The sale of the Cleveland Browns to Jimmy Haslam III was unanimously approved by NFL owners Tuesday, and team President Mike Holmgren will be leaving the Browns at the end of the season.
Jimmy Haslam says he has spent more time with Mike Holmgren than anyone else in the NFL franchise he now owns.
Their time has grown short. Holmgren won’t finish a contract that called for him to be team president through 2014.
Instead, the Browns suddenly have a hierarchy of:
• Haslam, unanimously approved as Browns owner in an NFL owners meeting in Chicago this morning.
• Joe Banner, who will be sworn in as CEO next Thursday.
• Holmgren, who will stay on as president through the end of the season.
Banner was president of the Philadelphia Eagles during a period when Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert worked for the Eagles. How highly Banner thinks of Shurmur and Heckert, now the Browns’ head coach and general manager, is one of the million-dollar questions swirling in the autumn wind.
“Joe and Mike will work together in a seamless fashion to bring a winner to the Cleveland Browns,” Haslam said. “You couldn’t have two better people to help us turn this transition around.”
Haslam apparently will let Shurmur fight for his job, which is on shaky ground given his two-year record of 5-17.
“There’s always questions about the head coach,” Haslam said. “I’ll tell you exactly what I told Pat.
“This (Holmgren’s retirement) is the only personnel change were gonna make ‘til the end of the season. And I’m not saying we’re gonna make changes at the end of the season.”
Haslam said his whirlwind introduction to Browns Nation since he closed the terms of sale on Aug. 3 has been “nothing short of phenomenal.”
Haslam hung around Browns Stadium for more than an hour after Sunday’s win over Cincinnati. It ended an 11-game losing streak. Haslam was stunned to find thousands of fans still hanging around.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought we’d just won the AFC championship,” Haslam said.
Haslam and Holmgren met Aug. 2, the day before the sale became official.
“My dad, my wife and I had dinner with Mike,” Haslam said. “It was supposed to be an hour. It wound up being three hours.”
Haslam says Holmgren “was kind enough “to answer hundreds and hundreds of questions” over the last 75 days. The first question Haslam ever asked Holmgren was, “Can Brandon Weeden play?”
One of the hidden questions of the last two months has been how much Holmgren has assisted in Weeden’s development. Holmgren was a driving force behind the selection of Weeden at No. 22 overall, higher than any analyst had him rated.
Holmgren has huddled regularly with Weeden while trying not to step on coaches’ toes. Their relationship will continue through the end of the season, but it might be to a lesser extent.
Page 2 of 2 - “Mike will not be in Cleveland every day,” Haslam said.
Holmgren’s favorite time as president was spending time on the practice field — literally on the field, behind the offensive huddle.
Haslam said he and Holmgren had “a long talk” Sunday night after the 34-24 win over the Bengals. Haslam had talked about Holmgren staying on beyond 2012 in a revised capacity.
“I don’t think Mike wanted to be in a different role,” Haslam said.
Haslam has done more public speaking within three months than outgoing owner Randy Lerner did in 10 years. Lerner’s standing game plan of staying out of the public eye never changed.
“You’ll see us with a very visible presence,” Haslam said. “I think it’s important for the owner to be present and to be involved.
“Any big decisions, we’ll be heavily involved in.”
That’s a big change. Lerner ceded sweeping authority to Holmgren, basically rubber stamping the hires of Shurmur and Heckert. In fact, Haslam said Holmgren’s role basically had become “de fact owner.”
As soon as Banner settles in next week, Shurmur and Heckert will report to Banner.
“We will be heavily involved,” Haslam said.
Haslam went out of his way to underscore the point that no decision has been made on Shurmur beyond 2012.
“I looked him in the eye and told him that no changes have been made,” Haslam said.