Browns owner Jimmy Haslam spoke to the Beacon Journal this morning by phone from Washington D.C. Here are some highlights from the interview:
Q: CBS showed your reactions on camera during its telecasts of the Browns’ losses to the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 21 and the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 4. Are you glad it happened or do you regret it?
A: “The only thing that I want to make sure everybody understood, there was a widespread feeling that my frustration was over a fourth-down call. My frustration was over the disappointment of a dropped touchdown pass that could’ve won the game [against the Colts]. And so in that case, I think I reacted like almost every other Cleveland Browns fan did. Football is an emotional, passionate game, and I’m a huge fan. I obviously have a lot at stake with the Cleveland Browns, and I don’t have the ability to just sit there passively and watch a game when good and bad things happen. And I don’t know that the Cleveland Browns fans want us to quite frankly.”
Q: But there were two reactions shown during the game against the Colts. When rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon dropped the touchdown pass, you swiped the air. After coach Pat Shurmur elected to punt on fourth-and-1 from the Colts’ 41-yard line, you sat back in your chair and locked your jaw.
A: “That had nothing to do with the fourth-down call, and I made sure that Pat knew and understood that. My reaction was simply to the dropped pass. As you remember, I think we ended up losing by four [points] and that would have put us ahead with [6:38] left in the game. So those are the plays you just need to make, and I know next time Josh will make that play. It was just disappointing.”
Q: Those reactions might have helped fuel the perception that Shurmur and General Manager Tom Heckert will be gone after this season. Is there any chance that won’t be the case and you won’t hit the reset button?
A: “I think we’ve been very honest and very open since Aug. 3. First of all, we’re weren’t gonna comment on any personnel decisions, and that’ll be the case every year till the end of the year, so that’s the case now. But we feel like we’re making progress as a football team. We’ve lost a lot of close games. We did beat the Steelers the other day. We’re 3-8 but could easily be 6-5 or 5-6, so the team is better than it was. It’s the youngest or next-youngest team in the league, and I think we’re making progress.”
Q: What opinion are you and CEO Joe Banner forming about Brandon Weeden in terms of whether he can be the franchise’s quarterback of the future?
A: “I would say it’s a work in progress. We’ve played 11 games. We have five games left. Brandon’s a rookie. He’s done some things well. Like all rookies, there’s some things he can do better. And we’ll sit down and evaluate Brandon at the end of the year just like we will every player on the team. Obviously Brandon plays quarterback. So that is without a doubt the most important position on the team.”
Q: Do you believe the decision you face regarding Weeden is just about as important as the decisions you face regarding the coach and GM?
A: “I think if you look at the teams that win and win consistently in the NFL and you go back to when I shared what other owners shared with me in terms of what’s important in terms of having a consistent winning team, the first answer everybody gives you is, ‘You’ve gotta have a really good quarterback.’ So it’s exceptionally important.”
Q: Since you bought the team, former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar has publicly expressed a desire to work for the organization. Will you hire him in an official capacity?
A: “We have not had any talks with Bernie involving any kind of official capacity. As you know, Bernie is a Cleveland icon. He and I talk and text frequently. As a matter of fact, I got two or three texts from him last night. But we’ve had no official conversations about any kind of formal role.”
Q: Is there any update about a potential role for Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown?
A: “I haven’t talked to Jim in the last two or three weeks. I did get a congratulatory phone call from him after we won the other day, and I’m sure we’ll be talking again in the not-too-distance future.”
Q: Has former NFL coach Jon Gruden been offered an ownership stake in the Browns?
A: “No, that’s completely, I’m not at all involved in the UT [University of Tennessee coaching] search, the UT football search, and that’s a completely erroneous report. It was, I thought, almost laughable. Jon Gruden’s a great guy and a great coach, but I have no idea where that came from.”