For Cleveland Browns fans who watched the first press conference of soon to be owner of the Cleveland Browns Jimmy Haslam III, it must have felt like a dream. After nearly 10 years of following a team under the ownership of Randy Lerner nothing could have been more of a polar opposite as what we saw as Jimmy Haslam III stood in front of the Cleveland media for the first time on Friday.
The contention of Cleveland Browns fans for nearly a decade now is that there needed to be a culture change in Berea, and it needed to come from the top down. We all knew that the only way that was to happen would come with a sale of the Cleveland Browns. Randy Lerner assumed ownership of the Browns almost 10 years ago after the passing of his father. While it was with with pure and good intentions that he looked to lead the Cleveland Browns franchise, the honest truth is that it was never in him to be such.
Lerner's good natured intentions couldn't overcome his shortcomings as being an individual who was shy in nature and short in football acumen. In the 10 years that the younger Lerner owned the team one can count on one hand the number of times he stood in front of the Cleveland media. Whether it was accountability in nature, or simply explanation of decisions made, all Browns wanted to hear was from the man himself. All fans wanted to see is if the man leading their beloved team shared the same passion and love for the Browns as they. Running an NFL franchise with a net worth of a billion dollars is no easy feat, but Lerner didn't do much to instill confidence amongst the fans and media of Cleveland that he was the right man for the job either.
As Haslam was introduced to the media and Browns fans alike on Friday by current Browns President Mike Holmgren, it was a very different look for sure. While the tables stood on the podium in Berea as they normally do there were no chairs to be seen. As Haslam III came forth there was no hesitancy. As he began to talk, he began to speak with a great deal of conviction and confidence. He was a man who clearly felt comfortable having all eyes in the room on him, and furthermore knew how to command an audience. Haslam III was very impressive to say the least. It's easy to see why the Pilot Corporation has seen such profitability and success during Haslam III's tenure as CEO of the family owned company.
Haslam III spoke candidly about his interests in owning an NFL franchise. The majority ownership of the Pittsburgh Steelers were even made aware as Haslam III purchased a minority share of the Steelers. While it was Al Lerner's dream to own the Cleveland Browns, there truly was never the feeling that his son Randy shared that same dream. The Cleveland Browns now have an owner who clearly wants and excepts the challenge of owning an NFL franchise. He will demand accountability from all who work for him, as he fully understands his accountability to the loyal fans of the Cleveland Browns.
Randy Lerner didn't have a background in football, and to be fair Haslam III never played more than high school football himself. The problem with Lerner was that it appeared that he didn't have any interests in learning. Leanring about how a successful NFL organization was run. He didn't mingle in, and hang around in football circles as one who was hungry to learn. This is most evident by his absence at NFL annual NFL meetings. The same can't be said about Haslam III however, as he stated on more than one occasion that he has a lot to learn, but is very hungry to do so.
Jimmy appears to have already made connections amongst the brethren of NFL ownership. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft called Jim to congratulate him on the purchase of the Browns, and told him to take a couple of days and he'd teach him everything he knows about football and owning an NFL team. A definite sign of respect and admiration from a well respected icon amongst NFL owners, for sure. We never saw that sort of camaraderie with Lerner amongst his peers
As we Browns fan's well know there are no guarantees in life. No one knows what the future of the Cleveland Browns holds for it's fans under the new ownership. What Cleveland Browns fans can however expect is we now have an owner who is a natural born leader, who is committed and who'll be accountable for this franchises successes and failures, and for that the Cleveland Browns have taken a huge step forward.
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