BEREA—From the time Jimmy Haslam started the process of becoming the next Browns owner, he was seeking the right person to be the team’s CEO.
“When it became obvious there was a chance we could buy the Browns, one name kept coming up was Joe Banner,” Haslam said. “It came from people we know and people we didn’t know. I have spent a lot of time with Joe over the last several months. I can tell you I’ve spent more time in this process with Joe than anyone (we’ve hired) with Pilot Flying J.”
Banner said he hit it off with Haslam quickly. He stepped down as the President with the Eagles in June and decided to look for his next step in the NFL.
“I started in June and had the opportunity to meet some people that might be owners as I took the next step in my mission,” Banner said. “My goal was committed to be with somebody great that was also committed. Our goal is to put together an organization that is best at everything we do. We want great people with a common mission. That’s my focus.
“We met many, many times,” he said. “It was more important to us to get it right than to get it done.”
Haslam is convinced he has the right man to run the football operations.
“He’s very bright and he works very hard,” he said. “He has extreme passion in bringing a winning team to Cleveland. We’re excited now, but won’t be really excited until we bring winning team to Cleveland. “
Banner, 59, spent the past 19 years with the Eagles, including the past 12 years as the team’s president. He graduated from Denison University in Columbus.
Under Banner’s watch with the Eagles, the Eagles made the playoffs 11 times, won six NFC East titles and advanced to the NFC Championship Game on five occasions. They also made one Super Bowl appearance.
“It would be impossible for me to exaggerate how excited I am to be with the Browns,” Banner said. “I spent some time in Cleveland and I’m excited to be back and make it my home.”
Other than the announcement that Mike Holmgren will retire at the end of the season, Haslam and Banner said the rest of the organization will be evaluated over the rest of the season. Banner was with Tom Heckert, Pat Shurmur, Dick Jauron and other members of the current Browns during his tenure in Philadelphia.
He was asked how difficult it will be to evaluate people he already has a history with.
“I come into this with a lot of respect (for those people),” Banner said. “I think there will be a thorough evaluation of everything we do.
“In terms of what we have in place, we have to evaluate the rest of the season and see if it fits going forward.”
Haslam told everyone in the organization to continue doing their jobs.
“We’ve made it clear that every year we’re going to evaluate, that everyone in the organization (will be evaluated),” Haslam said. “Although we’re coming in the middle of the year and it’s a little awkward, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Banner was asked about Shurmur specifically.
“My answer is what I have said,” he said. “Pat is an extremely good guy. Hard working and a very principled man and you won’t find a more passionate man.”
Shurmur said he’s fine with the scrutiny he’s under for the rest of the season.
“I’m at peace with whatever happens at the end of the season,” he said. “We know in this business that everyone gets evaluated. Is this the guy we want to lead our team as we go forward? As coaches, we all live with on the edge. It happens to all of us.”
Shurmur said he knows what his task at hand is.
“The message was strong (from Haslam) and it was clear and consistent with what he’s said since it was announced that he was going to buy the team,” he said. “My job is to make sure the players keep their eye on the ball.
Haslam is the first to admit that the timing of his ownership wasn’t the best as the Browns are in the middle of their season.
“I’d remind everybody that we’re six games into the season with 10 more games to go,” he said. “In fairness to the business people, and we’ve told everyone in the organization. We’ve met with everyone in the building and we’ve told them to go do their jobs. Joe and I are here to support and work to help them.”
“I think as Jimmy mentioned it’s not an ideal time,” he said. “In terms of getting going quickly, I’m not coming in with a list of changes. My priority is getting to know the people. I want to get to know what the game day experience for our fans and some of those focuses are going to be invisible.”
Haslam was asked what reasons he though the Browns have failed since coming back in 1999.
“I really haven’t (looked back),” he said. “We’re a little more looking forward than looking backward people.”
The Browns and their fans have gotten used to starting over every few years from Carmen Policy era to the Mike Holmgren era with three regimes in between.
Banner was asked if he expected it to take five years.
“I’ll be in a straight-jacket if it takes that long.”