Browns owner Jimmy Haslam shakes Joe Thomas hand at Super Bowl headquarters, then shakes things up in talking about his team’s quarterback situation.
The first face Joe Thomas saw when he stepped down from the stage was Jimmy Haslam’s.
“The Browns need more like him,” Haslam said after congratulating Thomas for being one of three finalists (Jason Witten, Larry Fitzgerald are the others) for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.
“Big Joe” has been the Browns’ one and only starting left tackle since the first play of his rookie season of 2007. Both he and Haslam spent a few minutes of Super Bowl week talking about the position that has kept the team from even a faint sniff of a Super Bowl.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen at quarterback,” said Thomas, who, in keeping with the new coaches and chiefs, isn’t endorsing one. “We have a couple guys with a lot of starting experience (Brandon Weeden with 15, Colt McCoy with 21) and one guy (Thad Lewis) with one.”
Haslam added to the late-arriving clues that Weeden has what Romeo Crennel used to call “a leg up” when Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson were fighting it out.
Haslam noted that “Norv and Chud” have talked about “liking a lot of what Brandon does.”
“A lot” does not constitute “almost everything.” Neither head coach Rob Chudzinski nor personnel chief Michael Lombardi threw Weeden any kind of a bone in their first wave of comments. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner was likewise evasive in his introductory press conference last week, and only later began to give Weeden slightly more than faint praise.
Here’s the latest from the owner two days before the Super Bowl: Weeden will have to fight for the job.
“We’ll see where the competition goes,” Haslam said.
Haslam played both sides of speculation the Browns could deal for San Francisco’s Alex Smith or some other veteran quarterback.
In terms of offseason moves for veterans, Haslam said: “I don’t think you’ll see us make any big splashes or high-price moves.”
The plan, he said, is to spread resources across building a strong overall team that can enjoy sustained winning.
Certainly, landing a former No. 1 overall pick who started the first half of a Super Bowl team’s season would be splashy. Certainly Smith would be paid a pretty penny.
The Browns are in better shape than most other teams in terms of salary cap space. Why wouldn’t they go for “splash?”
“It’s probably premature for me to say anything,” Haslam said.
Smith conducted interview after interview during the week, alluding to attractive features of the Browns a number of times.
Rooney endorses Haslam
Dan Rooney, chairman emeritus of the Pittsburgh Steelers, doesn’t hold it against Jimmy Haslam for being an “ex-Steeler” who now owns the Cleveland Browns.
Page 2 of 2 - “He’s a good man,” Rooney said Friday in New Orleans. “I enjoy his company.”
Rooney and his father, Art, both are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for their roles in building the Pittsburgh franchise. Haslam was a minority owner for about five years before buying the Browns.
He is 1-1 against Pittsburgh since Rooney’s son Art and every other NFL owner unanimously approved Haslam’s purchase.
“There’s nothing unusual about it at all,” Dan Rooney said. “There was an opportunity in Cleveland, and Jimmy went after it.
“He worked with Art, mostly. I was in Ireland.”
What does the United States ambassador to Ireland — that’s why Rooney was there — think about the Haslam ownership in Cleveland?
“It’s going to be strong,” he said.
Joe Thomas’ dream
Joe Thomas spent several days with his wife in Hawaii after playing in the Pro Bowl, then flew to New Orleans.
“It’s really interesting to walk the streets here and see all the Ravens shirts,” Thomas said. “It makes you think about how much fun it would be to see all of those be Browns shirts.”
Thomas isn’t one to hang out at Super Bowls he isn’t playing in — and of course he and the Browns haven’t been in one — but he is in town as a NFL Man of the Year finalist.
Something in the air has stoked his thoughts about helping Cleveland get to the big game.
“It kind of took me over,” he said.
‘A young Jamal Lewis’
Thomas is the only Browns offensive player who was in Cleveland when Rob Chudzinski was offensive coordinator in 2007 and ’08.
Thomas says he is “really excited” about Chudzinski being the new head coach.
“I thought when he was with us before he’d be a head coach some day,” Thomas said. “Who would have thought it would come full circle like this?”
Thomas said running back Trent Richardson is a perfect running back for establishing play-action fakes that open up the downfield passing attack Chudzinski wants.
“Trent,” Thomas said, “is a lot like a young Jamal Lewis.”
Lewis rushed for 100 yards for Baltimore when the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV.
Seven years later, Lewis had his last big year, helping the Browns to a 10-6 finish in 2007.
• Ravens running back Ray Rice invoked “The Lion King” to describe his relationship with linebacker Ray Lewis: “We’re like Mufasa and Simba.”
• Quarterback Joe Flacco still isn’t used to walking down the street and seeing strangers with his name on their backs. “Five years in,” he said, “and it’s still weird.”