BEREA - Jimmy Haslam assumed ownership of the Browns when he was approved by a vote of NFL owners in October.
His ownership officially took control of operations Monday when he announced the firings of coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert. The moves came one day after the Browns finished a 5-11 season and completed a two-year run with a combined record of 9-23.
It was a quick decision-making process by Haslam and CEO Joe Banner that had been anticipated since the moment it was revealed in late July that former owner Randy Lerner planned to sell the team. Haslam said it wasn't until the last few weeks that he was certain of his plans to part ways with Shurmur and Heckert.
The Associated Press
Cleveland Browns CEO Joe Banner, left, and new owner Jimmy Haslam answer questions during a news conference at Monday’s Browns’ training facility in Berea. One day after ending yet another dismal season with a loss in Pittsburgh, Cleveland fired coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert, the first moves in what is expected to be a massive offseason overhaul by Haslam.
"Joe and I met with Pat and Tom this morning and had what I would describe as a very professional meeting," Haslam said. "We told both of them that we were going to make a change in both of their positions. Both of them are ready to move on, and candidly we're ready to move on."
Now comes the heavy lifting. Haslam and Banner will begin immediately the process of hiring a head coach first and then a general manager/player personnel person. There's no set timetable. Haslam said a new coach could be introduced next week or a month from now.
With as many as eight to 10 coaching openings expected to be announced, the Browns will have to act aggressively and be well-armed with reasons why the coaching job is attractive. There's a young base of maturing talent, but it could be difficult enticing a coach because of uncertainty at quarterback.
"We don't believe there's going to be any job in the league that's going to become available that can tell a better story about why you want to come to this particular team and this particular city to take a job," Banner said. "We're going into this extremely confident that we can go after the top people available and have a good chance to be successful and convincing them this is the right situation.
"Most of these top coaches are focused on finding a place where they can win. We feel we can make a case that this is the best opportunity in the league right now."
The plan is to give the new coach complete control over the composition of the roster, from final cuts to the 45-player, game-day roster. The GM/player personnel person will be directly involved with Banner in dealing with big-picture decisions, including the draft. The feeling is that the coach could expand his power into player acquisition is he shows an ability in that area.
Heckert had complete control of the roster, including final cuts. Banner admits that the Browns will be limiting the number of available GM candidates because of the lack of roster control issue, but he's not concerned.
"The reverse could be true, too," Banner said. "If you hired a GM first and there was a great head coach that wanted control, you'd be eliminating that. We really made the determination that it was more important not to limit the head coach search and get the very best person at that position and then go from there."
Haslam opened the press conference by saying that Banner and he are the only people that know which coaches are on the wish list. He didn't want to reveal any of the names, but some appear obvious. It's been speculated that college coaches Nick Saban (Alabama), Chip Kelly (Oregon) and Bill O'Brien (Penn State) could be on the list. Potential candidates from within the NFL could be former Colts interim coach Bruce Arians and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Unlike after coaching changes under the Lerner regime, there doesn't appear to be a need for a roster overhaul.
"The likelihood is when you get a coaching change you're going to get a system change and some areas of special skills where they're looking for particular positions," Banner said. "I also believe that there's a corps here - and I'd be surprised if we'd hire a head coach that didn't see the same thing - from which we'd consider ourselves having a foundation from which we could move forward. After previous changes there was a greater need to overturn the roster than we do now."
Haslam listed the qualities he admires in a coach - strength, intelligence, detail to attention, aggressiveness and an ability to motivate people. He stressed more than once the importance of getting it right so the fan base can finally have a consistent winner.
"Our goal is to build a consistent championship-level team," Haslam said. "We have two role models in our division (the Steelers and Ravens) that have been good consistently for a long period of time. Our goal is to be good for a long period of time and not to knee jerk and get to where we're 9-7 next year and we all feel good, but we know it's built on a house of sand.
"No one wants to have a winning team more than the two of us, but we're going to do it in the right way, and where going to build it in the right way. We have the core foundation with some good young players. We need to add to it."
The Haslam era is in full swing.