Haslam wanted Johnny Football on the Browns
One reason not everyone believes the Browns’ upper management claims of non-interference with the coaching staff is they have been guilty in the past. One of the most famous instances of ownership meddling was in the Johnny Manziel affair.
To be fair, it’s not the case that all the experts hated Manziel from the get-go. Some writers were calling for him to be drafted first overall. There were rumors that the Browns had him ranked highly early on, though former Browns President Joe Banner (who, by the way, is an absolutely brilliant guy, well worth reading) says that off-the-field concerns caused them to take him off the board altogether by the time Banner left the organization.
Never was a quarterback so loved by an owner as Johnny Manziel was loved by Jimmy Haslam III. Most observers believe that JH3 overrode the recommendations of his scouting department and bypassed Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo in favor of Johnny Manziel. Manziel was the son of a prominent oil man, and so was owner Jimmy Haslam. There couldn’t be a better match. Haslam loved Manziel like a son.
In his rookie year, Manziel sat on the bench while Brian Hoyer led the team to a 7-4 start. After three straight losses, we believe that JH3 ordered coach Mike Pettine to bench Hoyer while the Browns were still in contention. Nobody could possibly believe that this was a sound football move, as Manziel was simply not ready. It had to be a decision directed by ownership. Manziel went 0-2 and locked in a 7-9 losing season.
The following year, he had some impressive games but the team believed that he had relapsed into a pattern of excessive alcohol and alleged drug use.
No matter. Jimmy Haslam enabled him and protected him from discipline. The theory was that since quarterbacks like Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, and Brett Favre were hearty partiers and still performed at a high level, perhaps young Manziel would be able to follow their example.
Unfortunately, not everyone is able to balance the dual lives of a party boy and an NFL football player. Manziel won two starts and threw for 372 yards versus Pittsburgh. Eventually, however, he soon disappeared into a haze of smoke and alcohol.
The net effect, however, was to establish Haslam’s reputation as a meddling owner. To a large extent, that fiasco fed into the proper decision to make Dee Haslam the CEO of Haslam Sports Group rather than Jimmy. Dee, for her part, has sought to clearly define the roles of each position in the Browns’ hierarchy and limit the extent to which ownership can influence the operations of the team.
Still, once an organization loses its credibility, it takes a long time to rebuild confidence in it, and for that reason, it’s understandable if the Browns are the subject of conspiracy theories from time to time. Nevertheless, no, this corner does not believe that JH3 and DePo are dictating game plans to the coaching staff. We do believe wholeheartedly in UFOs and Bigfoot, however, and hope that the Browns select a few extra-terrestrial mutants in the upcoming NFL draft.