The Cleveland Browns haven’t made the playoffs since 2002 and haven’t won more than five games since 2007. They’re off to a 1-5 start, but the franchise may have had something to smile about as Jimmy Haslam has now officially taken over as the team’s owner.
Haslam has made it very clear that he’s not just going to stand pat, as it was quickly revealed that president Mike Holmgren is on the outs and Joe Banner’s on the way in. Haslam says that in today’s NFL, there’s no reason to have a losing franchise, and he’s ready to take responsibility.
Jimmy Haslam joined 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland with Bull & Fox to discuss what it’s like to now officially own the team, replacing Mike Holmgren with Joe Banner, other personnel decisions, what it will take to make the franchise a winner, quarterback Brandon Weeden and other possibilities for the franchise going forward.
Everyone’s known for a long time that you were going to be the owner, but what’s it feel like now that it’s official?:
“It’s really exciting and what I’ve told everybody is, coming from business, I would say it is akin to having the deal consummated and now we’ve got to make the new company work. And we’re fully committed to giving every bit of effort we can to bringing the Browns fans, the greatest fans in the world, a winner here in Cleveland.”
You’ve said that former Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner will take over for Mike Holmgren. How did you and Banner get together?:
“When we became involved, when it became obvious in late July that we were probably going to have a chance to buy a controlling interest in the Browns, we started talking to a lot of different people. … Joe’s name kept popping up from various sources as one of the top executives, not just in the NFL but in pro sports. We spent a lot of time together over the last three months getting to know each other and I feel like he’s a great fit to be the CEO of our organization.”
There are already reports out there that general manager Tom Heckert believes he’ll be fired and that he’s already shopping himself around. Can you comment on that?:
“I can. I sat down with Tommy on Sunday and talked with Pat Saturday night and talked with several other people in the building on Sunday because I wanted them to hear from me exactly what was going on. … I just told Tom exactly what’s happening. We’ve made no decisions and I look forward to working closely with Tom over the last 10 or 11 weeks.”
What do you look for in a head coach?:
“I think you want somebody who’s a good leader. You’re leading, really, 53 men in a pretty tough situation for an extended period of time. I think you want a good leader, I think you want somebody who’s smart, somebody that works hard, somebody that’s focused and somebody that works well with others. Pat [Shurmur] certainly has all of those characteristics.”
What’s it going to take to turn this franchise into a winner?:
“I think it’s all about people. If you think about it, there are really no assets of an NFL team. … I guess we own some shoulder pads and some footballs and some weights, but our assets are the people. And we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the right people in the right place, that we set them up in an environment they can be successful in and motivate them. And there’s no reason Cleveland can’t win. I said that back on Aug. 3. The way the NFL works, there’s no excuse for a team not winning, and if we don’t win, I’ll accept full responsibility.”
Do you consider Brandon Weeden the quarterback of the future?:
“I think it’s to be determined, and I think Brandon understands that. He’s making good progress. I was really proud of him the other day. He got dinged up a little bit, came back in, completed 8 of 9 passes and made some clutch throws at clutch times. That’s what good quarterbacks do, they win the game at the end, and I thought Brandon played exceptionally well. … If you go back to the first game, he’s made marked improvement.”
What are your thoughts on a potential roof on the stadium in Cleveland?:
“Let me say this. One thing I’ve learned in the NFL, you better be careful about what you say, because everything you say as an NFL owner gets blown out of proportion. I was asked if there’s a possibility of a roof going on our stadium … and I said, ‘Well, certainly there’s a possibility.’ I’ll be quite frank, guys, I don’t know if that’s 25 percent or one percent. But what we have committed to do is do everything we can with our existing friendly to make it better for our fans.”