The morning of Friday, July 27 was a whirlwind, eh? So much leisurely settling into a Friday and sipping coffee as you day dream about the weekend's upcoming tee times, grilling times and mapping out your Olympic viewing schedule to sync with the times NBC would televise women's beach volleyball.
No, there was just the small news story of: HOLY CRAP RANDY LERNER IS SELLING THE Cleveland Browns!
Yeah, how's that to a start of the 2012 season?
With so many angles sprouting from this topic, and still plenty of unknowns, we need to start the discussion somewhere. Let's start with Randy Lerner. He was handed this team in Oct. 2002. Was he — as some media members suggest — a pathetic figure and the most irrelevant billionaire in the world? Or did he really try to do the best for the Cleveland Browns, but he just simply failed?
FRED GREETHAM: I think he never really wanted to be an NFL owner. He basically wanted to carry on what his father started. I've sat with him and he is a very passionate individual that really wants the Browns to be a championship caliber team. He just doesn't have the personality to be in the limelight.
Most of the NFL owners like to be out front and involved, but he prefers to send someone like Mike Holmgren to the meetings to be his proxy. In fairness, Lerner has spent a lot of money--both to bring in people and to get rid of those he's hired-- on the Browns trying to get it right, but he isn't a football man and every time he made a decision to hire someone it was based on the recommendation of people he trusted in the football world.
He overpaid to bring Holmgren here to take over everything football related. I really don't think the sale of the Browns will be a big deal unless the new regime makes one major change--that of the GM Tom Heckert.
If Holmgren leaves, his departure will not have a major impact on the organization immediately. Holmgren. However, if they pull the plug on Heckert, that will set the team back once again to starting over. Even if they decided to let Pat Shurmur go, it won't be as devastating as letting Heckert go.
LANE ADKINS: Randy Lerner is a good man. I have had the opportunity to talk with him on numerous occasions as well as some back and forth digital communication. Lerner isn't a football guy and he will tell you that, this is where his troubles compound.
When his father passed, Randy was not ready to be an owner of a major professional franchise. He put his faith into those he trusted or gained professional relationships with in the industry and asked for opinions and recommendations. Lerner is a fan, always has been and he attempted to separate his feelings about running an NFL franchise. He figured by hiring responsible and highly recommended individuals, the business would run and he could remain out of the spotlight, something he nearly despises.
As Browns fans feel the pain and disappointment of consistently losing, bordering on embarrassment at times, Lerner himself feels the same way -- he is a fan.
I believe the timing of the sale couldn't have been worse. The organization has a plan in place and have gained talent to potentially turn the corner and become the young, competitive team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert schemed to see come to fruition.
With a new ownership on the way, it's likely Holmgren will be departing the organization -- if Joe Banner becomes president of the organization, as well as being part of the ownership group. There is no room for both men, of differing dynamics attempting to head this organization.
The key could come in what happens to Heckert. A loss of Holmgren can be absorbed due to his wearing of hats which do not evaluate and secure personnel -- though he offers his experience and opinion on matters. Heckert is the key for continuity, if the new ownership group retains him and enables him to operate in the manner he has.
Replacing Heckert would set the organization back, as any general manager type candidate will want to place his stamp on the player roster and personnel department.
DAVE KOLONICH: Only in America. What a country.
DON DELCO: It is really hard to fault Randy Lerner for the postition he was put in and — most — of the decisions he made. He did have the Browns' best interest in mind, it simply failed time after time.
As for Heckert, he's done a tremendous job infusing this roster with talent. Unilke the previous GMs, don't you think if a new one would come to Cleveland, he would have a better roster to play with? Yes, some of the guys may not fit his philosophies, but it is hard to discout the talent that is now on this roster compared to when Heckert took over.
I truly hope Heckert stays, though. I like the direction he is taking this roster and with the patience he is displaying. The Browns were not a quick fix and he's building the roster for long-term success.
Then again, it would be a very Browns-like thing for this team to once again get rebooted. The Browns are lucky. For one, the lack of games and long offseason helps fans forget the recent past. Another reboot may be easier for fans to absorb. Not to mention a lot of fans have reserved most of their venom to be placed upon the town's professional baseball team.
BARRY McBRIDE: In October 2002, Randy Lerner was handed a massive responsibility in the worst way possible, and was saddled with a promise to run the team for ten years. It may be hard to muster sympathy for someone with the wealth to be an NFL owner, but an unprepared Lerner was placed in a bad situation, one he clearly would not have chosen for himself.
My take on Lerner, based both on personal conversations and watching the results of his tenure, is that the Browns owner earnestly cared and tried his best to shepherd the team to success. His dislike of publicity often created the impression that he wasn't involved or simply cared only about soccer, neither of which were accurate.
Lerner's failure is that he simply didn't hit the right combination of GMs and coaches during his decade in charge of the team. Butch Davis flared out, Phil Savage failed to grow into the GM role, and then Lerner misfired with George Kokinis and Eric Mangini. Lerner finally handed off the day-to-day operation - including the business side of the organization, surprisingly - to Mike Holmgren and continued to downplay his own role.
The Lerner tenure hasn't been all bad. For instance, one thing that Browns fans do owe to Randy Lerner is that the stadium is currently named Cleveland Browns Stadium, and hasn't been sold off to a giant corporation. Randy Lerner was the bridge from his own father to, in all likelihood, a new owner who has a passion for owning a football franchise. For that, we owe him our thanks.