The latest round of dysfunction in Berea has taken a serious toll on me as a football fan and it might have permanently changed my perspective of the game. A week or so ago, I got into a conversation with a Twitter follower who has been reading WFNY for some time, and he noted how much I’ve changed in terms of how I look at the Cleveland Browns. Where I once looked for ways they could be getting things right and improving, I now look with a skeptical eye. I acknowledge this change and I think it’s interesting to look at how it all came about. I don’t think it necessarily started in the past year, but I believe the tipping point was the raid on Pilot Flying J.
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.
In a lot of ways, I’m happy that Mike Holmgren’s services are no longer needed in Cleveland. Given the team’s record over the last three years, I welcome the opportunity to have someone else lead this team. Still, I’m a bit taken aback by some of the outbursts on Twitter and on local talk radio that look to cast Mike Holmgren as public enemy number one. [Read more...]
Though he represented Randy Lerner in years past, current Cleveland Browns team president Mike Holmgren has decided to bail on his planned trip to the 2012 NFL owners meetings held in Chicago, Illinois.
Since officially stepping in as team president in January 2010, Holmgren had been casting ownership votes on league business on behalf of Lerner. Daryl Ruiter of 92.3 The Fan reports that Holmgren was scheduled to make the trip once again, but with the meeting largely focused on the sale of the Browns to Jimmy Haslam III, the team president opted to sit this one out.
Ruiter adds that, while Haslam is in attendance, it is unclear as to who will represent the Browns at this year’s meetings. Currently, Bryan Wiedmeier, the team’s Executive Vice President of Business, is in Chicago.
[Related: That Sure Was Fun, Wasn’t It?]
I know many in Cleveland are tired of hearing from Jim Brown because his truth isn’t always the easiest to hear whether he’s talking about Trent Richardson or Art Modell. Brown seemingly also didn’t appreciate Mike Holmgren’s version of the truth that he didn’t need Jim Brown in his larger adviser role that Randy Lerner had given him before “The Big Show” arrived. All those rifts aside, it can’t be a bad thing to have the greatest Cleveland Browns player in team history involved with the team.
It will be Brown’s first time at Cleveland Browns Stadium in more than two years. He has been at odds with the club since team president Mike Holmgren removed him from his role as an adviser to owner Randy Lerner, who is selling the franchise to Jimmy Haslam III. Holmgren offered Brown a reduced role with the team, but he declined.
So, we’ll see how it all goes. Nice to know that there will at least be a chance to have Brown around the team with Jimmy Haslam taking ownership soon. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if it all blew up again either.
Now that it has sunk in that the Browns have a new owner, I am extremely happy at the prospects. There are no guarantees that Jimmy Haslam is going to do this thing right, but it represents opportunity for Browns fans to have something that most didn’t even think possible a few short weeks ago. These newly owned Browns have potential for something new and different that hasn’t been seen on the North Coast since forever and a day (at least.) Browns fans can realistically think about possibly having a healthy top-down culture with real leadership.
I was really happy when Randy Lerner outsourced himself to Mike Holmgren. That wasn’t me being some kind of blind “In Holmgren We Trust” type of guy, but I considered him the best possible option given the Randy Lerner ownership. It is true that Mike Holmgren had never served as a team president before and his time as a general manager was stained by his removal from the position in Seattle. Still, I saw an owner floundering with stranger configurations in Berea than a kid re-arranging his room for the first time without the help of his parents. [Read more...]
The Browns are sold even if the ink isn’t dry. This much we know. What we don’t know is how it all came to pass. Let’s go through the timeline a bit.
January, Randy Lerner goes on Mike Trivisonno’s radio show to raise his profile. It seemed like Lerner was finally starting to get the need to have his voice heard.
February, Vince Grzegorek does a great piece for Scene on Lerner that was cultivated over multiple meetings with Lerner in Berea over the previous months. One of many revelations in that piece was that Lerner was setting up shop in Cleveland with his son going to school at St. Ignatius.
Instead of spending a couple days a week in Cleveland and the rest in New York, where his other three children live with his ex-wife Lara, the script would be flipped. He would still fly to England on business for his other sporting property — Aston Villa, the soccer team he bought in 2006 — but the majority of his time would be spent on the shores of Lake Erie.
Additionally from Vince’s interview we learn that Lerner considers his team ownership more of a stewardship before saying of the Browns, “I think it should belong to the city.”
June, Howard Eskin reports out of Philly that the Cleveland Browns could be for sale along with the Rams and Bills. We can now pretty well speculate that Eskin was getting his info out of Joe Banner or people close to him.
Just as quickly as the Eskin reports came out, the denial came flying out of Berea via Neal Gulkis.
And then a couple months later, the Browns are sold to Jimmy Haslam III for what is reported to be over a billion dollars total when all is said and done.
So what really happened? [Read more...]
The difference in Pat Shurmur year over year is obvious. While it is far too early to see how it translates to the team on the field, there’s simply no doubting he is a different guy than the guarded, often flustered coach that talked to the media every day last year about the percentage of “installation” that had been completed. Simply put, Shurmur often looked like a guy who needed more coffee but dreaded wasting any time because he had so much to do. He wasn’t rude, but he just seemed drained more often than not in the first few days of camp a year ago.
Shurmur spoke to it directly today. A year ago when players walked by him, “I was watching numbers walk by,” he said. “Now as I watch a guy walk by, I know his wife. I’ve talked to him this morning, I know what he did last year. I know how to push his buttons. I know how he responds to adversity.”
When one phase of your job becomes more comfortable though, another phase is likely to pop up and surprise you. The pending sale of the Browns probably isn’t weighing heavier on anyone in Berea more than Pat Shurmur. [Read more...]
Randy Lerner’s father, Al Lerner, bought the Browns for $530 million in 1998. After a decade of losing, Randy was looking to sell the Brownies for a price upward of $1 billion (sweet gig, being a sports owner, eh?). While it looks like Lerner’s billion dollar asking price won’t be met, I’d imagine he’ll be okay with this outcome:
Randy Lerner is in the process of selling the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League to James Haslam for $920 million, according to someone familiar with the deal but who has not been authorized to speak about it publicly.
Lerner had been looking for between $1 billion and $1.1 billion for the team his father purchased for $530 million in 1998. Haslam is currently a minority owner of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and is president and CEO of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Flying J, an $18 billion in sales chain of truck stops.
Last August we valued the Browns at $977 million, 2oth out of the league’s 32 teams. The Browns posted an operating loss (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of $2.9 million during the 2010 season. The only other NFL teams to have an operating loss that year were the Detroit Lions. The Browns have lost 67% of their games during their 13 seasons. The only team to do worse over that span? The Lions.
It has been rumored ever since Al Lerner died in 2002 that his son, Randy, who bought the English soccer team Aston Villa in 2006, might sell the Browns. He is believed to be more interested in soccer than football and has pumped over $150 million into the struggling soccer team. Two years ago the team’s fans petitioned Lerner to sell the Browns.
The paperwork for the sale has not been delivered to the NFL offices yet. And Lerner has been talking to other potential buyers. But Haslam is by far the furthest along in the process, according to my source. And since he is already familiar to the owners as a minority investor in the Steelers, it is not expected the league will have any objections.
[Related: So Jimmy Haslem Could Invest In The Browns]
The first fear any Browns fan has when talking about the team being sold is that they could be stolen1 from the city again as Art Modell did so many years ago. It was most of our instincts to think that Randy Lerner would look to ensure that the Browns would never move, and according to Pat McManamon, that is the case.
According to the source, the sale is contingent on “a complete and unconditional personal assurance that the team can never be moved from the city of Cleveland before he heard any details of the proposal.”
Now let’s hope that this is a legally binding document with some actual substance. I’d hate to think that the future geography of the Cleveland Browns could be a verbal contract.
- They weren’t moved. They were stolen. Call it what it is. [↩]
Banner was most recently the president of the Philadelphia Eagles. He was replaced in the role, but remained a “strategic advisor” to Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie.
Banner spoke to Pro Football Talk last month about looking for a team to target.
Then again, Banner told PFT Live last month that he’s ideally looking for a place that needs a dramatic turnaround. And it’s not really a turnaround if new ownership turns around and keeps the current G.M. and head coach.
So, with that in mind, we’ll see how this shakes out for the Browns and Mike Holmgren. It might not mean a whole lot for Tom Heckert as he and Banner were together there for a while.
Again, as I’ve said previously, I hope it doesn’t mean a complete re-do of the team structure from the top down. If he plugs himself in as president and retains his GM and at least the style of football the Browns are running like the 4-3 defense, it won’t be so bad. Heaven help us all if we have to live through another defensive transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4 as we did when Romeo Crennel came in.
[Related: So Jimmy Haslam Could Invest in the Browns?]
First of all, let’s just get all the freak outs out of the way. Change is scary. Uncertainty! Screaming! Crying?
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business, bullet point style.
- Jimmy Haslam is the 55 year-old CEO of Pilot Travel Centers. He is the son of an 81-year-old Jim Haslam II. Randy Lerner’s statement mentions Jimmy so we’re talking about the 55-year-old and not the 81-year-old.
- So he’s the son of a billionaire. Haven’t we been down this road before? Maybe. Maybe not. Haslam has been the CEO of the company since 2001 and the company has grown since that time. This is not a shot at Randy Lerner. Just pointing out he’s been running a privately held corporation that has a reported 13,000+ employees today.
- Jimmy Haslam is an investor with the Steelers.1 While that may be disconcerting to some at first, let’s look at what he told Steelers.com that impressed him enough that he wanted to invest in the team. “I was immediately impressed with Art and Dan Rooney’s business acumen and conservative philosophy.” Translation: I don’t want to emulate Dan Snyder or Jerry Jones.
- Also from that same interview, Haslam says he grew up a Cowboys fan and then became a Colts fan. Presumably the Colts thing is because he is a huge supporter of Tennessee, so naturally he wanted to follow Peyton Manning’s career. Hard to argue with that. Obviously after investing with the Steelers, he became a Steelers fan. [Read more...]
- “OMG! The Steelers are the Browns’ biggest rival! I’m so scared. Hold my hand!” I thought we were getting this out of our system. [↩]
One of the greatest Browns in history continues to be a topic of conversation as Mike Holmgren talked a bit about Jim Brown during his press conference today. Despite Brown’s continued criticisms of Randy Lerner and his comments about Trent Richardson, Holmgren was mostly complimentary.
“How the Browns view Jim Brown hasn’t changed and will never change,” Holmgren said after talking about Brown being one of his football heroes. At the same time, Holmgren seems to understand a bit of the animosity saying, “I can see where Jim would be upset with me with his role change.” This, of course, refers to Holmgren deciding to discontinue Jim Brown’s club consulting duties.
At the end of the day, the Browns might just be paying lip service, but Holmgren indicates they’d like nothing more than Jim Brown to be associated with the team as one of its greatest players.
Holmgren finished, “I’d like Jim Brown to come and be a part of this. I’d welcome him with open arms.”
The Cleveland Browns are allegedly one of a handful of NFL teams that are for sale according to WIP’s Howard Eskin.
In a tweet regarding the ex-Philadelphia Eagles president buying the Bills, Eskin, the Eagles’ sideline reporter, states that league sources tell him the Browns join the St. Louis Rams and Buffalo franchise as teams that are also for sale.
Current Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner inherited the team following the passing of his father Al who owned the team since their return in 1999. Lerner’s tenure has been a disappointment to many with the Browns having made the playoffs one time since his family obtained ownership. Despite a lack of overall success, it is speculated that the value of the team has doubled since 1999.
It is speculated that while Lerner may not be actively seeking sale, the team can be had for the right price.
(Update: Per Browns PR via The Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot, the Browns are not for sale.)