Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam Addresses Reasons For Another Leadership Change

0
980
Jimmy and Dee Haslam
Source: Scott Piker

It took four days since the firing of head coach Freddie Kitchens. It also took two days after the firing of general manager John Dorsey. Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam finally addressed the reasons why another regime and coaching change is taking place Thursday afternoon.

In what can only be described as a Browns move, Haslam conducts the press conference whil conducting interviews with the first two head coach candidates, Mike McCarthy and Greg Roman.

Despite the strange timing of the press conference, here is what the Browns owner had to say about the events of the last few days and what’s the plan going forward this time.

Opening statement:

“Clearly not where we wanted to be in early January of 2020. As owners, certainly not proud of all of the changes that have happened since we came on the scene in 2012. As owners, we take full responsibility for all of those changes, and I think at the same time having been in Northeast Ohio and the City of Cleveland for these past seven years are more determined than ever to, for lack of a better term, get this right. We are extremely focused on getting the right head coach and the right GM because we want this to be the kind of environment, kind of team and kind of continuity that I will be honest this organization, our players, this city and Northeast Ohio deserve. I can’t stress enough that one, we feel terrible what has happened, but two, more determined than ever to get it right as we move forward, and I mean that sincerely. I would like to thank (former Browns Head Coach) Freddie (Kitchens) for his two years here. These kind of changes are tough. You spend a lot of time with these people, and certainly, enjoyed our time with him. We just did not feel like the team made enough progress during the course of the year and decided to move forward. We had a lot of conversation with (former Browns General Manager) John (Dorsey), who is as good of a man as frankly we have ever met. Tried to find a role for him in the organization that made sense for both, and to end, just agreed that made sense for John to leave the organization. Certainly wish both him and Freddie well. I do think this sets us up well to first hire a head coach and then have the head coach be involved in the hiring of the GM. I want to stress that it will not be solely be the head coach’s decision. It will be a collaborative process involving ownership and several other members of top management, if you will, as we hire the GM. Really excited about the slate of candidates we have to interview over the next several days. (Former Packers Head Coach) Coach ( Mike) McCarthy is in here today. We have been spending some time with him, and we will do so throughout the day. (Senior Vice President of Communications) Peter (Jean-Baptiste) will make our schedule available as it becomes more firm. Obviously, several of these coaches are involved in the playoffs and that creates a fluid situation. I think you all know (Chief Strategy Officer) Paul DePodesta will be leading the process for us. (Executive Vice President) J.W. Johnson; (Vice President of Player Administration) Chris Cooper, who does all of our cap work and has been with the organization for quite some time; and myself will be the front line of the search process, if you will, but several others in the organization, including Dee (Haslam), will be involved in that process. We think Paul is really good at this type of positon. If you think about it, all he has done his whole adult life is gather data to help make good decisions so we think he is ideally suited to lead this process.”

On a common theme among playoff teams of being patient with their staffs and why the Browns have been unable to have that continuity:

“Yeah, I think patience and continuity are good as long as you think you have the right people in place. Listen, these are really hard decisions, and it is a tough question to answer because I do not want to come down unduly harsh on people who have been here in the past. I think you all know that is not our style. We just did not feel like we had the right people in place to move forward like we would like to. Believe me, this kind of change is hard. It is not something we wanted to do. I think I started out by saying it is certainly not something we are proud of, but it is something we are determined to get right this time.”

On potential challenges convincing head coaching candidates that ownership will be patient and give them a chance to build the franchise:

“I think that is a good question and a fair question. I will say this, we are really excited about the group of candidates that we will be interviewing over the next several days. I think maybe despite all of the changes we have made, it is a very attractive job. Everybody in the NFL knows how important football is in this area. I think everybody understands we have a really good young quarterback and a really good core group of players so we are excited about the opportunity to work with these candidates over the next week or two or however long it takes.”

On what Dorsey could have done to result in the Browns asking him to change his contract:

“We did not ask him to change his contract.”

On Dorsey being the General Manager and discussing potential roles within the organization:

“We asked John to take a different position in the organization. I do not want to get into all the details. We felt like it was well suited to John’s skillset. When we could not work it out, we agreed to move forward.”

On what led to the mutual parting of ways with Dorsey:

“I do not really want to get into that. I do not think it is fair to John or fair to us. Like I said, John is a good man, and we are going to move forward.”

On how McCarthy is doing in his interview today and if NFL head coaching experience a prerequisite for the Browns head coaching job:

“I think it would be unfair to coach to say [how the interview is going], but obviously, he has great experience. He has won 62 percent of his games and that speaks for himself. We have really enjoyed our time with him. Head coaching experience is not necessarily a prerequisite. If you notice, we are interviewing people who have been head coaches in the NFL and people who have not.”

On why the Browns did not interview McCarthy last year:
“That was just a decision that was made by the group.”

On if former Florida and Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer is a candidate for the Browns head coaching position:

“Right now, we are just focusing on people with NFL experience.”

On if reports are true that Meyer is a candidate for the Browns head coaching job:

“I think it is pretty clear what I said.”

On talented players like QB Baker Mayfield making the Browns job more attractive, several of which were acquired by Dorsey:

“John did a nice job for us in some aspects. Like I said, I think it is unfair to him and unfair to the organization to get into the exact reasons why we felt like reorganizing the personnel group made sense. I will just leave it at that.”

On ensuring fans why the Browns will get the coaching and GM hiring right this time:

“There is no guarantee. Let’s be honest, there is no guarantee. I do think we have learned a tremendous amount the hard way, a very painful way, and I think we have a clearer vision and expectation of exactly what we are looking for in both positions.”

On the Browns’ job search process and ensuring the team remains confident in its decision 12-24 months from now:

“We had a good process last time – I will say that – but I think we will have really good process this time. I think we have really good candidates, and hopefully, we will pick the right individual, but for me to say I am over confident would not be the appropriate thing to say. I would just reiterate where sat at the first: we are very determined to get it right this time.”

On how committed the Browns are to giving the next head coach and GM a chance, even if the team does not initially perform as expected:

“We are, but every situation is different. Every situation is different. There has to be progress made both on the field and behind the scenes off the field. You just have to look at every situation as it is. I hope we get it right and I hope our head coach is here 10-15 years and our GM is here 10-15 years, also. It is a heck of a lot easier on all of us.”

On if he believes there was a time in the past when the Browns’ hiring process was not good and how the Browns’ process has improved over time:

“You all have heard me say this before, when you first come into the league, unless you have had real experience, you do not know a lot. I think the first two or three searches we ran, we did not have process and discipline. I think last time, we did much better, and I think this time will be even better in terms of being very disciplined in how we go about things, gathering data, doing really good research, getting references, etc. Let’s see, we talked to Freddie Sunday night, and I can’t tell you how many calls various people in this organization have made, checking references, doing background checks, gathering data, etc. It will be very thorough. It has been and will be very thorough.”

On if he can explain exactly how the search is being conducted with DePodesta leading it, who will be part of the search committee and who will make the final decision:

“I think it is ownership will make the final decision, but not in a vacuum. We will make it with input from Paul (DePodesta), Chris Cooper, who is also going to be on the search committee with us, and various other people in the organization who have had the opportunity to meet and deal with the candidates.”

On if Johnson will be involved with the hiring process when referencing ownership:

“Let’s start with this, the search committee is Paul, Chris Cooper, JW and myself. Dee will obviously be involved in the final decisions as will several other people around here whose opinions we value.”

On DePodesta’s skillset that allows him to contribute to the organization:

Latest From FPC on SportsCastr


“I think Paul is a very smart individual, very strategic and very disciplined in his decision making process. He has been a good thought partner for us.”

On when the Browns will hire a GM:

“We are going to hire the coach first and then we will do the GM search. The coach will be involved in that process but will not have the final say.  [The head coach] will not have the final say but will be heavily involved in that process. In you all’s terms, we will not have an ‘arranged marriage.’ Let me just continue on because I think I know what you are going to ask, the coach and the GM will report to ownership as equals and obviously married up with each other.”

On DePodesta’s role following the head coach and GM search:

“Paul’s’ job will stay exactly the same as it is now. He is in charge of strategy. He reports to ownership. Nothing will change. He will do everything he can to support the GM and the head coach.”

On why the Browns have determined this organizational structure is best, given the team has had various structures in the past:

“Let’s face it, we are running it the hard way, right? I think everybody talks a lot about structure – and I think structure is important – but I think far more important are these two things: getting the right people and making sure they are aligned. If you looked at the other 31 teams, there are all kinds of different structures, but if you look at the successful organizations that are consistently in the playoffs year after year, there is alignment within the organization and they have the right people in the right place – coach and GM. That is what we are focusing on tremendously, and that alignment is something that is really, really important. It sound easy, but it is not.”

On if Dorsey and Kitchens were aligned together:

“I think we can always do better. I think we can always do better. I think it is really important to get alignment not just coach and GM but within the entire organization.”

On what the Browns desire from candidates for both the head coach and GM positions:

“Let’s start with the coach. JW and I probably talked to 25 or 30 of our players on Monday and Tuesday morning – what I would call our core group of players. Players want leadership. They really do want strong leadership. We are looking for a strong leader, one; someone who is smart, two; has really good football acumen, three; and then will work within the organization – it is not my way or the highway and will work within the organization for the best result. I also think we want somebody who is a continuous learner and somebody who is trying to get better all the time. I would say those are the four or five characteristics. On the GM, it is really not a whole lot different. The leadership piece is a little different than the head coach, but I would say the other attributes are the same.”

On explaining his statement that the role of the NFL GM is evolving:

“I think it is going from just being a scout to somebody who is assessing players with the variety of whether it be traditional scouting, whether it would be using data to help make decisions, which is really what analytics is to coordinating other key functions in the organization.”

On if promoting Assistant General Manager Eliot Wolf to GM would be the most seamless transition in order to avoid a potential overhaul to the roster:

“I actually think we have a really good football organization, a solid football organization in place. Eliot will remain in his role. He is here in the building today. We have interfaced with him several times. He talked with Coach McCarthy this morning. We will go outside of the organization to find our next GM.”

 

On if the Browns’ goal is to keep the roster intact with a new head coach and new GM, given many new hires want to make significant changes to the roster:
“If you look over the last couple of years, I think the first thing you have to do is really understand the players in place. It is really important to know your own team. Everybody looks at who we add, and I think it is really important also to look at who we subtract. Do not get me wrong, there could be some changes in the roster, but we have a pretty solid group of core players who are all extremely young. The other day, we just happened to have back to back [players] come in and talk to JW (Johnson) and me. (CB) Greedy (Williams), who is 22; (LB) Mack (Wilson), who is 21; (S Sheldrick) Redwine, who is 23 and (CB) Denzel (Ward), who is 22. (QB) Baker (Mayfield) is 24, and our old guys (WR) Jarvis (Landry) and (WR) Odell (Beckham Jr.) are 27. It is a very young group. (DE) Myles (Garrett) is 24. That core group of players is very young. I can’t imagine anybody wanting to change that group.”

On if the Browns are returning to a more data-analytical approach within the team’s football operations:

“This might be helpful for you all, we talk about data and analytics and analytics is the term that is used more. Let me go back to my other world at Pilot. When I used to visit a store – some of you have probably heard me say this – 10 or 15 years ago and let’s say you are the store manager in Ashtabula, Ohio. I would walk in and say, ‘How many of these are you selling?’, and you would say, ‘A ton.’ I did not know if that is 2,000 or 200 or 20. Now, I ask you that question and you pull up your handheld, and you say, ‘We have sold 11 today and last month we sold 412,’ so we make decisions based on what is actually selling and real facts. That is all we are trying to do is to take facts, and if Baker is better out of a certain formation or a certain play, we are going to try to put him in positon where he can be successful. That is all analytics is. It is using data to help you make better decisions.”

On if the Browns got away from analytics a bit in recent years:

“I think there is a tremendous opportunity for us to do better in that area is all I can say.”

On potential concern that Mayfield will become one of a small group of NFL QBs to have four head coaches in his first three years with the same team:
“Let me say this, Baker caught a lot of grief this year, and I think with everything that was asked to put on his plate both in terms of leadership and as a player in his first full year, he did a remarkable job. We need to do everything we can to help Baker realize his full potential. That is something all of us in this organization are focused on.”

On how often he has felt the Browns have had good alignment within the organization:

“I do not think it has been nearly as good as it should be, and we are extremely focused on that going forward.”

On who will have final say on the 53-man roster:
“The GM will have decision over  the 53 and the head coach over the 46.”

On evaluating leadership of candidates who have never been an NFL head coach:

“It is a really good question because you have a lot of really good coordinators who struggle to make the jump to be the head coach/CEO, and when we talk to the individuals who are really good coordinators, the questions we ask them will be centered on overall leadership, being the CEO of the organization and how do you not just be a glorified head coach who is really a coordinator. Those are really the kind of questions that we will really zero in on.”

On the notion that Kitchens was hired as head coach due to being a good offensive coordinator:

“I think that is fair.”

On if ownership had reservations when hiring Kitchens last year, given Dorsey led Kitchens’ introductory press conference:

“No, we did not [have reservations]. First of all, it is an organizational decision of who the head coach was. Secondly, we wanted John to be front and center up there in his role as overall football operations because that was appropriate at the time. I would not read anything into that.”

 

On returning to a structure where the head coach and GM both report directly to ownership and a similar structure in the past potentially leading to an internal power struggle:

“I goes back to that alignment and making sure that people are properly aligned and everybody is heading towards the same goal and vision. We talked to the players as a group on Monday, and we talked to all of football operations on Tuesday afternoon – that is equipment, that is training and that is all of the support personnel, etc. The message was listen, if it does not have to do with one of these three things, you are not doing the right thing – the first is winning; the second is improving as an individual; and the third is helping the team. We are going to make sure that whoever we hire as a head coach and whoever we hire as a GM is all focused on that – about the Browns winning games, about the Browns making the playoffs, etc. That may sound like a soft-line answer, but having learned from our past mistakes, we are more determined than ever to get that right this time. That is why we decided to go head coach first and then GM so that the head coach could be involved in that process. Listen, there are no guarantees – you know that – but hopefully, we will have learned from our past mistakes and do a much better job.

“I will close with saying we realize that we have had a tremendous amount of change since we bought the team. We accept responsibility. At the same time, we are more determined than ever to get it right for the Browns, the players and for the great fans of the Cleveland Browns, which we have the best fans, I believe, in the world.”

Scott Piker is the Cleveland BrownsCleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Indians Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage.com. So follow him on twitter @ScottPikerSport

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.