Cleveland Browns embracing alumni a smart PR move
By Thomas Moore
Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has finally embraced the team’s alumni, which is a great PR move for the club.
It may have taken him almost four years, but Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam seems to have started to understand how to win the hearts of Browns fans.
While winning would obviously be nice, the new regime needs some time to get that plan on track, which makes Haslam’s recent outreach to the team’s alumni a smart public relations move.
Since buying the Browns from Randy Lerner in 2012, Haslam has ostracized – or allowed other front officer personnel – to ostracize the team’s alumni. But that has all started to change in recent months following a letter from former linebacker Dick Ambrose airing the grievances the alumni base had against the club.
“Those guys haven’t really been around in the building and it’s a great idea that coach is inviting the guys back and for us to be visible and be able to talk to these guys.” – Kevin Mack
While it is probably a stretch to say the letter was the sole reason for Haslam’s change of heart, there has been a renewed emphasis on bringing some of the franchise’s most loved players back into the fold in recent months.
Former running back Earnest Byner has been working with the running backs during Organized Team Activities, former quarterback Bernie Kosar attended a recent practice to speak with the players, and Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown will once again have a “larger role” with the team.
“Jim has been re-involved in the franchise over the last three years, but with Hue coming in, Jim will be even more significantly involved,” Haslam told cleveland.com. “Jim’s knowledge not just of football, but Dee and I have seen it over the last two or three years, his knowledge of people is something that will help the franchise significantly.”
Credit for the change in alumni relations also has to go to head coach Hue Jackson, who tasked Kevin Mack, the team’s head of alumni relations, to start reaching out to his fellow alumni.
“Hue has brought a healing to the team in a lot of ways. I am honored to be a part of it.” – Jim Brown
Jackson sees the value having former players talk about life in the NFL to the current group, a message that still resonates even though none of the current roster was born when Brown last played (no, not even quarterback Josh McCown) and almost none are old enough to remember watching Kosar play.
“I want our guys to connect the right way and truly understand that there were a lot of men before them who have played the game here, who loved playing the game here, who won here, so it’s not a question if it can be done, we just have to do the hard work in order to have it be done,” Jackson said.
“I’ve never played in he National Football league so there’s people who are going to be able to give them very experienced advice on what they are dealing with, not just within the organization but also within the community and how they can be successful. That’s very important.”
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It is a great idea as long as Haslam and Jackson don’t let it reach the point where the former players are exerting influence over the direction of the team or personnel decisions. Brown was a close advisor when Randy Lerner ran the team and no one will look back on the Lerner era with fondness. And every time there is a regime change, Kosar lobbies to have a say in running the team.
Haslam and Jackson need to make it abundantly clear that while there will always be a place at the table for the alumni, their role is limited to being guests – nothing more. The front office and coaching staff already put in enough work without having to worry about extra voices finding their way into the wrong ears.
Players like Brown, Kosar and Byner, among others, will always hold a special place in the hearts of Browns fans and they should always be welcomed around the team.
The Browns just need to be sure that everyone knows who is running the team.
Next: Josh McCown should prepare to be QB2
Which former Browns players would you like to see have a role with the current team and what should that role look like?