With rare exception, the less people hear from a team’s owner, the better. The owners that people can run off with little thought generally include the worst ones; Jerry Jones, Daniel Snyder, and Mike Brown. Short of holding up a trophy, the less they are involved, the better. Some people know Bob Craft’s name or the Rooneys in Pittsburgh, but far fewer know Jed York (San Francisco 49ers), Paul Allen (Seattle Seahawks) or Steve Bisciotti (Baltimore Ravens). The most recent submission from Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam in regards to Johnny Manziel was another example of why owners should avoid publicity when he delivered the message that Manziel would have to earn the starting quarterback job, and in so doing, also gave credibility to the theory that he demanded the pick.
Haslam’s camp proved terrible at keeping a secret during the draft season and it became common knowledge that he wanted Manziel. Some of the local media ran with the story late in the process, suggesting that Haslam would order general manager Ray Farmer to make the pick. Now, the contrived story about Manziel texting the Browns to come get him has some people believing that it caused Haslam to again go get Manziel, which resulted in the Browns pushing to get Manziel, ultimately with the 22nd pick, moving up from 26. This has even prompted a story pushed by people from Tony Grossi to Dan Patrick that charges the Browns with having written Teddy Bridgewater’s name down on the card and then changing it to Manziel at the last minute per Haslam’s order.
All of these stories ask fans and random onlookers to believe that the Browns changed their plans at the last minute to bring in Manziel. The same people who did not alter their plans with about two weeks notice that Josh Gordon had another drug test issue coming that could result in a substantial suspension and did not select a single wide receiver in the draft in response. So, while both circumstances could be true, they represent two completely different lines of thinking.
Whether Haslam felt the pressure because of the perception that he was the driving force behind the team getting Manziel or he just felt like getting involved on his own accord, it was Haslam, rather than head coach Mike Pettine, who came out and announced to The Plain Dealer:
“Brian Hoyer is the starting quarterback. It’s his job to lose.”
“We were frank with (Manziel) on Friday that’s the expectation, you’re the backup quarterback,” Haslam said. “This is a hard-working, blue-collar town, this isn’t Hollywood. We want you to come in and go to work.”
Did Haslam feel compelled to be the to come out and lay out this decree because of perception that he ordered the pick? The fact that Haslam came out and laid out this decree at least gives credibility to that idea and helps feed into the idea that he did in fact demand Manziel, whether it is true or not.
The announcement from Haslam caused the national media to be extremely critical of the Browns owner, a growing trend that seems to come with every move Haslam makes on a national stage. Haslam’s best move was to just leave it alone and let his head coach make the call. The less Haslam is involved in football operations, the better for everyone involved, but especially with something like playing time and role of a player. It opens him up for obvious criticism as an owner that is potentially meddling.
Haslam is passionate about winning and seems to be doing everything in his power to get the Browns to a point where they can be the consistent winner he wants, but he needs to find the right balance and get out of his own way. One can hope that this is the last time Haslam desires in the draft become public, the last time that he represents a separate voice in the building, and the last time he makes any kind of announcement about a player on the roster. There is nothing to suggest Haslam will actually do any of these things to this point, but he would be smart to just wait until there is a trophy to hold up the next time he has a sound byte.