2012 was one crazy year in the wild wacky world of Cleveland Sports. Some would tell you 2012 was as bad as it has ever been here. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last four years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the 10 biggest sports stories affecting our local sports scene. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one.
Sometimes something so big happens that it renders almost all previous opinion and criticism useless. That’s the ultimate takeaway for me after watching the Browns get sold this year. I’d always targeted my Browns criticism and tried to figure out what I thought were the best possible solutions to fix the Browns with the assumption that Randy Lerner was going to sit at the top of the organizational chart. That was the crux of my position that Randy Lerner’s outsourcing of himself to Mike Holmgren was one of the best of all possible solutions. It just never occurred to me that Randy Lerner was actually going to sell the team. But he did. And this being a Browns town, this is obviously the biggest story of 2012 in Cleveland sports.
In hindsight it seems silly to propose that Mike Holmgren should be the de facto owner and go to NFL ownership meetings in Randy Lerner’s stead. Given the alternative on the table at the time though, I still maintain it was completely rational. Of course that was all then. This is now. Jimmy Haslam bought the team and Joe Banner was brought in.
In 2012 there is nothing but good news surrounding the transition from Lerner to Haslam. The Browns instantly started handling the softer P.R. stuff with a grace and class that they hadn’t before. A “white flag” promotion was quickly shuttered and ironically enough the Browns won (an admittedly ugly) game against the Steelers on the field that same day. Even the dismissal of Mike Holmgren was handled with class and expediency following a minor distraction with Holmgren / Dallas rumors further fueled by an on-field meeting with Jerry Jones. Then add in the new Cleveland Browns TV show, “Road Tested” and you have a nearly perfect job by the new Browns owner.
2012 closes for Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner with the dismissal of head coach Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert. That’s a fitting place to stop the first act of this whole storyline anyway. So far, so good, but the conflict and rising action have only just begun for Haslam, Banner and the Cleveland Browns. As I’ve said continually as these stories have developed, P.R. is the easy stuff. Firing the previous regime’s people is easy too. The hard stuff is just starting as 2013 arrives.
The Cleveland Browns are in need of a head coach, general manager and some more pieces to the puzzle that will complete the transformation from a tough out on an NFL schedule to a team that actually wins more than it loses. The Browns have a real opportunity here with this roster and with some relatively positive momentum. That’s fitting for Haslam and Banner. Opportunity is something that Browns fans didn’t know they had this time a year ago. They didn’t know there was an opportunity to have a new owner. They didn’t know there would be an opportunity for a new organizational direction.
There are a million motivational quotes about “opportunity” for what it’s worth. I’ll spare you me quoting them, but I will say this. Most Browns fans have been waiting their entire lives for the people running the show in Berea to make the most of their opportunities.