BEREA—Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner said the most important decision they make is getting the hiring of the new Browns coach right.
After meeting with Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert, the two met with the media for about 35 minutes in explaining their moves and the direction moving forward.
"We had a professional meeting and we are ready to move on," Haslam said. "We just felt ready to make changes to get to a championship level. Joe and I are going to move very quickly to try and hire a coach first."
Banner explained the reasoning for hiring a coach first.
"We feel the head coach is going to play a bigger role," Banner said.
Banner pointed to Andy Reid growing into a similar role with the Eagles.
Haslam was asked what he is looking for in a coach and Haslam didn't hesitate.
"Strong leadership," he said."We have selected a group to talk to at first. We're not going to limit ourselves as it's important we get the right person."
Haslam said they will not comment on any of the names they have in mind.
"There are only two who know who are on the list," Haslam said.
Haslam said the decision was made in the last ‘week or two' to part ways with Shurmur and Heckert.
"Any responsible organization does succession planning," Haslam said. "We are well aware this has been a carousel and it's our role to find long term stability. We've researched a lot of people and our goal is to get the best person."
Haslam said he hopes to hire a coach quickly, but will take whatever time is important to get the right person.
"It's important we get it right," Haslam said. "If we find the right person this week, we'll make the change."
Banner said they will start the process as soon as they are granted permission from teams. However, if they are looking at college coaches like Nick Saban or Chip Kelly they will need to wait until they play their bowl games. If they are looking at NFL coaches, they might have to wait until after the playoffs or even the Super Bowl.
Haslam said he wants stability.
"We want to have tremendous stability," he said. "The Steelers have had three coaches. Joe comes from Philly and we had (stability) at Flying J."
Haslam made it clear he feels the Browns are an attractive place for a coach and admitted they might be in competition with as many as 10 teams that might be looking for new coaches.
"It looks like there will be a lot of opportunities, but we feel this is a great place," Haslam said. "We're confident this is a good situation and we're going to explore all avenues.
"We've made it clear we are going to go after anybody on our list," he said. "No specific names. We feel this is a very attractive job."
Both Banner and Haslam said they are interested in building a team that is in the hunt year in and year out.
"We've said all along our goal is to build a consistent winning team and have two role models in our division," Haslam said. "We don't want to make knee jerk (decisions)to get to 9-7 but have a house of sand. We want to do it the right way."
"I think we have a foundation to move forward and have a ways to go," he said. "We want to do it in a way that is sustainable. We could make some sacrifices and could make the playoffs next year."
Haslam was asked if the Browns could turn it around as soon as next year given the way the Colts, Redskins and Vikings did this season.
"It might be a little unfair for me to put that pressure on the new coach already but there is parity," he said. "The key is to get it right. It's important to get it right. I would not want to do this search without Joe.
"We are very impatient but we want a team that is sustainable," he said. "Our goal is to have a consistent winning team and if we don't, it would be the fault of the two guys up here.
"The two of us feel a tremendous responsibility to get this right," Haslam said. "We smiled to ourselves last night and said ‘Now, we have to get this right.'"
Other questions addressed in the session:
Q: Why did you decide to hire the coach first?:
Banner: "This is a reasonable line of questioning. We have asked that a lot. We feel the coach and the fit of the two people is what is the right order. The decision we made it it's going to be the head coach first."
Q: How tough of a decision was it to let Shurmur and Heckert go?:
Banner: "It was a very tough decision an emotional decision but felt for the ultimate goal down the road it was the right decision. Time will tell."
Q: You said the Browns have a core of players, so why let go of Heckert since he brought them here?:
Banner: "We felt the top quality going forward is strong, dynamic leadership. We felt a fresh start, fresh energy going forward. As we look forward where we want to be two or three years from now, we felt it was the best thing to do."
Q: What about the assistant coaches?:
Haslam: "We also met with the coaching staff and they're all under contract and have asked them to follow the protocol if looking for other jobs. The scouting staff will all be retained and go to work."
Q: What are your thoughts on Brandon Weeden going forward?:
Banner: "I don't think this is not the right place to get into player evaluation."
Q: Who makes the roster decisions going forward?:
Banner: "The word power is exaggerated and depending on who we bring in I do think it is extremely important that those guys are joined at the hip (coach and GM).
"What we mean is who makes the roster. Those decisions are in most scenarios are handled by the coach depends on who is brought in. If we ended up with a coach who we felt was extremely strong in player personnel he would have a bigger role. We think the skill set of the coach should drive of the player personnel.
"As we've said before, we're going to put together a team collaboratively depending on strengths and weaknesses. We're going to generate a consensus, but the final detail of that we won't get into that publicly."
Q: Do you have high profile names on your list?:
Haslam:"It would be nice. But candidly, we want someone to win. If we win, they'll be embraced."
Q: Will you suggest the new coach keep any of the current assistant coaches?:
Haslam: "That will be the decision of the head coach and we made it clear to the assistants."