The earth didn't move in Northeast Ohio when James Haslam III was approved as owner of the Cleveland Browns Tuesday in Chicago, but there was a tremor.
Shortly after Haslam was accepted into the good graces of the 31 other owners, news broke that team president Mike Holmgren would retire at the end of this season. Until then Holmgren will help new president and CEO Joe Banner make the transition into his role, which he will assume Oct. 25.
Beyond that announcement, Haslam said that no other major changes would be made until after the season. What moves he makes in terms of the football operations obviously depend upon how the final 10 games of the season play out.
"I will tell you exactly what I told (coach) Pat Shurmur on Saturday night and the other key people in our organization," Haslam told reporters at a press conference in Chicago. "This is the only personnel change we're going to make until the end of the season, and I'm not at all saying we're going to make changes at the end of the season.
"With Mike saying that the role no longer fit him, we thought it was important to bring somebody in so we have a good transition and we can hit the ground running at the end of the season. We're 1-5 and if you followed us we could easily be 3-3. We played our best game the other day. We're going to do our best to support Pat and his coaches and his team for the balance of the season."
The writing was on the wall for Holmgren from the moment news broke in late July of a possible sale of the franchise from the Lerner family to Haslam, who owns the Pilot Flying J service centers. Holmgren would have two years remaining on a five-year contract at the conclusion of this season.
"Mike was brought in to do a different role, and I don't think he wanted to do a different role," Haslam said. "I can't stress enough what a good relationship we have. Mike won't be in Cleveland every day like he is now at the end of the season. He's a guy that two or three years from now if I have a question about football or a question about how to do something, I'll feel very comfortable, and hopefully he'll do the same."
Holmgren brought in Tom Heckert as general manager and in his first season of 2010 decided to stick with Eric Mangini as coach. The latter choice backfired as the Browns went 5-11 in 2010. Mangini was fired, and Holmgren hired Shurmur, who had no head-coaching experience.
Heckert has conducted three drafts, each producing varying results. With so many young players at key positions, the drafts can't be accurately judged for a couple more years.
Shurmur was probably on the hot seat when Randy Lerner still owned the team. He certainly is now after last season's 4-12 performance and a 1-5 start to this season.
Unlike Lerner, Haslam will be heavily involved in day-to-day operations of every aspect of the organization. The football operations will report directly to Banner, who in turn will report to Haslam.
Banner, 59, was named executive vice-president of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1997. He remained in the role until June of this year, when he was named strategic adviser to owner Jeffrey Lurie.
"One of the people we talked to early was Joe," said Haslam, who's in the process of selling a minority interest in the Pittsburgh Steelers. "We talked to people that are famous and others that you probably never heard of. Joe's track record in Philadelphia is outstanding. His commitment, work, drive, passion and intelligence to help make the Browns a winner are something we're very excited about."
Haslam plans to follow the business plan that's made Pilot Flying J such a success.
"I think you have to take what works well for others but still be yourself," he said. "We're going to be involved, but involved in the proper way. I had five people that reported to me at Flying J. They're all smarter than I am, and they're all better at their role than I am. We let them do their job, but we questioned them, we challenged them and held them accountable. One prominent owner today said to use the basic instincts you've had that have been successful in helping you do your business.
"We will make mistakes and some bad decisions. Hopefully, they're not fatal and we can correct them quickly."