Located throughout northeastern Ohio, interspersed between Youngstown and Toledo, trickling down along Interstates 71 and 77, there exists a group of individuals who have only known Ed O’Neill to be Jay Pritchett rather than Al Bundy. Neil Patrick Harris has always been Barney Stinson; not Doogie Howser. Will Smith was never Fresh. The Dead were never Grateful. And the Cleveland Browns have never been a fumble or a drive away from heading into a weekend that will soon be experienced by those Seattle, San Francisco, Denver and New England. The Kardiac Kids live only in lore. “Bernie, Bernie” is just one of the tracks on that dusty cassette dad won’t throw away. And through 14-plus seasons of work, their team has only reached the postseason one time.
The New England Patriots may have just released a budding superstar-turned-alleged murderer, but Forbes’ Mike Ozanian feels that the Cleveland Browns are a bigger issue for the NFL given their recent run of misfortune off of the field. This one, per Ozanian, starts at the top of the food chain.
“The Browns should be one of football’s flagship small-market franchises,” writes Ozanian. “But the Browns now appear on the verge of imploding. Haslam’s Pilot Flying J, his source of wealth, is being investigated by the FBI for defrauding customers. Three of the truck stop company’s employees have entered guilty pleas. And credit ratings for Pilot Flying J have been put on negative watch for possible downgrade by both Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s.”
The Forbes column touches on the Browns players who joined the Browns after Haslam bought the team and have already gotten in trouble with the law. Quentin Groves, signed as a free agent, was arrested in April and charged with solicitation in a prostitution sting. Seventh-round draft pick Armonty Bryant was busted in May for driving under the influence. And, most recently, undrafted free agent Ausar Walcott was released by the Browns after he was arrested for an attempted murder earlier this week.
Ozanian adds that despite having the lowest average ticket price in the league, FirstEnergy (formerly Cleveland Browns) Stadium is being filled to only 90% of capacity. Forbes has pegged the team’s revenue at $258 million for the 2011 season, tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 20th in the NFL.
“Don’t be shocked if Haslam unloads his team,” says Ozanian. “It might be the best thing for both the Browns and the NFL.”
FirstEnergy Stadium could be receiving a bit of a face lift in the coming months.
We hear Banner and the bigwigs are canvassing the stadium, talking $200 million-plus in upgrades.
— Steve Doerschuk (@sdoerschukREP) June 18, 2013
Per Steve Doerschuk of the Canton Repository, the place once expected to house Bon Jovi for an evening could be looking at upgrades north of $200 million. On the cover, this dollar amount could potentially include the addition of a retractable roof to the current structure, but the cost and likelihood of such an addition has been debated since Haslam purchased the team last October. Prior to Haslam’s acquisition, the Browns front office had asked the city of Cleveland to provide $5.8 million for repairs to areas that had reportedly sustained damage due to use coupled with abrasive lake-front weather.
Following Haslam’s acquisition, the Browns hired Alec Scheiner, a former Dallas Cowboys executive who was credited with much of the planning, financing, and implementation of upgrades at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. This hiring came roughly one month after Haslam and his team took a trip to Jerry Jones’ gem and saw the venue first hand.
Housing 73,200 seats, FirstEnergy Stadium (formerly named Cleveland Browns Stadium) was build in 1999 for $283 million.
Jim Brown is one of the most iconic figures, not just in Cleveland, but the entire NFL. His playing career still stands as one of the most remarkable in league annals, and his work in the community since his retirement, especially with our youth, has been just as impressive. He will be a tremendous asset to our organization and we are thrilled that he will be representing the Browns in many different capacities.
— Cleveland Browns majority owner Jimmy Haslam III on Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown who, on Wednesday morning, was named as a Special Advisor to the team’s front office. In his role, Brown will perform in a variety of off-field capacities with the club and in the community. Brown previously served as an Executive Advisor with the team, a position he held through 2010. “I am excited to be back and a part of a franchise that will always be very close to my heart,” said Brown. “I want to thank Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner for giving me this chance to return to the organization and the great city of Cleveland, whose fans are the best in the NFL and who always have supported me.”
Outspoken Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown will assume a new role within the Cleveland Browns’ front office this week. Brown has served in several capacities with the Browns and, now at age 77, will begin another phase with the team.
ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi reports that Brown will be formally introduced by owner Jimmy Haslam on Wednesday to a new position with the club. The position and the specifics of its responsibilities are not yet known.
Brown, who retired from the NFL and the Browns at age 29 to pursue a movie career, has been unaffiliated with the Browns since former President Mike Holmgren effectively fired him in the spring of 2010. He was serving as “executive advisor” to former owner Randy Lerner, but was ousted as part of a large overhaul. Brown felt disrespected when Holmgren offered a lesser role at a greatly reduced salary, leading to much consternation in the form of a letter—”one monkey don’t stop the show,” Brown penned— and the boycotting of his induction in to the franchise’s charter Ring of Honor class.
A legend on and off of the field, Brown has recently referred to the team’s current running back Trent Richardson as “ordinary,” and was also one of the more outspoken supporters of former Browns owner Art Modell during the most recent NFL Hall of Fame induction season.
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Connecting the dots between a possible Kansas City-Miami trade that might affect the Browns’ plans with the No. 6 pick in the NFL Draft: “The connections between the Chiefs and the Dolphins, with regard to [Branden] Albert, have been present for awhile. Now, they possibility could be coming closer to being a reality. On Thursday, Arrowhead Pride passed along the information that the Chiefs had given permission to the Dolphins to speak to, but not meet with, Albert.” [Chris Pokorny/Dawgs By Nature]
In a statement of ownership transaction released by the team, Jimmy Haslam III’s minority ownership stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers has officially been sold.
The Steelers that in a series of transactions approved by the NFL all of the Steelers stock owned by Haslam has been acquired, the majority of which was purchased by existing Steelers stockholders while the residual portion was purchased by members of the Swank Family, Scott and Russ Swank.
In October of 2012, Mr. Haslam purchased the Cleveland Browns, thus disassociating himself from all Steelers business at that time and authorized Steelers President Art Rooney, II and Morgan Stanley to arrange for the purchase of the Steelers stock owned.
Steelers President Art Rooney, II said, “We appreciate the continued confidence of our Ownership group involving this purchase of stock owned by Jimmy Haslam, and we welcome Scott and Russ Swank to our Ownership group.”
The Cleveland Browns will welcome back Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown as the one-time estranged legend will resume a new role under Jimmy Haslam III.
Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer reports that Brown, who was a consultant with the team before being demoted by team President Mike Holmgren in 2010 prior to his resignation, met with Haslam in Cleveland on Monday night where the two men finalized plans for a new role with the team.
“Jim Brown and I have spent a lot of time together,” Haslam told Cabot. “We spent about an hour together [Monday] night, and I think we’ve established a really good relationship and I think sometime over the next two or three weeks we’ll formalize that relationship and Jim will play the appropriate role with the Cleveland Browns … It’s a big deal and that’s why I want to do it right. In the next couple of weeks we’ll announce something.”
Brown’s recent history with the team has been contentious at best, whether the former back was involved in a back-and-forth with Holmgren, Art Modell’s Hall of Fame candidacy, voiced his opinion on LeBron James, told fans to “get over” the team’s move to Baltimore and called recent draft selection Trent Richardson ‘ordinary.’ Goodwill with fans has depleted drastically, so it will be intriguing to see in what capacity, exactly, Brown will be engaged.
Mike Illitch may be willing to deficit spend his way to a World Series, but it is Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert who is officially the wealthiest person to live in Detroit, Michigan, per Forbes.
Gilbert, the founder of Quicken Loans, Rock Ventures, Rock Gaming and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers — among other smaller companies and teams — is worth an estimated $3.5 billion, up from $1.5 billion in March 2012, because of the extraordinary growth of his privately held mortgage financing company. Forbes reports that the nation’s largest online lender closed $70 billion in mortgages last year, up from $30 billion in 2011.
Gilbert is also said to be purchasing Greektown Casino in Detroit, while being one of the main investors of a light rail system that will hope to improve the economic conditions of the rustbelt town.
When compared to the rest of the world, Gilbert, 51, slots in 354th overall. This compares to Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam who is said to be worth $1.8 billion, leaving him off of the top 500 as ranked by Forbes.
I want to assure everybody I’m more excited today about having the opportunity to own the Cleveland Browns — which is a very distinct and rare privilege — as I’ve ever been. I still plan on being heavily involved in all key Browns decisions. My time in Cleveland is not going to change at all. During the season we’re there a day or two a week and we’re there on weekends or wherever we’re playing. We’ll be very active and very visible during training camp and we’re obviously going to be there a lot during the free agency and draft periods which are obviously so important to the future of the Browns. [...] We’re going to be there as much as we need to be to insure success. We feel great about the team we’ve put in place but we’re still going to be highly involved and I think you saw how much we were there from August to December. We’re going to have a big presence in Cleveland.
– Cleveland Browns majority owner Jimmy Haslam III in an exclusive interview with Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Haslam, earlier this week, became the CEO of the Tennessee-based Pilot Flying J, a position from which he had resigned in the fall of 2012. Haslam owns a home on Cleveland’s east side and recently became a member of The Cleveland Clinic board of directors. Haslam stated that he will not be at th NFL combine, but had no plans of attending the event prior to this week’s announcment. He stated that he will help decide on all key player acquisitions in free agency, trades and the draft, April 25-27.
Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said today that his team will not only bring in a new quarterback this offseason, but whomever they sign will compete with Brandon Weeden for the starting job.
“I think [Norv Turner] and [Rob Chudzinski] have been very open that they like a lot of what Brandon [Weeden] does,” said Haslam, “but we’re going to have competition at that position, and I think competition makes us all better and we’ll see where that competition comes from.”
The Browns have been rumored to be in the mix for the potential services of current San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Smith is likely to be released or traded this offseason and he has a history with Turner, the team’s recently signed Browns offensive coordinator. Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer has also linked the team to Michael Vick due to his history with former Eagles front office wizard Joe Banner.
With the NFL’s free agency period set to kick of on March 12, the Browns will once again take part, but will not look to make any large moves.
“[The front office] is going to look at free agency and we’re going to look at the draft, and I think we’ll be selective in what we do in free agency,” said Haslam. “I don’t think you’ll see us making any big splashy, high-priced moves because I think we’ve said all along we’re going to build through the draft.”