Why are Browns fans all bent out of shape about Jimmy Haslam resuming his duties as CEO of Pilot Flying J?
It’s been a big talking point on sports radio and in stories and blogs in the past several days.
Probably, a key reason is because so much was made about Haslam stepping down as CEO at Pilot/ Flying J soon after being approved as Browns owner. If Haslam would’ve just kept the title all along at Pilot/Flying J, nobody would be the wiser.
Even if everything is running the same with the Browns as it was before Haslam re-assumed the title at the family business, the perception is that he is abandoning his post with the Browns.
However, digging deeper might get to the real reason.
And that is possibly a distrust in Haslam’s hand-picked management team on the football side-- namely CEO Joe Banner and Personnel Director Mike Lombardi.
Fair or not, Browns fans freshly remember former owner Randy Lerner turning over the reins of the Browns to Mike Holmgren as the de facto owner.
And how did that turn out?
Many times perception is reality. With it being assumed that Haslam was in Berea on a daily basis—whether true or not—Haslam had more of a pulse on what was going on. The fact is that Haslam has commuted quite frequently between Knoxville and Berea and I believe him when he says his involvement with the Browns will not change.
The only somewhat of a big move thus far made by the new brain trust on the football side was the release of Frostee Rucker, so there is really nothing to gauge what is running through the minds of Banner and Lombardi with regards to the football operation.
The new regime deserves a clean slate and a fresh start. But all Browns fans have to go on thus far is Banner’s reputation with the Eagles and Lombardi’s reputation with the Browns, Eagles and Raiders from his past NFL experiences.
Banner’s history was successful with the Eagles, but he was more linked to the business side of things. Since he wanted final say on player personnel matters, it can only be assumed that Banner will have a big say in the players that the Browns sign or draft.
Lombardi has not been in an NFL personnel department since 2007 and the players linked to him under his previous stints have not been overly impressive.
As I’ve said many times before, the NFL is all about talent and individual matchups and the Browns have to bring in difference makers. Former GM Tom Heckert seemed to have the Browns on the path to recovery and that is why this off-season is so critical. Will the Browns continue to build on what they have or will they miss on key acquisitions?
That is why it’s so important that Banner and Lombardi get it right.
The wild card in this is rookie head coach Rob Chudzinski and whether or not he is a good evaluator of personnel. If he truly has an eye for players that can play and is able to work with Banner and Lombardi to get the right players that fit his system, the organization will have a much better chance of being successful. If Chudzinski is just happy to be the coach of the Browns and lets the personnel be dictated to him, the organization will continue to be unsuccessful.
Banner said that Andy Reid showed early in his coaching career with the Eagles the ability to evaluate personnel and was instrumental in the successful drafts of the Eagles. Hopefully, the same will be true with Chudzinski and he will have ultimate say in who the Browns acquire.
Although Haslam has said that Banner and Lombardi are working extremely hard, we’ll soon begin to see the fruits of their labor and what they have in mind as free agency begins and then the NFL Draft arrives and the Browns roster is re-shaped.
Haslam is confident in the organization he has in place in Berea and that also might be part of his title change with the family business. He obviously trusts Banner and Lombardi implicitly to turn the fortunes of the Browns around and for now, Browns fans should give them a chance.
It’s just hard for Browns fans to be so trusting, since they’ve—as the saying goes-- been there and done that.