So, how exactly does that idiom go?
Don’t fool me again, shame on you.
No. That’s not it.
Fool me once, shame on me. Twice, shame on the both of us?
Hang on. I’ll get it.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Ding! That’s it.
Cleveland Browns fans have been fooled countless times since 1999. With each new change in team leadership the thinking was that, OK, this would be the group to lead the Browns back to the promise land.
The promise land has proved to be an elusive territory.
On the verge of the Browns’ 14th season in the NFL since their return in 1999, the team announced Jimmy Haslam III purchased the team from Randy Lerner for $1 billion.
The Lerner Era was over. Enter the Tennessean. Yet unlike with past regimes, blind acceptance has become a thing of the past in Cleveland.
Browns fans are not a dumb bunch. While the desire for a winning team burns as hot as ever, the idea that the fans have been sold a bill of goods before is prominent. Thanks to social media, those fans now have a vehicle to instantly voice their concerns over the direction of the team.
On the same day NFL owners approved Haslam as the team’s new owner Oct. 16, he named Joe Banner the team’s chief executive officer. Right away, the critics came surging out the gates. In his previous job working for the Philadelphia Eagles, Banner didn’t make any friends with those fans.
“Browns fans already know him as the savvy football executive who helped transform the Philadelphia Eagles into a model franchise with his business acumen and willingness to make hard, sometimes unpopular, decisions,” reporter Tom Reed wrote in a Plain Dealer profile on Banner. “Banner's detractors label him a distant, condescending figure, a bottom-line guy who became an easy target for Philadelphia sports talk show callers.”
It is hard to deny what he helped the Eagles accomplish in his 19 years in Philadelphia - 11 playoff berths, five consecutive trips to the NFC Championship game and one Super Bowl appearance.
While the Banner concerns still linger, they did die down until reports began to appear recently that Banner would tab Michael Lombardi to become the team’s new general manager. Lombardi’s track record was less than impressive, which included his stint in Cleveland in the early 90s.
The fans and some in the media, Tony Grossi, would not stand for Lombardi to replace Tom Heckert as the Browns general manager.
On Dec. 6, Fox Sports Ohio’s Pat McManamon reported,“[T]he word from several NFL insiders contacted in light of the recent reports that the Browns would bring in Michael Lombardi as GM is a move the insiders called not nearly as likely as it’s been portrayed.”
If this proves to be true, it comes on the heels of a couple strong decisions from the Browns’ new brass. First, a week after outgoing present Mike Holmgren was seen gland-handing with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones before the Browns game in Dallas, it was announced the Nov. 25 home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers would be Holmgren’s last with the Browns. The previous agreement had Holmgren closing out the season with the team.
That same weekend, the promotions department decided handing out inflatable white flags to fans before playing the rival Pittsburgh Steelers - a team that the Browns have had trouble beating since 1999 - was a good idea. A day before the game, the giveaway was canceled.
Browns’ top brass had a hand in those two decisions.
After all the previously regimes that have come through the north coast and failed spectacularly, the default setting for Browns fans is doom and gloom.
Is time for Browns fans to allow ourselves to become vulnerable again? More importantly, maybe Haslam and Banner aren’t as dumb as we as Browns fans are defaulted to believe?