Silly to assume Haslam will be less involved with Browns

Posted by Vic Carucci on February 15, 2013 – 12:09 am

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

So Jimmy Haslam is returning to his role as chief executive officer of Pilot Flying J.

So what?

This changes nothing in terms of his involvement as owner of the Browns.

To assume that Haslam is going to have less interest in running the team or will be distant, literally and figuratively, in his relationship with the club and all that it entails is downright silly.

Haslam remains every bit as involved and as engaged with the Browns as he vowed to be when he talked about being “all in” last summer, upon making his purchase offer for a majority stake of the franchise.

I understand that some Browns fans can be leery about hearing that the team’s owner has something other than the team occupying the bulk of his attention.

That is largely because the previous majority owner, Randy Lerner, spent a good deal of time away from the Browns and went as far as appointing the previous team president, Mike Holmgren, as his owner representative. Lerner made almost no public appearances and had virtually no connection with the fan base.

The situation with Haslam is far different.

First, he has every reason to feel good about the group he has put in place to run the team, beginning with CEO Joe Banner. Banner brings nearly 20 years of experience of running the Philadelphia Eagles to the Browns. In Philadelphia, he hired a highly successful coach in Andy Reid. Banner spearheaded the building one of one of the best and most successful stadiums in the league, Lincoln Financial Field, and a state-of-the-art practice facility. He understands the business of football as well as anyone who has ever worked in the NFL.

So far under Banner’s watch, the Browns have put together a coaching staff that has a great deal of experience, even if Rob Chudzinski is in his first season as a head coach. They have assembled a business operation with people with extensive and varied backgrounds of considerable success in the NFL and other major-league sports.

They have a naming rights deal for Cleveland Browns Stadium, and continue to work toward other enhancements to build the world-class organization Haslam and Banner promised the Browns would be.

And Haslam remains a major part of it all. He will be every bit as visible and accessible as he has been, even while spending time in his hometown of Knoxville, Tenn., where the Pilot Flying J headquarters are located.

Haslam’s decision to return to his CEO duties with Pilot Flying J makes perfect sense when you consider that that is the company that put him on the map as a major figure in business. Remember, it was Pilot Flying J’s tremendous success in the world of truck stops that allowed him to buy the Browns.

Haslam needs to continue to take good care of it because it has taken good care of him and his family, and everything to which they are connected … including the Browns.

And exactly how much involvement does one want from the owner of an NFL team? There are different approaches, from the very hands-on style of Jerry Jones (who also is the Cowboys’ general manager) to more of a stay-in-the-background position adopted by others.

Among Haslam’s many strong qualities is recognizing that he does not have all of the answers when it comes to football and his willingness to defer to the people with a deeper understanding of the game and running a team. That doesn’t mean he will accept everyone else’s answers at face-value and won’t have an opinion or strong input on key decisions regarding free agency or the draft. He will.

Haslam is not going to function with his back to the Browns. Any assumption to the contrary is, well, silly.

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