Gone are the days when Browns coach Eric Mangini gets another franchise-paralyzing year because president Mike Holmgren felt like it was the right thing to do.
Gone are the days of the five-year plan, which seemed more a case of Holmgren fiddling while Berea burned (and he and buddy Bob LaMonte got rich).
Gone are the days when the owner sits in a New York mansion texting his coach as the losses mount.
Gone, too, might be a lack of creativity on the field, stubbornly clinging to a scheme that does not fit the players’ strengths and the reluctance to draft a charismatic quarterback because the trade price seemed too steep, although two of those might be New Year’s resolutions.
New Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III did not build his father’s Pilot Flying J truck stop business into a billion-dollar company by sitting on his hands and waiting for the cost of gas to skyrocket. So when Haslam took over the Browns on Tuesday, decisiveness was the order of the day.
That was the case, even though he made only one real change and it came as no surprise. Haslam’s hiring of former Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner as Browns CEO and a settlement that allows Holmgren to walk away at the end of the year was stunning only for its speed. Holmgren’s departure was reported minutes after NFL owners unanimously voted to approve Haslam’s purchase of the Browns from Randy Lerner, but speculation about Banner surfaced within days of the sale’s Aug. 2 confirmation.
It is too early to tell if Banner is the right man for the job, especially since Northeast Ohio thought it had found the one to lead the Browns to their first Super Bowl when Holmgren arrived. But no matter the circumstances that led to Banner’s ouster from the Eagles in June, Banner is one thing Holmgren was not, a proven front-office executive. The Eagles made the playoffs in 11 of Banner’s 17 full seasons.
Holmgren was what Haslam called Tuesday “a de facto owner,” but he’d failed at his previous attempt to be a general manager with the Seattle Seahawks. Even when he fired Mangini after the 2010 season, Holmgren resisted the temptation to do what he did best and coach again, which might have prevented Tuesday’s transition. In the Browns’ sordid expansion history, Holmgren will be most remembered for taunting the media about requests for playoff tickets.
Haslam said Banner had been put through the same kind of extensive background check he used when hiring top executives at Pilot Flying J. Presumably that was much more extensive than the one the Browns did on 2001’s fifth-round choice Jeremiah Pharms, who was arrested for armed robbery just weeks after the draft. That’s just one of the stranger-than-fiction tales that have plagued the Browns for far too long.
Haslam didn’t rattle off a to-do list for 2012, although he said nothing might be sacred except the Browns’ helmet.
He didn’t go back on his word from less than two weeks ago and clean house immediately, instead giving coach Pat Shurmur and General Manager Tom Heckert 10 more games to prove themselves before evaluating everything after the season. Although Heckert reportedly doesn’t feel good about his chances despite the four years he spent as Eagles GM under Banner, the performance of Heckert’s draft choices could affect that decision. Shurmur, above all else, needs victories to have a prayer.
Haslam left nearly everything in place, but he emphasized he was ready to get to the business of winning football games. He left no doubt he will do more than watch every move and ask countless questions, he will take part.
“We think it’s important for ownership to be present and to be involved,” he said.
Haslam acknowledged he would make mistakes and some bad decisions, but “hopefully they’re not fatal and hopefully we can correct them quickly.”
But the sense of urgency in his voice and the same commanding presence Haslam showed in Berea on Aug. 3 made it clear that the bad draft choices and bad hires that robbed the franchise of its glory for the past 13½ years will not be tolerated.
He knows the young Browns must learn how to win. But with the sense of decisiveness that accompanied Haslam’s arrival, “Here we go again” seemed out the window, banished in an instant.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.