By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor
Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner weren’t merely being polite Monday when they said the outgoing general manager and head coach of the Browns left the team in better shape than they had found it.
Haslam, the Browns’ owner, and Banner, the team’s chief executive officer, were stating a fact shared by others throughout the NFL.
The Browns have improved since Tom Heckert became their GM in 2010 and Pat Shurmur became their head coach a year later.
Obviously, it wasn’t enough of an improvement for them to keep their jobs. Fourteen wins in the time that Heckert had been with the Browns and nine in the time that Shurmur was with the team didn’t provide a compelling case for Haslam and Banner to stand pat, and on Monday they parted ways with Heckert and Shurmur.
But what remains of their brief legacy is compelling and is a significant factor in the search for a new coach, who will have a more expansive role than his predecessor, and someone to become either the new GM or director of player personnel.
There is a solid core of young players on the roster, some with exceptional talent that should only become more evident in years to come. There is a dynamic running back in rookie Trent Richardson, who should achieve elite status in his second season. There is, in Brandon Weeden, a quarterback who, at the very least, could sufficiently fill the starting spot for another year and, at the very most, could prove to be a long-term answer.
There is one of the league’s best cornerbacks in Joe Haden and a defensive tackle, in Phil Taylor, capable of being dominant. There is a team that, for the better part of 16 games, competed hard and held its own and very easily could have added about three more victories to its 5-11 record.
That’s a large part of the reason why, when Haslam said during a joint news conference with Banner that “this is a very attractive job,” it was easy to agree with him.
The new people who will join Banner in running the football operation won’t need to build something from scratch.
“There’s nobody that wants to have a winning team more than the two of us, OK?” Haslam said of himself and Banner. “But we’re going to do it in the right way and we’re going to build it in the right way, and we’ve got the core foundation. There were some good young players, and we need to add to it.”
Yes, as Banner pointed out, the Browns still have “a ways to go” on further enhancing the roster.
But the task isn’t nearly as daunting as it was or might be elsewhere.
The Browns also can sell to the best candidates available something that didn’t previously exist: stable ownership that is fully invested in doing everything it takes to make the team a consistent playoff contender. Haslam and Banner, with his wealth of experience of running a top-flight NFL organization from the 19 years he spent with the Philadelphia Eagles, can approach prospective coaches with every bit as much to offer as any of the other NFL clubs with such vacancies – and probably more.
The sales job shouldn’t be difficult.
As Banner said, “We go into this extremely confident that we can go after the top people available – at least the top people in our opinion – and that we have a very good chance of being successful in convincing them that this is the right situation. Most of these top coaches are focused on finding a place where they think they can win, and we think we can make a very good case why this is the best opportunity in the league right now.”
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