SBD/May 9, 2014/FranchisesPrint All
The Browns on Thursday night selected QB Johnny Manziel with the 22nd overall pick in the NFL Draft, and they are "well aware of what awaits them in terms of attention and buzz," according to Pat McManamon of ESPN.com. The team within 25 minutes of Manziel's selection had "sold 200 new season tickets and had 300 renewed." A team VP "tweeted that the phones were ringing off the hook." The Browns "admit that while they discuss the best way to handle the hoopla, they also took Manziel as a talented player who has to earn a job" (ESPN.com, 5/8). ESPN's Sal Paolantonio said Browns Exec VP & Chief Revenue Officer Brent Stehlik told him the team has "got an army of young people taking ticket sales. ... Last night from midnight -- nobody went home here -- until 7:00-8:00am, they sold 1200 season tickets after the news hit" ("Sportscenter," ESPN, 5/9). In N.Y., Zach Schonbrun writes the wait for Manziel to be drafted "struck a different and dramatic chord" compared to previous years. Schonbrun: "Perhaps it was because he had come to symbolize a bit of what the NFL draft itself embodies: excessive hype, manufactured suspense and circuitous discourse" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/9). In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen writes Manziel while waiting to be drafted "sipped water and attempted to look impassive" and "he succeeded, too." He "knew the cameras were on him." Sorensen: "I figured there would be a Manziel cam" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/9). ESPN's Mark Schlereth said there was "not a person that didn’t go crazy in Radio City Music Hall. Regardless of what your team jersey was ... Everybody stood and cheered when Manziel went" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 5/9).
HERE'S JIMMY! In Cleveland, Terry Pluto writes, "We'll never know how much input [Browns Owner] Jimmy Haslam had in this decision." But he "certainly will love the buzz that will follow Manziel, who will be a focus of national media coverage" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 5/9). Also in Cleveland, Mary Kay Cabot writes Haslam has "been in love with Manziel for months" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 5/9). ESPN's Adam Schefter said of the Manziel selection, "This really is a Jimmy Haslam pick because Jimmy Haslam ... was his biggest champion" ("NFL Draft," ESPN, 5/8). Browns GM Ray Farmer said of Haslam, "At no point did he try to push, shove or dictate the pace of what we were doing. He definitely added his interest level behind the discussions that were happening. He was allowing us to go to work.” In Akron, Marla Ridenour writes Browns coach Mike Pettine "went through Tebowmania" while with the Jets. He said that the front office will "sit down in the next few days to discuss what needs to be done to cope with the onslaught" of media coverage (OHIO.com, 5/9).
CENTER OF ATTENTION: The PLAIN DEALER's Cabot writes Manziel will bring "instant attention to the Browns" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 5/9). NFL.com's Chris Wesseling writes, "All it took was one draft pick to transform the Browns' image from a league-wide laughingstock to one of the most intriguing, closely monitored franchises in the league. Where Johnny Football goes, eyeballs, television ratings and crazed fanboy acolytes are sure to follow" (NFL.com, 5/9). ESPN.com's McManamon writes the Browns are "again a story, again worth paying attention to." A team that "needed some kind of boost got it with the selection of Manziel." The "interesting thing will be how the Browns handle the circus that goes with Manziel" (ESPN.com, 5/9). NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal wrote the Browns have "gone from league laughingstock to one of the most fascinating teams in the NFL." They are in an "unfamiliar position: The trendy team that everyone wants to see on television" (NFL.com, 5/8). "The Dan Patrick Show" producer Paul Pabst tweeted, "NBC should flex Cleveland's opener." Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman added, "Hard Knocks: The Cleveland Browns would be sweet." CBS Sports' Jon Heyman: "The cleveland browns just might have had their best day since jim brown was a player."
RESISTING THE URGE: In Dallas, David Moore writes of the Cowboys passing on Manziel with the 16th pick, "If anyone needs proof that it’s no longer business as usual at Valley Ranch, Exhibit A came in the first round." Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones "resisted temptation" and the team "went with a much more pedestrian, sound pick" in G Zack Martin. Jones said the Cowboys have a "big commitment" to QB Tony Romo. He added, "There is no way any quarterback comes in here and beats out Tony Romo" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/9). NFL.com's Bryan Fisher wrote the Cowboys' pick of Martin was "safe and certainly beefed up an area of weakness for the team, but it was nevertheless an unpopular move, according to the masses on Twitter and in the media" (NFL.com, 5/8). In Ft. Worth, Gil Lebreton writes, "Not very sexy. Not very Jerry Jones-y, either." Drafting Manziel "would have been very much in keeping with the Jones-era Cowboys of old" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/9).
Texans GM Rick Smith said that the organization "had neither qualms nor reservations about drafting" DE Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday's NFL Draft, despite the fact that his "middling final college season raised a red flags in the 'character' category." The HOUSTON CHRONICLE noted both Smith and Texans coach Bill O'Brien "vetted the player personally on multiple occasions and sought input from those who had spent meaningful time in his presence." Smith: "Did we worry about his work ethic? Not at all. We think this guy will come in and work" (CHRON.com, 5/8).
BUSY BILLS: In Buffalo, Jerry Sullivan writes Bills GM Doug Whaley "put his reputation squarely on the line Thursday night, sending the ninth overall pick of this year’s draft, plus next year’s first- and fourth-round selections," to the Browns for the right to draft WR Sammy Watkins with the fourth overall pick. Whaley and Bills CEO Russ Brandon insisted that the team's "uncertain ownership situation has nothing to do" with the pick. But Sullivan writes the top management guys "can deny it all they like, but a clouded ownership creates a sense of urgency to win in the short term and make a good impression." The team has "gone 14 straight years without a playoff berth." Trading so many picks is "a huge gamble, one that could blow up in their faces, but at least they tried." Whaley: "This all goes back to Russ Brandon. He OK’d it and was willing to give up the resources and future picks to get us where we need to be" (BUFFALO NEWS, 5/9). SI.com's Don Banks asks, "With an ownership change on the way, who knows" if Whaley and Bills head coach Doug Marrone will "even be around to pay for this deal once its full price tag comes due?" The Bills "perennially finish in last place in the AFC East, so boldness was perhaps called for in this case" (SI.com, 5/9). Meanwhile, the Bills announced Thursday that players this season will "wear a commemorative patch on their jerseys" honoring late owner Ralph Wilson Jr. (ESPN.com, 5/8).
FAN BASE JOLTS: In Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes the Jaguars "did something to excite Orlando -- the franchise's biggest TV market" by drafting QB Blake Bortles, a native of Oviedo, Fla., and "it's about time." Orlando residents now "have a reason to want to watch the Jaguars games every Sunday instead of having to watch them" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/9)....In S.F., Ann Killion writes the Raiders deserve credit for "working very hard to give their fans reason for optimism." They "hit it big Thursday night in the first round" and did "as well as they could have hoped with the fifth overall pick" by picking LB Khalil Mack. The pick was "universally applauded, which doesn't happen often for the Raiders" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/9).
CONCERNS REMAIN: In K.C., Sam Mellinger writes the Chiefs used the No. 23 pick to take LB Dee Ford and "unwittingly let down a fan base hoping for something else." The pick is "something like a buzzkill for a fan base that had momentarily been worked into a frenzy" by the possibility of the team drafting QB Johnny Manziel (K.C. STAR, 5/9)....In Nashville, Jim Wyatt notes the Titans "have no concerns" about OT Taylor Lewan's "off-field issues or character, even though their first-round pick faces assault charges in Michigan." Titans GM Ruston Webster said, "We addressed those with Taylor. We addressed them prior (to the draft). Obviously, we talked about it even (Thursday) just to make sure. I feel pretty comfortable with where he is. Taylor is a tough guy. I feel pretty comfortable that we're going to get a solid guy here" (TENNESSEAN.com, 5/9)....In Detroit, Bob Wojnowski writes the Lions' selection of TE Eric Ebron at No. 10 is "not a popular pick or even a logical pick" -- unless QB Matthew Stafford and the new coaching staff "make it work" (DETROIT NEWS, 5/9).
ROWDY RAVENS: In Baltimore, Jon Meoli reports current and former Ravens players "joined more than 1,000 fans Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium for the team's draft party." Fans "lined the concourses in search of autograph stations, ran shuttle drills and 40-yard dashes ... and kicked field goals through the stadium uprights" (BALTIMORE SUN, 5/9).
Clippers co-Owner Rochelle Sterling does "not want to be the managing owner" of the Clippers and does "not want to buy out the other 50% share of the team owned by her husband Donald," but she "does want to keep her 50% share in the team," according to a source cited by Brent Schrotenboer of USA TODAY. The source said that she is "willing to be have an outside buyer come in to take her husband's stake while she stays in the background as a passive owner, as she is now." Asked if the NBA was OK with such a scenario, the source said that Rochelle Sterling "remains in talks with the league." Her intentions "complicate any league effort to wash its hands completely of the Sterling family" (USATODAY.com, 5/8). In N.Y., Scott Cacciola notes Rochelle Sterling, who in a statement Thursday said that she would continue to attend the Clippers’ playoff games, also has hired L.A.-based attorney Pierce O’Donnell to "represent her as the league moves to terminate her husband’s ownership of the team" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/9).
CLEAN SLATE: In L.A., Rainey, Bresnahan & Nelson note the statement "clarified her long-term intentions, raising concerns" among elected officials, civic leaders, fans and Clippers coach Doc Rivers about the "continued tenure of either of the Sterlings." L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson "called for a clean break from the Sterlings." Rivers said Rochelle Sterling's continued ownership could create "a very difficult situation" in which the team "wouldn't know really who was in charge." Meanwhile, NBA officials said that it would be "at least two more weeks" following the issuance of formal allegations against Sterling, before fellow owners would be in a position to judge whether their longest-tenured partner should be allowed to stay in place." One agent source said that a "transfer of power from Donald Sterling to his wife would be '100%' problematic for the Clippers in attracting free-agent players" (L.A. TIMES, 5/9). Rivers said of the Clippers staying in the Sterling family, "I think it would be a very hard situation. I can guarantee you every person wouldn't be on board with that. Whether I would or not, I'm not going to say, but I just know that would be a very difficult situation for everybody." He added, "There's no playbook. I think what's appropriate is what everyone thinks is appropriate. It's not whether I think it is or not. It's what the masses think is. And that doesn't mean the masses are right. If we've learned anything, the masses can be wrong too. Who knows what's right in this? We do know what's wrong in this. We don't know what's right" (L.A. TIMES, 5/9). ESPN's Israel Gutierrez said the NBA should feel a "little uneasy" about Rochelle Sterling's efforts to retain the team. ESPN's Pablo Torre noted she "has a very dark past as well" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/8).
The Blackhawks "are the only team" in Chicago that gained fans this year with an all-time high 47% fan rating, despite the fact that the franchise "was once the most anonymous in the city among the giants of the Bears, Bulls and baseball teams," according to Scarborough Research data cited by Shannon Ryan of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Since '07, when just 8% of surveyed Chicagoans watched, listened to or attended a game, "the fan base has skyrocketed." Scarborough Sports Marketing VP/Sales Bill Nielsen: "Overall a rise like that is really pretty unprecedented." Scarborough's research found that there was "only one instance where a hockey team had a higher percentage of fans than an NFL team" in the same city: the Red Wings (58%) in '03 surpassed the Lions (49%). Nielsen: "This is just a simple what-have-you-done-for-me-lately. The best, hottest, most successful team in the city has been the Blackhawks." Team execs said that the franchise's "structural organization, marketing, increased media presence, relatable players and fan outreach also are credited for the rise in popularity." Blackhawks Chair Rocky Wirtz: "We said in 2007 we wanted to be relevant because we weren't relevant." Team President & CEO John McDonough said that a "cohesive collaboration between the hockey and business side of the organization is the less obvious catalyst behind the numbers." The Blackhawks "strive to make their players accessible to media and the public, and they're always promoting the brand." The players, who "mostly live in the city rather than suburbs, are required to wear their hats facing forward and encouraged to use reporters' names and be prepared for interviews" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/9).
David Beckham vows to be an “involved team owner whenever and wherever” his MLS team kicks off in Miami, according to Michelle Kaufman of the MIAMI HERALD. Beckham on Thursday said, “This is very personal to me. In business, I don’t just give my name to something and say, ‘Do whatever you want.’ I am always 100 percent committed.” He added, “I will be the face of this club for many, many years. I will be at almost every home game, maybe every game, and some away games as well. ... I’m here, personally, to give something back to a game I’ve loved for 22 years” (MIAMI HERALD, 5/9). In Miami, Patricia Mazzei notes Beckham and his investors “expect to make money for a mostly privately financed” $250M stadium even though it would “only be filled maybe 25 days a year.” Beckam and his partner, XIX Entertainment Founder Simon Fuller, are “betting on the strength of the Beckham brand to draw television revenues and big-name sponsorships, as teams in far more established and more popular European soccer leagues do.” Fuller said, “We will generate more money than any other MLS team can dream of. The marketing power of a sports franchise is immense -- that’s how we are approaching it.” Fuller, Beckham and two of their reps spoke to the Herald's editorial board and “portrayed the soccer venture as a way to market Beckham -- and Miami -- internationally.” Fuller and Beckham “pushed back against their detractors, mainly Royal Caribbean Cruises, and stressed their dislike" of the possibility that the MLS team's stadium could go up next to Marlins Park. He called the Marlins ballpark site “a horrendous disservice to a massive ambitious, exciting prospect” (MIAMI HERALD, 5/9).
The Phillies as of their last home game on Tuesday were “league leaders in year-over-year attendance drop” with a "per-game plummet of 7,070" through 15 games at Citizens Bank Park, according to Chris Hepp of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. It also “represents an enormous loss of revenue.” If current numbers carry through the remainder of the season, it will be the “second in a row that the Phils have seen their home attendance plunge.” A "bright spot" is that the Phillies “still rank in the top half when it comes to the percentage of available seats filled each game.” The team is at 67.4% capacity at home, "which places it 11th of 30 in the major leagues.” That is a “far cry from the remarkable streak of 257 home sellouts that ended” in ‘12. Phillies VP/Sales & Ticket Operations John Weber said, “We have got some work to do.” He added, “Your season-ticket number is so important, especially in April and May, before schools let out." Both Weber and Phillies President & CEO David Montgomery noted there has been a “decrease in season-ticket sales to about 18,000,” whereas last year, “24,000 were sold” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/9).
The Suns are starting a "hybrid affiliation with the D-League's Bakersfield franchise" in an agreement that "is expected to be finalized next week," according to Paul Coro of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The Suns "will finance and run the basketball operations of the D-League franchise while Bakersfield's ownership will continue handling business operations, community relations and other non-basketball functions." The Suns "have shared the Bakersfield Jam as their D-League affiliate for player assignments since 2011 after previously sharing Iowa and Albuquerque with other NBA teams." The Suns will be the 15th NBA team to have a single-affiliation relationship with a D-League team (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/9). The Jam were affiliated with the Hawks, Clippers, Raptors, Jazz and Suns last season. The Fort Wayne Mad Ants are now the only NBA D-League club to be completely independent, having affiliations with the Bobcats, Pacers, Bucks and Magic (THE DAILY).