CHICAGO: Jimmy Haslam proved he won’t hesitate to make a decision when he knows what he wants.
Former Philadelphia Eagles President Joe Banner will serve as CEO of the Browns beginning Oct. 25. And Browns President Mike Holmgren will retire at the end of this season.
Haslam revealed the moves Tuesday, not long after NFL owners unanimously approved his purchase of the Browns during their meeting at the JW Marriott hotel in downtown Chicago. He said since July he has talked to several candidates for the role of his right-hand man, and Banner separated himself.
“I like people who are smart, intense, focused and work hard — that sums up Joe Banner,” Haslam said. “There’s no BS. He comes to work every day, and Joe is firmly committed to building the Cleveland Browns like we are. I look forward to working with Joe and others. He’s not gonna do it. I’m not gonna do it. It’s going to be a collective team effort to, like I said, give the fans of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio the team they deserve.”
Haslam will introduce Banner during a news conference at 10 a.m. today at the team’s headquarters in Berea. Banner, 59, responded to an email from the Beacon Journal but declined to comment on his new position with the Browns until he takes the podium this morning.
“I think Jimmy Haslam will be an excellent owner in our sport and I applaud him for bringing someone of Joe Banner’s caliber to his team,” said Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, a childhood friend of Banner. “This is just the sort of opportunity Joe was looking for at this stage of his career. I am happy for him, and all of us at the Eagles wish him well.”
Holmgren, 64, has served as the president of the Browns since January 2010, and the team is 10-28 since he took control. He will stick around through the end of the year to assist in the transition, Haslam said.
“Mike has decided with our becoming the owner that his role would obviously change a lot,” said Haslam, who agreed to buy the Browns from Randy Lerner for about $1 billion on Aug. 2. “Mike was brought in to be the president and I think in a lot of ways the de facto owner. And with us coming in and taking a more active role, Mike has decided to effective at the end of the year to leave the Cleveland Browns and to retire. Mike will work very closely with us over the next three or four months to ensure that this transition goes as well as possible. Mike and I have had numerous long talks, and I know that he has been and still is committed to doing everything he can to help make the Cleveland Browns a better football team.”
Haslam said he won’t make any other changes to the front office or the coaching staff until after this season. The Browns are 1-5 and finished 4-12 last season.
“I will tell you exactly what I told [coach] Pat Shurmur on Saturday night and the other key people of the organization: This is the only personnel change we’re gonna make until the end of the season, and I’m not at all saying we’re gonna make changes at the end of the season,” Haslam said. “But this is the only personnel change we’re gonna make and candidly we felt with Mike deciding that the role no longer fit him, we thought it was important to bring somebody in, so we do have a good transition [and] we’re able to hit the ground running after the end of this season.”
Still, Haslam knows the importance of putting the right pieces into place. Shurmur and General Manager Tom Heckert worked with Banner during their tenures with the Eagles, though their future with the Browns remains uncertain.
“It’s all about the people,” Haslam said. “The franchises that win and win consistently, and that’s what we want to do, have the best people. Whether that’s in the front office or the coaching staff or on the field, they have the best people. So there’s going to be a huge focus on getting the right people.”
Banner began managing the Eagles’ day-to-day operations in 1994 and became their president in 2001. He stepped down in June and has since held the title of strategic adviser to the owner. Banner will not hold an ownership stake in the Browns, Haslam said.
“Joe will be a huge asset to the Cleveland Browns,” Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman said. “He can identify good people, and develop the skills and talents of the people around him. Above all the Cleveland Browns got a good person and we wish him well.”
Banner has a reputation for being a salary-cap guru and a tough contract negotiator, but he did not have a direct role in personnel decisions during his time with the Eagles. Banner, though, will be able to wield such power in Cleveland, Haslam said.
“Football will report to Joe,” Haslam said. “We haven’t worked out the details, all the final details, but football will report to Joe as the CEO.”
Haslam also indicated he and Banner would work together on future hiring decisions.
“Joe’s gonna be the CEO,” Haslam said. “He’ll be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the company, but any big decisions, we’ll be involved in.”
Holmgren’s contract pays him about $8 million a year and runs through 2014.
When asked if Holmgren will receive a settlement on the remainder of his contract, Haslam said: “Well, sure, and I’m not gonna talk about that. But I think it’s been a very amicable situation with Mike.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league did not pair Haslam with Banner.
“That’s Jimmy’s decision,” Goodell said. “Joe is a proven executive in the NFL.”
Haslam reiterated that he’ll hire architects to determine whether some type of roof could be built on Cleveland Browns Stadium. “Is a dome a possibility? Yes,” Haslam said. “I’m not smart enough to tell you if it’s two percent or 50 percent. We’ll investigate and see.” … Goodell said he has not had any discussions with Haslam about Cleveland hosting a Super Bowl, “but that’s something if he’s interested, we’ll certainly look at it.” … Browns linebacker Scott Fujita publicly criticized Goodell for the way he has handled the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, but Goodell declined to comment on Fujita’s remarks.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj