Have Browns 'peaked' under Haslam?

Up until a few years ago, there was always one constant upon which we could depend when talking football in Cleveland: The Browns were hideous. And I don’t mean just plain old everyday hideous. I mean money-in-the-bank hideous. Hideous to the point of being comical.

The primary reason they’ve been the train wreck they’ve been is, without question, the ownership. For the greater part of the last quarter-century, the primary owners have been Randy “I’d rather watch my soccer team” Lerner and now Jimmy Haslam.

Randy Lerner was pretty much an imbecile running the Browns, but at least he had an excuse in that he never wanted to run the Browns. Randy merely inherited the task when his father, Al, passed. Randy spent a lot of time and money trying to make the Browns competitive, but with little success.

When the day came that Lerner announced he was selling the team, I remember – quite vividly – saying, “I don’t care who he sold the team to – the new guy can’t possibly be any worse than Randy Lerner.”

It didn’t take long to rue the day I uttered those words. In fact, within a couple of years, most Browns fans were already bemoaning the absence of Uncle Randy. Never lose sight of the fact that in Cleveland, it’s all relative.

New Browns owner Jimmy Haslam quickly established an “open door” policy with the team. Not in the sense of a welcoming “My door is always open” mantra, but more of a “revolving door” policy as in a “You’re fired” kind of application.

From Johnny Manziel to countless head coaches and general managers, it soon became quite clear that Jimmy had very little to do with amassing the Haslam fortune. Frankly, about the only thing Jimmy seemed proficient at amassing was losing seasons in the NFL.

Then, suddenly, things appeared to change for the better in Cleveland. Most notably, Haslam fired “Mr. 1-31” himself, head coach Hue Jackson. The Browns drafted Baker Mayfield, hit on some other draft choices, and, crazy enough as it sounds, they began to win football games.

Not that it has been all happy-happy-joy-joy, because there have been some significant growing pains. For example, the Browns missed big on Freddie Kitchens, Odell Beckham Jr. and many of the other “big” names – especially those on the defense – have underperformed. Mayfield played hurt most of the past season, and 2020’s Coach of the Year, Kevin Stefanski, has left folks scratching their heads over some of his decisions in 2021.

I have wondered in this column several times the last few years whether the Browns could ever be successful in spite of having Jimmy Haslam as the owner. The Browns have been unable to put together consecutive winning seasons with a roster which should at least play .500 consistently over the long haul. Yet they have not, so far.

It makes one wonder if the old adage “It starts at the top” will ring true, and haunt Jimmy Haslam as well as his organization.

Perhaps Haslam has already taken the Browns as far as he possibly can.

Jeff Bing

Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!

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Volume 14, Issue 2, Posted 10:06 AM, 01.18.2022