Still registered there but won’t let me activate it from here anymore. Switched browswers, still nothing.

  • cmm13

    “So, how can you possibly trust a man who might remove one of the best drafting GMs in team history?”
    Here’s how… everyone is clearly looking past the fact that without a true GM you now have the ability to persuade a bigger name coach to the organization allowing them access to say on personnel…. paging Mr. Saban….Mr. Saban you have a call at the front desk.
    Guys like Saban, Gruden, Cowher, (not saying there’s a chance on Gruden or Cowher) but guys like this will want a say on who plays. Guys like this do not want to answer to Tom Heckert.
    Sure Banner may have a final say on whether or not he thinks they can overspend on free agent but the coach now isn’t going to the GM to ask the President if it’s okay to check in with Banner.
    So cut loose Heckert, bring a “pro scout personnel advisor” and shorten the distance between a top coach and Banner.
    Just a theory anyways.
    And not to say this theory is the right way to do things either.

  • cmm13

    haven’t been able to sign in via my PC in a week… mobile device lets me.

  • MrCleaveland

    Saw a mock draft today over on the SI site. God help us, here we go already. (We’re taking a WR.)

  • maxfnmloans

    I saw that one and one on Fox sports and I’m convinced the authors of both haven’t watched a Browns game all year. To make it worse, the Fox author (Peter Schrager, I think) said something about the Browns 3-4 defensive system, and I just stopped reading

  • maxfnmloans

    what message do you get when you try to login?

  • cmm13

    no message. the second browser appears, i enter my credentials and it dissappears as normal. when i return to WFNY it’s as if i never logged in. something isn’t relating from the Disqus login back to WFNY for me.
    I do receive a message every 5-10 minutes from any site with Disqus right now saying “Stack overflow at line: 0″

  • Garry_Owen

    I know we’re not Swedish, but can’t we both fear and embrace him?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’ve been having issues logging in using IE so I switched to Firefox and am able to post using it.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I saw the same thing thought it was old since the defense doesn’t play the 3-4. In another mock draft I read it had the Browns drafting T’eo, I was happy!

  • MrCleaveland

    Swedish. I got that. Very good. Very stout of you. Very Stocky, even.

  • Garry_Owen

    Well done, “Holm[e]s.”

    I’m always trying to nerd up this place.

  • subadai

    Y’know… I’m hopeful about fact that we have an owner now that has actually seen how a good football organization (the steelers) works from the inside out. Also, I don’t know all the details of what went down with Banner in Philly, but they seem to have tanked since he left. Not saying that he is the reason that they were a perennial playoff team, but maybe just an important cog. The machine seems like it broke when that cog was removed. If he is trying to build an organization like the Eagles were a few years back, then I’ll be happy.

    As to Banner having all the power, that might be true , but he’s not unchecked. He still is a very minor partner in ownership w/ Haslam. Haslam has the big hammer and the only guy that is gonna get that swung at him is Banner.

    Bottom line, we have an owner now who actually LIKES football and should know what a winning team looks like w/out having to ask.

  • maxfnmloans

    I found this:

    http://cappuccino.org/discuss/2010/03/01/internet-explorer-global-variables-and-stack-overflows/

    apparently its an internet explorer problem. If you are at work and must use IE, try to disable script debugging. Also, if you feel like it, email Disqus and tell them the problem you are having so they can fix things on their end.

    I’m not a professional, but I stayed at Holiday Inn last night. Also, I have no issues with Chrome

  • Kildawg

    Well, the Browns are actually moving in a new direction for the first time since 1999. Ownership change. Here’s hoping Haslam actually builds a winner instead of Randy Lerner being apathetic.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    The Browns have picked up some good players over the last three years, but the St. Heckert routine needs to stop. I’m pretty indifferent on the topic of him staying or going, but if they do let him go, will anyone really get up in arms considering the team’s record during his time here?

    I understand that success doesn’t always come overnight, but it should certainly get here faster than this. I mean…come on…7-9 is a mediocre season, and Heckert’s Browns have yet to reach that modest peak.

    As for Banner…it feels like we’re in a panic arms race. We used to freak out after one failed season. Then, we moved up the timetable to the bye week. Now, there are people commenting here that are already looking forward to Banner hitting the bricks sometime around 2017.

    Hang in there people. Let’s at least see who they hire, draft, and hopefully, defeat next season.

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    “We’ll just have to see who they hire. What’s your other option?”

    Rooting for Buffalo?

  • cmm13

    Thanks Max, work and IE would be the diagnosis based on the article.
    Appreciate the legwork!
    ….now where’s my bon-bons? has anyone seen my bon-bons? Hey mOOOOm have you seen my bon-bons?

  • bridgecrosser

    Fear. For example, you have a lawyer running the NFL, not a football man. No coincidence, he’s terrible. I work for a company that has a lawyer, not a person with years of experience in the hands-on part of our trade, running our company and again, we are hurting.

    I think you need to find a football person to make football decisions. Joe is a businessman, not a football man. I’m not advocating caveman thinking and I value the proper management of a salary cap, age valuations, etc. But I am very very skeptical of him running a draft room, hitting on UFAs, undrafted free agents, etc.

  • Harv 21

    I’m getting the same “stack overflow line 0″ message, starting last week! And I can also log in through firefox on another computer.

  • Roosevelt

    I don’t care if he cuddles babies in his spare time. People who cannot abide opposing opinions are unlikely to be successful. If Banner sees this as the place where he can finally do his thing without oversight and without any check on his power, we’re off on a terrible foot.

    A good front office manager is not easy to find, because the ones who are successful are not on the market except under particular circumstances. Holmgren/Heckert was one relationship that allowed Heckert to prove himself at the next level, but the GMs and upper level executives of the Packers, Giants, Steelers, Ravens, etc. are not on the market. Whoever will replace Heckert will be either a failed executive or a first time executive. In what realm is that a net positive?

    I get that Heckert didn’t do a great job on RGIII or arguably with Richardson and Weeden. But the deficiencies in those moves are not great – what did he lose to get Weeden that would have been a better move? What would we have had to give up to get RGIII? The meat of a GM’s performance is the consistency of his roster filling moves, and Heckert has done a great job of that.

    Oh, and can we stop with the announcements that the new group is here to win championships? It is so meaningless as to be insulting. Theoretically every ownership group wants to win championships. Practically, if their first moves are going to be to gut a young, improving roster, they are moving away from a championship. If we see a gutted roster, new uniforms, and cheerleaders, we’ll know that the dedication to championships will be the same as the last five times we’ve heard it.

  • Harv 21

    good points.
    I was excited when we hired Heckert because he had previously excelled at the same job responsibilities before. albeit without final say. Unlike Savage and Kokinis who were just lieutenants to a good GM, and really unlike Pete Garcia and Dwight Clark who were safe-with-my-little-friends hires. But all good GMs are, at some point, new GMs. Just hope the new one is either one of those, and if not that they give him the boot just as quickly with him as they appear about to do with Heck.

  • Henry Brown

    This is a great point, and to add to it, Banner has already said he prefers to let the coach control the 53 man roster.

  • JD

    The hiring of Joe Banner is a disaster. Banner has been in control of the Eagles last 3 drafts and free agent signings which has significantly weakened their team. Heckert did an outstanding job building up this team on both sides of the ball and we were clearly headed in the right direction. I have no problem replacing Shurmur, but firing Heckert will haunt our team for years to come. The proof will be evident next year with the draft results. Heckert drafted 28 guys, 23 of which are on the team and 11 of which are starters. Couple that with one more draft and an owner willing to spend money and next year would have been exciting. Hang on ’cause our team is heading backwards down the hill. Pay attention as to where Heckert winds up next year and compare is draft results with ours. I have no doubt he is going to build a winner elsewhere while we suffer through the Joe Banner era.