Despite Grantland’s Chuck Klosterman struggling to get a sit-down interview with Joe Banner over Draft Weekend, Clark Judge, CBS Sport’s senior NFL analyst, was able to sit down with Cleveland Browns’ CEO Joe Banner and talk about the rebuilding project of the Browns.
In what was a, frankly, candid interview, Banner refused to shrink under the weight of the massive job that lies in front of him. In fact, Banner was exceedingly confident that he will not fail in his duty:
Q: Five years from now what are we going to be saying about Joe Banner and the Cleveland Browns?
Banner: “Hopefully, you’re not focused on Joe Banner. But I think you’ll feel the Browns are where they’re supposed to be. It’s an iconic NFL franchise that has a rich tradition and fans that deserve success. To me, it’s a three-legged stool: You have on-the-field performance; you have charity and a commitment to community; and you have the whole fan experience element of running these teams. I think people will look at this franchise and feel we’re doing all of those very well.”
Q: But talk about a daunting challenge. Aren’t you basically trying to raise the Titanic?
Banner: “This is a big challenge. I’ve sold people on coming here on the basis that we have a chance to create one of the most compelling turnarounds of any sports franchise in the country. And I think that’s how we’re thinking about it. Some people may be intimidated by that, but we’re actually excited by it.”
Banner also had some strong remarks about the failures of his predecessors:
Q: I’ve heard talk about a 3-5-year program, but Browns fans are sick of more long-term pledges. So what should people know about what you’re doing here, and how soon should they expect to have a winning franchise?
Banner: “I think it’s going to be obvious so that once we get playing, they won’t need to ask the question. I think they’ll see improvement immediately, though nobody realistically thinks we’re ready to win a Super Bowl. And, at the risk of crossing the line, there have been a lot of people here over a lot of years who talked about long-term plans, but I haven’t seen anybody who actually implemented that. They’ve been filling needs year by year, sometimes with expensive players who aren’t that good. Everybody talked about a long-term plan, but when’s the last time the team traded for a future draft pick? When’s the last time the team said, ‘We may not have position ‘X’ with the best player this year because there’s nobody in the marketplace who’s that good, and we don’t want to waste all the future cap money just so we win six games instead of five?’ So there’s been a lot of cheap talk about long-term plans here, and I’m not talking last year. You go back 15 years through different administrations. They all have basically been trying to win now.”
Whether Banner will find success where others have failed remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: Joe Banner is going to approach this process with a confidence and a straightforward approach that seems to differentiate itself from what Browns fans have seen before. The results should speak for themselves on the field.