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Volume 24 No. 159


Browns CEO Joe Banner discusses his role in the team's front office, his working relationship with team Owner Jimmy Haslam III and what changes may be in store for the franchise in an interview with Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. The following is an excerpt from the Q&A:

Q: What will your role be in football decisions such as the draft?
Banner: I will be one of the four or five people in that room. I'll have a voice. In some instances, it will go through me, but our goal is always to drive a consensus. That's always been my role as it related to the football part of operations.

Q: Will Jimmy Haslam be one of those four or five people?
Banner: Yes, absolutely because he's smart and he has common sense. The right decisions don't necessarily come out of someone who's always been a traditional football guy. Sometimes they come more from common sense than anything. He watches football and he's going to have perspective on what's most important.

Q: You're perceived as more of a business/salary-cap guy that a football guy. Is that accurate?
Banner: I think that definition has properly evolved over the last five or 10 years. There's a lot of examples of smart, hardworking guys running successful teams that are not thought of as football guys. You can't hire an Andy Reid without knowing something about football.

Q: But do you watch film and do some scouting?
Banner: I don't think the Eagles drafted a guy that I haven't watched. I'll watch all of the top guys and any free agent we're thinking of signing.

Q: Who will decide if a change at head coach/GM is necessary?
Banner: I will lead on all of the day-to-day type of things including if we're going to make a change and really be responsible for putting together the right list of people to consider for the change. I don't care who you are in the NFL, the owner has final say on everything.

Q: Will you assume the title of president or hire one?
Banner: CEO is more than enough. Everybody in the building reports to me. If I do hire a president, it won't be for the football side. Will there be a president, a COO, an executive vice president? That's part of what I'm deciding. I'm really trying to stay open-minded about the organizational structure and hope to decide that in the next one to three or four weeks. Right now I'm 60-40 on not naming a president, but that could change.

Q: Your biggest strength?
Banner: Being able to evaluate potential hires and put together really good people regardless of what area. I think it's my greatest strength and I think my history would back it up. You won't bat 100 percent. But you pick good people, create an environment for success and keep them together for a long time (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 11/9).

GETTING ACQUAINTED: In Akron, Nate Ulrich writes Banner "concedes changes are inevitable" but he is "still in the phase of figuring out what needs to be altered and how drastic those modifications will be." Banner said, "There is a huge challenge here. I consider that kind of good news because that's what I thrive on." Ulrich notes Banner on Sunday "attended a game in Cleveland for the first time since he began working as Haslam's right-hand man." Banner said that he and Haslam "have had a few conversations with architects about their ideas for stadium enhancements, but they have yet to hold any meetings." Banner "doesn't favor the idea of adding a retractable roof to the stadium." But he said that the scoreboards and sound systems "would be changed eventually." Banner: "As it relates to scoreboards and sound systems, things have advanced so far from when these systems came from. I don't want to prejudge anything, but it's inconceivable we won't be making some very dramatic changes there." He added, "We'll have Wi-Fi in the building. Now will we have it by next year, meaning 2013? I hope so. It depends upon how it fits into the more comprehensive changes" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 11/9).

Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross has “hit a comfortable stride as an NFL owner,” according to Armando Salguero of the MIAMI HERALD. Ross’ true agenda and feelings “are showing more clearly now,” and they “reflect an owner who has learned some hard lessons and now is doing a good job.” It “wasn’t that long ago that Dolphins fans would cringe at the idea of Ross being the team’s owner.” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said, “If fans knew him, they’d know he wants what they want.” Salguero notes Ross, after hiring head coach Joe Philbin in March, “called the coach, general manager Jeff Ireland, Dee and Matt Higgins, who is starting a sports company for Ross, to his house in Palm Beach.” Ross “convened what some fondly call the Berlin Wall meeting.” He “told everyone he didn’t like the way the Dolphins had been doing business.” He said that the “Kremlin mentality of secrecy at all costs had to cease.” Ross wanted the Dolphins to be “as transparent with fans as possible as long as it didn’t hinder the team’s competitive edge.” This meeting is where the “so-called transparency the Dolphins embraced this season was born.” Ross “decided that if he was asking employees to be more transparent, he should do his part and also connect more.” So when unhappy fans “picketed outside the team’s training facility, he called some of them on the phone.” When the Dolphins opened the season at home and offered every fan a commemorative cap, Ross "stood at one of the gates and personally handed out hats.” He did this “even when people who work for him told him it might be a bad idea to expose himself to the public and to criticism” (MIAMI HERALD, 11/9).

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday night prior to the Colts-Jaguars game conducted a fan forum with a group of Jaguars season-ticket holders and “assured the fans the team will remain in Jacksonville as long as the fans support it,” according to Vito Stellino of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. Goodell said when fans support their team, they "take that (possibility of a move) out of play." Goodell: "You guys do (support the team). A very passionate fan base. That’s the critical thing. You’re always going to have those rumors. People say we’re going back to Los Angeles. It’s been 17 years. There are a lot of things out there. You guys do your part. We've got to do our part. The business community has got to do their part. We've all got to do our part to make sure this team stays here and stays successful here.” Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan on Wednesday said that the team has “moved up to 21st in ticket sales." Additionally, team President Mark Lamping "told the fans the Jaguars have the lowest ticket prices in the league.” Goodell said of the Jaguars' commitment to participate in the NFL Int'l Series for the next four years, "We don’t want to make them a London team. What we’re doing is our international people want to look and evaluate would it be more popular and easier to sell tickets if there was a team that was looked at as being the home team” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 11/9). In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette wrote, “Say this much for the Jaguars: When it comes to delivering a bad season, they do it up right.” The Jaguars have “no playmakers, no win in two months, and no foreseeable light at the end of the tunnel” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 11/9).

THURSDAY'S CHILD: Goodell said that the NFL is “looking at whether home teams have too much of an advantage on Thursday night games.” The home teams are 6-2 this year, and "are 29-14 on Thursday night games" since the NFL Network started televising them in '06 (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 11/9).

In Oklahoma City, John Rohde reports the Thunder will “debut a navy blue alternate uniform" at Friday’s game against the Pistons at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder also will “wear the alternate jersey for its New Year’s Eve game" against the Suns. Since the NBA “wants teams to wear their home uniform as much as possible, teams are allowed to wear their alternate uniform only twice at home during the regular season.” However, teams are “allowed to wear their alternate 10 times on the road” (OKLAHOMAN, 11/9).

BRAVE NEW WORLD? In Atlanta, David O’Brien noted the Braves’ “hopes of moving their high-Class A affiliate to Wilmington, N.C., were dealt a major blow Tuesday when voters issued a resounding ‘no’ on a referendum to raise property taxes to pay for a proposed new ballpark.” Without $37M in new taxes to "build a ballpark on the Cape Fear River, the Wilmington plan is probably over and the Braves will remain in Lynchburg, Va., unless and until another option materializes.” They had “hoped to move to Wilmington in time for the 2015 season” ( 11/7).

A NEW YORK MINUTE: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick reports there was a "directive informing employees of all [James] Dolan enterprises that if those trying to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy -- perhaps they’re homeless, lost a relative, have no clothing or money or are unable to bathe -- did not report to work, they would be docked a “personal or vacation day to cover the time off" (N.Y. POST, 11/9).