Haslam rings in new era for Browns fans

For Cleveland Browns fans, it was a watershed year.

Yes, it was another 5-11 finish, and we’ve had a bunch of them over the last 13 years. And we started the season with a new quarterback and ended it by firing a coach.

So what made 2012 different than other losing seasons?

This was the year the Browns added a new owner and said goodbye to owners who had separated the team from its true identity for about 50 years.

Around the same time Arthur B. Modell died on Sept. 6, 2012, it was being widely reported that Flying J / Pilot Oil boss Jimmy Haslam was putting up $1 billion to buy our beloved football team from Randy Lerner.

It is time once and for all to put the Modell era in the rear-view mirror. If we can’t forgive Art at least we can now forget about him. All ties to Modell should be past us now that Haslam has fired the last management (coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert) that was tied to the regime of the Lerner family. That’s the same Lerner clan whose papa Al was a minority owner of the old Browns before their move; whose plane Art was on to seal the deal to move the Browns to Baltimore in 1995 and the same guy who the NFL awarded the subsequent expansion Cleveland Browns franchise to just before the end of the last century. And then it was papa Lerner who shortly thereafter died and the franchise was left in the hands of a son who seemed to like soccer more than football.

So whereas Modell was sort of an ego-maniac to the detriment of the Browns and its fans, the last dozen or so years have seen a hands-off owner who invited chaos because of the lack of a true authority figure. Thus, since its birth in 1999, the expansion Browns have went through six head coaches and the continual tinkering of the offensive scheme and changing of quarterbacks.

But for those fans who continually want to compare our new Browns with the Modell Browns,well, that is a big mistake.

Art took over the team around 1961 from a host of mainly anonymous owners for $4 million. An advertising guy from New York, Art only put up about $250,000 of his own money, but as the lead man in the deal, he took an active role publicly. He was his own greatest PR man. The shrewd owner waited for a newspaper strike after the 1962 season to fire legendary Browns coach Paul Brown. It was Brown, not an owner, who birthed and weaned the team in 1946 and brought it to the NFL in 1950, winning the league title that year.

Remember Browns fans, you are the team’s legacy, not some Mad Man who used smoke and mirrors to give us … no titles. Remember, that 1964 NFL title was won with Paul Brown’s team and coached by Paul Brown’s assistant, Blanton Collier.

A football team and its fans are a family unit, and like any family, it looks to the father for protection. It doesn’t need some ego-maniac or absentee to fill that role. That was a sure recipe for dysfunction and 50 years of Browns futility.

Our wish for 2013 is for us Browns fans to embrace our new dad and hope he can be that provider and great protector of our precious team’s posterity – us fans!