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Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 1/3/2013

Haslam won’t scare off coaches

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

Jimmy Haslam says he is impatient. He said it a half-dozen times during a sit-down with reporters on Black Monday after he had dispatched coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert into a very, very crowded NFL unemployment line.

Jimmy Haslam is impatient. That’s good news for Cleveland Browns fans. Haslam owns their franchise now. Previous ownership appeared to have the patience of Job, and perhaps shared his knowledge of pro football, wandering aimlessly and disinterestedly from one lousy season to the next.

So the Browns will hire a new head coach, their seventh since being reincarnated in 1999. They’ve been proudly rebuilding, retooling, and reeling ever since.

In 14 seasons, the Browns have made the playoffs once. That was in 2002 and the aftermath was to immediately blow up the roster.

Sigh.

There have been 11 seasons, including the last five, with double-digit loss totals. Best thing to do now is blow up the franchise.

That’s pretty much what Haslam is doing. He showed Mike Holmgren, a big name but perhaps the most overpaid and among the most underachieving team executives in the league, the door. I’m not sure what Heckert did or did not do to merit being fired and the point could be made that Shurmur was caught in a no-win position of trying to develop a young team and save his job at the same time.

It’s tough to defend any of them and it’s hard to argue against starting again with a clean slate.

The new owner understands that the salary-capped NFL is built for parity. Bad teams get the early draft picks. Bad teams get the easiest schedules. Bad teams are given every chance to plant seeds for success and become good teams. And quickly, too. Gracious, even Arizona played in a Super Bowl recently. Indianapolis and Washington were 2-14 and 5-11, respectively, last season, drafted franchise quarterbacks, and are in this year’s playoffs.

It can happen.

The Browns have never figured out the concept. Thus, they will start over again, but not with a five-year plan.

This owner is impatient.

Haslam and new CEO Joe Banner made it clear they would hire a coach first, stating that he would be the face of the franchise and the person with the greatest power. Banner agreed that would limit the pool of GM candidates. So be it.

After all, wasn’t it backwards having a bigger-than-life Holmgren behind the scenes in the front office and an unproven Shurmur front and center on the sidelines?

Given that, I expect Haslam, who has some history as a minority partner in Pittsburgh, to make a hard charge for Bill Cowher, or go to college to find out if there’s any wanderlust left in Nick Saban or if Chip Kelly’s offensive acumen might translate to the pro ranks. Regardless, when the new coach is introduced you’ll recognize the name.

A lot of teams are seeking coaches and hoping to make similar splashes, but Cleveland remains an attractive job because there are only 32 of them and because Haslam’s millions will spend as well as anybody else’s.

NFL coaches know they have but one job; win games.

A no-nonsense owner who finally is as impatient as his loyal fan base won’t scare anybody off.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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