SBD/July 22, 2013/Franchises

Browns' Banner Discusses Ambitions Of The Franchise, Haslam's Legal Woes

Banner said before coming to Cleveland he saw the market as totally untapped
Browns CEO Joe Banner "spoke for more than an hour on the state of the franchise" in a Q&A with Terry Pluto of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Pluto wrote of Banner, "The most impressive part was the clarity of his plan to build the team" (CLEVELAND.com, 7/21).  The following are excerpts from the interview:

Q: Does all the losing worry you?
Banner: No. Nor does it scare me. That's because everything not right is fixable, and everything out of your control is very good. ... The things you can't control are so positive. The fan base is passionate. The market wants you to succeed so much. The media can create a lot of excitement if you are going well. If you do things right, you can attract coaches and players here. These things are not present in every NFL city.

Q: How did you see the Browns when you were running the Philadelphia Eagles?
Banner: We viewed Cleveland as a totally untapped, phenomenal football market. The opportunity to do something special is here, but it seems no one has been able to seize it.

Q: Why can that change?
Banner: If you look at teams that have made significant turnover in their front office and coaching staff, you know fairly quickly if they are on the right track. It's not too long that some of the wins start to come ... that's different than thinking you're on the right track, but the wins aren't starting to follow.

Q: What is the goal [in making several changes in the front office and coaching staff]?
Banner: Some people are intimidated about setting the bar really high. We want to build a Super Bowl team. For some people, that's too much pressure. And some people may say, "You won five games, what are you talking about the Super Bowl for?"

Q: Someone has the final word [in the draft room], right?
Banner: Unambiguously, the answer is me. No matter if I'm making the decision or those we employ are making it, I'm accountable. I'm perfectly willing to take the blame. Hopefully, it goes well, and (everyone) gets some credit.

Q: Do you understand why some fans are nervous about the FBI investigation in [Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam III]'s Pilot Flying J?
Banner: I know why people would be unsettled by it. But at the same time, fans can trust what we said about it.

Q: How does this impact the Browns?
Banner: As it relates to the day-to-day operation of running the Browns, it will be unaffected by it.

Q: Even though Haslam will have to pay millions in lawsuits and legal fees?
Banner: Nothing is going to happen that will alter that vision or affect our ability to run the franchise.

Q: Is the team for sale?
Banner: The team is not for sale (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 7/21).

VET AFFAIRS: FORBES.com's Mike Ozanian reported Haslam tomorrow is "likely going to have to testify about what he knew about the massive fraud committed by his company." Ozanian: "You think the NFL is trying to figure out who could replace Haslam this very moment?" The people who "can afford to come up with" the amount of money needed to buy an NFL or MLB franchise "often push pedal to the metal in their business dealings." That makes them "more likely to be probed, looked into and perhaps, ultimately, investigated by the law." As team values "go up, the vetting process of prospective team buyers will become more challenging for league commissioners" (FORBES.com, 7/20).
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