SBD/January 2, 2014/Franchises

Browns' Haslam, Banner Admit They Deserve Skepticism, But Vow To Correct Mistakes

Haslam and Banner said the responsibility to make the Browns winners is theirs
Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam III and CEO Joe Banner on Monday said they "deserve the skepticism'' from fans for firing coach Rob Chudzinski after only one season, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. The duo "spent a half hour defending their unpopular decision" and "convincing an angry fan base that they'll get it right on their second try." Banner said, "As unpopular and undesirable for us to be sitting here right now and acknowledging that we didn't get it right, the fact that we're making this change makes a statement that we're not going to accept not being really successful. Whether you agree with the decision or not, that's an important message for our fans to hear. We're going to demand of everybody -- especially and starting with ourselves -- that we be successful and if we're not, we're going to do what we need to do to get there.'' Haslam said, "We understand why there might be some skepticism. … In our estimation, it was best to go ahead and make the change and try to get it right so that we can move forward and candidly and most importantly, give the fans here the kind of winner they deserve." Haslam said, "This is THE crucial off-season for the Cleveland Browns. Joe and I accept that, we accept the responsibility. We have lots of room on the cap. ... If we get that wrong, (the) responsibility’s on us. So we all understand." Meanwhile, Banner "rejected the notion of dissension in the ranks, and that Chudzinski clashed with members of the front office over personnel moves" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 12/31).

THE HEAT IS ON: In Akron, Nate Ulrich noted Haslam also defended the decision to fire Chudzinski "by alluding to" the $10.5M the team owes him for the final three years of his contract. He said, "We’re talking with our pocketbook here. So these are not cheap moves to make, and I’m not saying that should be the guiding factor, but we’re doing everything we can to get this right." Haslam also "insisted he believes he’ll be able to attract the right coach despite the stability of his ownership being in question." He said, "I don’t know how many times I can say that we expect the Browns to be a long-term asset of our family" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 12/31). In Cleveland, Tom Reed wrote, "Selling potential candidates on a long-term vision of a franchise that's fired two coaches in 13 months will be tricky." Haslam and Banner "used the phrase 'get it right' or 'get this right' 11 times during a 30-minute news conference." Banner "knows he won't get the chance to hire a third coach in three years and it's hard to imagine Haslam would want the embarrassment of starting from scratch again so soon" (CLEVELAND.com, 12/31).

THREE-RING CIRCUS? In Cleveland, Terry Pluto wrote Banner is the "voice" of the front office. GM Mike Lombardi "works for him." Banner "makes the major calls on the hiring of coaches, the top draft picks, free agents and trades." Lombardi and others such as Assistant GM Ray Farmer "have input, but Banner makes the call." There are "some blaming Lombardi for the firing of Chudzinski." It is "very possible Lombardi favored a coaching change, but it doesn't happen without Banner strongly in favor of the move" (CLEVELAND.com, 12/30). In Akron, Marla Ridenour wrote Haslam on Monday put Banner and Lombardi "on the hot seat." The Haslams "aren't going anywhere." Even if the FBI investigation into rebate fraud at Pilot Flying J "results in Haslam's indictment, someone in his family would likely take over the Browns." If Haslam is "back in a year or two discussing the firing of another coach, Banner and Lombardi will also pay with their jobs." Haslam has "no loyalties to either man" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 12/31).

DAWG DAYS OF SUMMER: A Cleveland PLAIN DEALER editorial stated Haslam and Banner "deserve blame, too -- especially Banner, who has to stop referencing his time" with the Eagles as a "reason why Browns fans should have faith in his leadership." What is "more relevant to Browns fans is that Banner was involved in hiring a head coach one year ago who he now believes was a mistake." A lot of "important decisions will have to be made." It is to be "hoped that the Browns will break from tradition by getting a lot of them right" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 12/31). THE MMQB's Mark Bechtel wrote what is "so maddening about the move from the standpoint of a fan is its utter tone-deafness." It is "similar to the team’s decision to trade" RB Trent Richardson to the Colts earlier this season. Both moves scream, "We have no direction and no vision, so we’re going to scrap any sort of long-term plan and start over. Again" (MMQB.SI.com, 12/30).

TRUST ISSUES: In Cleveland, Bud Shaw wrote many who "once saw" Haslam as a "dynamic, charismatic leader -- the anti-Randy Lerner -- have vaulted past healthy skepticism and landed knee deep in distrust." Chudzinski's firing is "another gouge on Haslam’s credibility -- granted, small in comparison to what’s happening back in Knoxville and the possibility of a federal indictment to come" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 12/31). In Columbus, Rob Oller wrote the front office should "stop talking until you start winning, because we've heard it all before." It "may well be that Chud was not the right man for the job," but also "blame Haslam and Banner for their inability to discern leadership skills during the hiring process" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 12/31). Also in Cleveland, Jeff Darcy wrote Haslam and Banner have "succeeded in doing what I once thought was unthinkable, making me miss [former owners] Art Model and Randy Lerner" (CLEVELAND.com, 12/31).
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