When businessman turned Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam announced he was stepping down as CEO of Pilot Flying J, it was assumed Haslam’s focus would shift towards football. After one year on the job, it’s looking more like the Browns are simply a new business venture for Haslam. It’s taken just one season for Haslam’s ego to get in the way of the football operations of the Cleveland Browns and now it’s undeniably clear what kind of owner Haslam will be in Cleveland.
It’s astonishing how, for someone who spent so much time around the Rooney family in Pittsburgh, Haslam didn’t notice what kinds of owners are most successful for long periods of time in the NFL. The Rooneys, along with Robert Kraft in New England, are the perfect example of hands-off ownership when it comes to the football side of an NFL organization. They hire a front office and coaching staff they trust to make those decisions in the best interest of the organization. Not surprisingly, they don’t have to make those hires nearly as often as meddlesome know-it-all owners with massive egos.
Which brings us to Jerry Jones. The antitheses of the aforementioned owners, Jones runs nearly every aspect of the Dallas Cowboys. It’s no secret Jimmy Haslam has a deep admiration for the Dallas Cowboys brand/business/empire that Jerry Jones has propagated. It’s a fantastic business model for Haslam. However, it’s probably the most poorly run team in the NFL from a football standpoint.
At the end of last season, Jones decided the Dallas defense was just too dang complicated and decided to make some changes. The defense went from 19th in total defense in 2012 to dead last this season. Jones continues to insist he knows what’s best for the Cowboys, though the best interest of the Cowboys would be to remove Jerry Jones from any role that doesn’t involve putting in really big scoreboards. Not a great time to mention it, but Jimmy Haslam also likes big scoreboards now.
Reports were, the play of the Browns in the final two games of the season made Haslam sick. Why he didn’t join us in that sentiment much earlier in the season when things could have actually been done to see improvement this season is anybody’s guess. The Browns’ front office stressed the importance of the 2014 NFL Draft and continued stockpiling draft picks for May and it was assumed the coaching staff was in on this idea that 2013 would be a lost season when Brian Hoyer went down. Hoyer may not have lead a playoff run, but he was the only Cleveland quarterback who wasn’t single-handedly, or in Brandon Weeden’s case, sometimes two-hand shovel passing the season away.
Apparently, the coaching staff was not in on the rebuild effort and Jimmy Haslam made the decision, fueled by emotion and personal differences, to fire head coach Rob Chudzinski after just one season. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner will soon be the next to go, though he’s responsible for putting a receiver and tight end in the Pro Bowl with nothing but highly-sophisticated animatronic tackling dummies throwing them the ball all season. The reason given by CEO Joe Banner for Chud’s dismissal was a lack of progress as the season went on.
If Haslam and the other stooges, as they’re now known affectionately around the internet, wanted to see progress, why was Brandon Weeden trotted back onto the field so many times, having failed conclusively and being benched? Why wasn’t another quarterback signed for weeks following Hoyer’s injury? Why was that quarterback Alex Tanney?
Tony Grossi speculated the handling of the quarterback caused a rift between the front office and the coaching staff. That seems entirely plausible, but whether that’s true or not, what is true is that the front office has as many questions to answer for the mishandling of the quarterback situation as the coaching staff.
In the end, it seems Haslam and the front office got exactly what they wanted. While holding back a team that should have finished around 7-9 or 8-8, they got the 4-12 draft positioning they coveted and they got to pin the blame on the coaching staff. Haslam chose to embarrass the coaching staff, the team, the fans and the city of Cleveland over seeing progress and winning football games; The things they stood in front of the media and cited as reasons for Chud’s dismissal.
Chudzinski was seen as a no-name hire last year and the reason the Browns are again targeting NFL coordinators instead of NFL head coaches is Haslam. While Cleveland fans desperately want a head coach who has head coaching experience in the NFL, and not just as a failure (sorry Josh McDaniels), that won’t happen with Jimmy Haslam as the owner. A high profile coaching hire will want to have say in personnel and staff hires and Haslam is not going to let that happen. Haslam is going to be the big ego in the Browns organization for the foreseeable future, pending federal investigation.
Whether Haslam’s motive truly is winning in 2014 and beyond or not, he needs to understand that he is not close to being the most qualified person in the building to evaluate anyone in the NFL, whether it be players or coaches. Especially having just taken over an NFL team for the first time. With Haslam looking to his What Would Jerry Jones Do? wristband on every critical decision, the Browns can forget about winning because the brand of football they’re building is Dallas Cowboys Light.