Haslam and Banner’s media savvy couldn’t save them today

Jimmy Haslam reacts to a question about the Pilot Flying J situation.

Jimmy Haslam reacts to a question about the Pilot Flying J situation.

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Today’s meeting between Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner and the local press corps had the same impressive polish and tone that impressed me so many months ago. Back then, Haslam and Banner were the archetype for how you want your NFL team to be. Banner was the take-no-prisoners, experienced executive with a hunger to step out of the shadows of his former employer. Haslam was the junior owner of one of the greatest franchises in the NFL. These guys knew how to get in front of a microphone and say the right things. Even today, as they faced an angry media mob asking questions about Rob Chudzinski’s firing — from a purely technical standpoint — Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam said all the right things. Given the circumstances currently surrounding the team, however, it wasn’t nearly good enough.

As Jimmy Haslam said twice during today’s news conference, “Talk is cheap.” He also added that “actions speak louder than words,” which is a cliché for a very good reason. Today’s press conference was a near-impossible task with the way things have gone down over the past year for the Browns. Even if Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam were right that firing Chud was something that had to be done, it is a disaster for a team that was looking to redefine itself in a new era of ownership. It’s just very funny to me that these savvy people gave as savvy a performance for the media as they’ve ever given, but because of the circumstances, it couldn’t save them today.

Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam held Rob Chudzinski accountable and attempted to defend their personnel moves over the past year. Joe Banner spoke of how active they’d been in free agency. He admitted that they didn’t get far enough along in the improvement process, but said he thought they had “moved the needle forward.” Certainly, he and Haslam thought they moved it enough to expect improvement over the course of the season from the first-year coaching staff.

Jimmy Haslam reacts to a question about the Pilot Flying J situation.

Jimmy Haslam reacts to a question about the Pilot Flying J situation.

Banner was asked whether it was fair and if Chudzinski deserved more time. He concluded his wordy response with, “We thought the answer was more than time and so we made a change.” That change was decided on Saturday before the Browns played the Steelers.

Banner was very measured when asked about coaching candidates. It might be my own little conspiracy theory, but he was careful not to rule out existing coaches on staff as potential replacements. I don’t actually believe that for a second, but I can’t help but think they need Ray Horton to at least allow them to conform to the Rooney Rule. Again, maybe this is my cynicism bubbling over, but I can’t help where my brain goes.

Jimmy Haslam was once again asked about Pilot Flying J, and he answered those questions the same way he has for months, including repeating his apology for any “cloud” that it hangs over the Cleveland Browns franchise. The media asked him specifically about potential indictments, and the answers were so scripted and inconsequential that I can’t even remember them, to be honest.

If there was any good news from the press conference, it’s that Joe Banner apparently doesn’t think this move is something that will set the team too far back. “I don’t think in this era that we’re asking people to sit still for some long-term plan,” he said. What that means for Browns fans in 2014 remains to be seen, but it’s difficult to figure there won’t be some serious transition costs as there have been in Cleveland with every major change since the team came back in 1999.

And I want to make it perfectly clear that this isn’t to say that the Browns should have kept Rob Chudzinski for even a second year. I only know what I know in these cases because I’m not on the inside of their organizational meetings. What I do know is that 2013 was a failure by the Browns. It was deemed a failure by the coaching staff by Joe Banner and by proxy of being at the top of the organizational chart, it’s ultimately an even bigger failure for him. As Tom Petty wrote, “It’s good to be king, if just for a while.” We were here before Joe Banner and will almost assuredly be here after him too.

Haslam and Banner say they know they deserve all this skepticism. Unfortunately for them, no matter how well they handle a presser, they couldn’t deflect the overarching tidal wave of skepticism that crashed down on them today in Berea. Joe Banner seems pretty genuinely unfazed by it all, but you have to wonder.

What I don’t wonder is just how far being media savvy will carry the new Browns. It carried them to the end of their first full season and into their first period of perceived dysfunction. Welcome to Browns town.

  • 240

    My favorite part was when banner patted himself on the back for firing Chud. Like he had just saved the world. He did all of that without making any reference that he, in fact, had hired Chud.

  • http://www.cinpleweb.com/ stin4u

    The presser was an absolute joke.

    You’re going to get your guy this year by convincing him you’re putting him in the best position to win? Really? It sure didn’t seem like it this year when you failed to sign a viable NFL QB to take the place of Brian Hoyer. It didn’t seem that way when you left a ton of cap room untouched with a multitude of holes that needed to be filled. It didn’t seem that way when you were trading away draft picks. It didn’t seem that way when traded your starting running back and replaced him with a guy who was probably eating potato chips and watching mid morning re-runs of the Maury show.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Anyone know where there’s a transcript?

    And I’m guessing absolutely on the Rooney Rule re: Horton.

  • bossman09

    Chud was never their guy, If you think they had any intention of supporting him, just look at your list. The plan from day one was “we didn’t get our guy, but we can’t forfeit the season so let’s hire anyone, and if they surprise us, we win, if they don’t we stockpiled for 2014 so it doesn’t matter”

  • http://www.cinpleweb.com/ stin4u

    I get that and that’s what is alarming. Why not just say: “Hey, we didn’t get the guy we preferred this year. Norv will be the interim coach for the 2013 season due to his HC experience and we will not rule out the option to be hired as the HC based on the team’s performance” – Instead of nuking whatever credibility this franchise has left?

  • Scooter

    I’ve been scouring the net (read: googling) looking for the video of it, to no avail. I’ll take a transcript at this point.

  • rtpinfla

    That’s a very cynical take but I can’t help but agree with you. I also strongly suspect they have their sights on a specific person out there and believe that the 2014 version of the Browns will be enticing enough to get that person. They may have already put some feelers out there and know who is/is not interested in the job.

  • rtpinfla

    Well one positive thing is that this is the first time (at least since ’99) a Browns coach has been fired while he was actually popular with the fans.

  • CB Everett

    Yeah, I thought so at first about Horton, but on second thought–I can’t imagine that they’ll re-interview him. I mean, let’s be honest, it would reek more so than normally of a pro-forma interview. And I can’t imagine that Horton would take kindly to being an obvious formality (or that it would bode well to retain him as a DC).

  • Steve_Not_Chad

    Why would Norv Turner do this?

  • http://www.winningfantasyfootball.com/ Phil

    They sure did give Mary Kay Cabot the mic a lot in that press conference. Probably because she asks “pre-approved” questions. I’m sick of hearing from her. Say something meaningful for once in your lives!!!
    Some of the media definitely deserve credit for asking some tough questions.

  • Hopwin

    The only hole in this theory is that they signed him to a four-year deal. Not one, not two, not even three, but four years. It is my personal belief that Banner fully expected he’d be able to bully Chudz into excuting his will and when Chudz stood up to him by failing to cut Little, Luavao or demoting Scott Turner it became time for Plan B.

  • http://www.cinpleweb.com/ stin4u

    I’m sure they could have put together some sort of incentive package to make it appealing.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I don’t think it was so much a popularity but frustration from what was supposed to be a new regime doing exactly what so many of their predecessors have after a year ago saying the complete opposite. I think that more then anything is what has people so worked up.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    She wasn’t so bad I think she asked two questions. Whoever insinuated about Lombardi was my favorite though kudos to him.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I enjoyed the gasp after the Channel 19 news not sports reporter read tweets from the fans causing a gasp in the room and an under his breath comment from Banner.

    I enjoyed Banner reminding everyone how he worked with Andy Reid for 14 years.

    I enjoyed Jimmy Haslam reminding us that he has to pay Chudzinski after firing him.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I almost said ain’t gonna happen but I can’t say anything certain with this organization anymore. I just can’t see any kind of established head coach coming here. I will stay with the belief it’ll be either an assistant head coach possibly first timer or a college coach. Banner must stay in control. Lombardi must remain behind the curtain.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Who doesn’t love a good conspiracy theory? ;-)

  • dwhit110

    I really didn’t think the media savvy shined through in their answers today. I know I played Devil’s Advocate with you and Scott a bit on Twitter last night, but the doublespeak seemed to shine through in Banner and especially Haslam’s answers today.

    I was happy that Pat McManamon was in the room willing to press those two on some of the double speak in a couple of places. It’s hard for me to fathom that they’re judging Chud on results, but it’s impossible to look at those results in a silo based on salary cap space, draft trades, TRich trade, crappy QBs, etc. How do you execute this 2014 strategy from a talent perspective and then hold the coach accountable? It’s nonsensical.

  • McNednarb

    They’re so slimey looking.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I’m thinking that they can’t interview anyone they interviewed last year because then they have to explain why they thought that person was possibly a good candidate after passing him up in favor of Chud last year.

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    video is on the Browns website

  • Harv 21

    Listening to them try to explain why any coach worth his salt would trust them enough to come here now sounded like a a classic piece of Cleveland sports infamy. Like Embry explaining the Ron Harper trade and Gabe Paul explaining the trade of Chris Chambliss.

  • The_Real_Shamrock
  • historycat

    “I don’t think in this era that we’re asking people to sit still for some long-term plan,”
    Good, cause they have one year to fix this. I’ve never set a time limit before, but I’m not wasting my time on this team any more if they don’t make the playoffs in 2014.

  • da -Z-

    The three stooges remark was pretty funny and I think they both handled it very well. This presser didn’t bring us anything new of what we already knew, What was funny however were two things besides the three stooges incident:
    1- haslam makes the best duck faces, look at the 15:18 minute mark on the video posted on the browns website (he holds it for about 30 seconds).
    2- haslam’s response to the “lombardi being invisible” question was short and awesome.

  • Hopwin

    Except for the numerous reports that is the reason they fired him…

  • Wow

    They shouldn’t even have done one, it makes the situation even worse. But hats off to the media for making them look like fools.

  • maxfnmloans

    yeah…this is especially disconcerting because it seems the major problem was the Front Office wanted to be able to tell the coach who to play, who to bench and who to cut. This flies directly in contravention of their stated mission of “having a consensus” which means they’re making things up as they go along.

  • sja11

    I will give my undying affection for the reporter who opens the next presser with “I have 3 questions, I’ll start with Larry, then Curly and then Mo”

  • Bob

    *hypothesis

  • Bob

    *hypothesis

  • Toddyus

    This is the feeling I get, but the proof will be in who they hire. If they don’t have that person (who was on their original list of top candidates last year) lined up and ready to go, then this is all the more telling.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Was it edited? ;-)

  • jimkoach

    jimkoach

  • jimkoach

    Why did not one reporter ask Banner about his glowing praise of Chud in November? That in itself shows how screwed up these guys are. They have NO clue how to run a team. That praise in Nov. was right on. But something changed that made that a non-occurrence.

  • WFNY_DP

    Also, Norv wasn’t actually hired until after Chud was, so you’ve put the cart before the horse in this scenario.