Owner Haslam will use committee to evaluate Browns in offseason
Jimmy Haslam will be involved in decision-making, but will get help from others
Brandon Weeden and the entire Browns roster will be evaluated in the offseason
Browns will be the subject of Travel Channel series following them on the road
While not offering specifics about the future of his coach and starting quarterback, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III spelled out the traits he's looking for in future hires during an interview with SI.com on Wednesday afternoon.
"I have a lot of takeaways, but I am far from an expert in the NFL," Haslam said. "We have been involved [with the Browns] for three or four months. People are even more important in the NFL than in a normal business like what we run (Haslam founded Pilot Flying J, a travel center chain, and served as CEO until September 2012) because we don't have any hard assets. We don't own the stadium. We don't own the practice facility. So talent selection and getting the right person, whether it is quarterback, GM or coach -- that seems to be the Holy Triumvirate -- is just exceptionally important.
"I think there is skill in that and, as someone who has hired a lot of people with some hits and some misses, there is some luck, too. But there is skill in it and, probably as in every industry, there are more people looking for the really good players than there are really good players."
Haslam and his club will get some national exposure next month when the Travel Channel debuts NFL Road Tested: The Cleveland Browns. The network is teaming with NFL Films for a behind-the-scenes look at how a professional football team travels from city to city, game to game, during the regular season.
Asked how hands-on an NFL owner should be on a day-to-day basis, Haslam replied: "I think it all depends on the definition of hands-on. I apologize for referring back to my business experience, but of the three key direct reports that we have had at the Pilot Flying J for the last several years, one has worked there 27 years, one has worked there 21 years and one has worked there for 15 years. All three of them are smarter than I am, and all three of them are undoubtedly better at their function. But I still interact with them a tremendous amount, still encourage, push them and challenge them.
"I just believe that collective collaborative wisdom is the best way to do things. I don't think you will see us calling plays or making personnel decisions, but strategically we are going to be involved because these businesses do not run by themselves.
Haslam did not want to refer to a specific NFL owner when asked whom he considered the paradigm.
"I think there are several really good owners," Haslam said. "I'm not going to name them, but check the records the last five years and they generally correlate pretty well. Obviously, I had four years of previous experience with the Steelers (Haslam owned a 12.5 percent stake in Steelers and is still in the process of divesting) and the Rooneys have been honored owners in the way they handle football and in the way they run their organization and work with the NFL."
A major question in Cleveland is what Haslam and CEO Joe Banner think about the long-term future of 29-year-old quarterback Brandon Weeden. (It was a major topic in Haslam's recent interview with the Akron-Beacon Journal.) What kind of evaluation will Haslam use?
"First of all, it won't be me, OK," Haslam said. "It will be a team effort of coaches, player personnel people, Joe Banner and myself. We just have to look at Brandon, and I don't want to pick on Brandon because we have to do this with all 53 of our players, but our goal is to have a championship football team and to do that you have to have championship players. So you ask: Does that player live up to that standard?"
With the Browns at 3-8 heading into Week 13, Haslam will be asking plenty of questions over the next couple of months. Browns fans await the verdict.
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