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Haslam-Banner press conf. transcript - 10/17

Posted Oct 17, 2012

The transcript of new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner's joint press conference.

Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner Press Conference 10-17-12

Jimmy Haslam

(Opening statement)- “Good morning. I feel sure that a lot of you were in Chicago yesterday and if you weren’t I know you’re very aware of all the events that transpired so we won’t waste anybody’s time by rehashing any of that. I do want to talk a little bit about Joe Banner though. Since it became obvious that we had a really good chance of becoming the owner of the Cleveland Browns we started talking to a lot of different people in sports, not just football, but pro sports. One name kept coming up that if you could get this guy it would be a tremendous asset to your franchise and that name was Joe Banner. It came up early and often, candidly, it came up from people we know and people we don’t know. Joe and I have spent a lot of time together really over the last two or three months and have come to know each other very well. As you all know, I come from the business world and have hired a lot of senior executives. I can look everybody in the room in the eye and say I’ve spent more time with this senior executive making sure he was the right fit for the Cleveland Browns than any we’ve ever interviewed for Pilot Flying J because I do think it’s so important. Joe brings, first of all, a wealth of experience, he helped transform the Philadelphia Eagles from one of the, I’ll just say, weaker franchises in the league to, you can argue from the period of 2000-2010 maybe the strongest, certainly one of the strongest. He’s very bright, he works very hard, he’s very focused, very intense and he has extreme passion for bringing a winning team to Cleveland. You all heard me say this yesterday, several people say are you excited and I say, ‘Yes, we are excited, but we won’t really be excited until we start winning consistently,’ then you’ll see a lot of excitement from us. I believe adding Joe Banner to our team as the CEO in charge of all day-to-day operations puts us in a position to have a great winning team and its my pleasure to introduce to you the new CEO of the Cleveland Browns, Joe Banner.”

Joe Banner

“Thanks very much. First of all just quickly, it would be impossible to exaggerate how happy I am to be here. This is a spectacular day for me personally and I’m honored and tremendously pleased that Jimmy and his family have the faith in me to give me this opportunity. It’s also important to me that I brought my whole family in here from Philadelphia although my daughter who is at a real job in New York couldn’t be here with us, but my wife Helaine, my son Jon and my son Jason. We’re all thrilled to be here. I went to school in Ohio, I know the area well, I spent some time in Cleveland, I loved it when I was here and I’m really excited to be back and have a chance to make it my home. I started on a mission in June when I stayed in an advisory role with the Eagles, but was really moving on to the next thing at that point and had the pleasure to start to meet a few people that were interested in possibly being owners in NFL teams. I was trying to maybe sort through maybe what would be the right next mission for me and then I had an opportunity through an introduction to meet Jimmy and his dad in my first meeting. I’m just telling you at that point and I think you’ve all started to see this, I didn’t have another meeting with anybody else to discuss any other interests or opportunities. My goal was to find somebody who was committed to doing great and was focused about winning on the field and that wanted to come to a community with the incredible passion the fans here have for this team and frankly reward them for all that the energy and passion they’ve got about the team. Our goal is to put together an organization that will be the best at everything we do whether it’s our work in the community, whether it’s the business that we do and most importantly and this will be the clear focus of the organization, what we do on the field and our goal to try to win championships. We’re going to do that by putting together great people, having a common mission, working hard and doing everything in a way that everybody will be very proud of this organization and what we represent so that’s my focus. On a day-to-day basis, our hope is that someday not far down the road our fans feel like this is the most fan-friendly organization in professional sports, that the thrill that they had the other day and the joy you could see from the win was something they we’re experiencing on a regular basis and we all feel that there’s a good foundation laid here to move that forward and elevate this organization to that standard here with a lot of good hard work and a lot of good people here.”

Joe Banner

(On his relationship with Tom Heckert and other members of the staff from his time in Philadelphia)- “I was with Tom, I believe it was for seven years. I think Pat (Shurmur) was with us for 10 as well as some of the people, the Jon Sandusky’s, (John) Spytek’s, Brad Childress and Dick Jauron so there’s a lot of familiar faces here. There isn’t a single one that I don’t like personally, have a lot of respect for and I’ve seen them do their jobs extremely well in an environment in which I worked right with them. I come in with a very positive attitude and impression about all those people and have a good personal relationships with them. I think as Jimmy has indicated and I think every team in the league does this, at the end of the year we’ll sit down and evaluate if we’ve got everything in place to reach the goals we’ve set for down the road and do that kind of analysis like everybody does, but I come into this with a lot of respect and good feelings towards all those people.”

Joe Banner

(On if there will be for sure changes after this season)- “No, I don’t think so necessarily. I think there will be a thorough evaluation of everything that we do, but whether there will be changes or not, I think time answers that for us.”

Joe Banner

(On if he plans on having the final say with football decisions and the 53-man roster)- “First lets elaborate a little about what Jimmy said, as it relates to football decisions like decisions for example, you’re asking about these kind of people that we have here, these aren’t going to be my decisions. I’ll be involved with that. Jimmy owns the team. We’ll work together closely on that. As the owner of the team obviously he’ll have final say over those matters, but we’ll work together on those kinds of decisions. I think the detail of the rest of your question will really evolve. I think we’re going to try to put together, we going to try to get some really strong people that are not only really good at what they do, but they fit together well and as we see what the various strengths and weaknesses are of the people we put together, we’ll figure out better exactly what detail of who’s going to have what exact responsibilities. The key for us is to get a group of really strong people that are good at what they do, but also fit well together to maximize what they can collectively do.”

Joe Banner

(On his impressions of Pat Shurmur)- “My answer is what I said. I think all of you know, you’ve met Pat. He’s an extremely good guy, he’s just a really good person, he’s a very hard working guy, he’s a very principled man, he’s got a wonderful family and I don’t think you’ll find anybody as more passionate at trying to do the best they can and succeed as well as they can. Those are all very important ingredients, it’s what he represented when I knew him in Philadelphia, it’s what I feel like I’ve seen him do here.”

Jimmy Haslam

“I’ll just reiterate what we’ve said. He’s a great guy, he’s working hard, he’s making progress and we’re going to do everything we can to help him be successful.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On how the business side of the Browns is different now than before Mike Holmgren came to the organization three years ago)- “I don’t know if I can comment on that because I was not aware of what it was like back before Mike and his team came in. I’m probably not qualified to comment on that.”

Joe Banner

(On what he would say he learned from his experience in Philadelphia and if he would he change anything about how he will do this job based on what he did in Philadelphia)- “I think there was a lot that I learned in Philadelphia. It started with my answer about Jimmy. The key differentiator in the teams in the NFL start with the ownership and the ownership having the right goals and right agenda and both doing and supporting hiring the right people to implement their vision and their goals, creating the right priorities. That’s why it was very important to me when I was talking to Jimmy, my priority is winning games and having a chance to win a championship and have the joy of that and reward the fans so that was the first thing I learned. As you look around the league, you can separate the franchises that are successful from those that aren’t as successful and there are certain points of differentiation. As far as myself personally, it’s just the extension of that. You need to fill the organization with the best people in the business if you want to talk about being the best in the business. You have to have people that are hardworking, honest and doing things the right way. I learned through the years in Philadelphia, and I justifiably developed a reputation early in the years I was in Philadelphia of being a particularly tough negotiator. I think if you talk to people who negotiated with me later, I learned that there was some value sometimes in finding common ground as opposed to trying to win the negotiations. If you’re objective about yourself and you’re trying to be successful, you learn from your experience. There’s a lot of little iterations of that kind of an example that you learn if you’ve been in something like this as long as I’ve been in it now.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On if he can give any kind of assurance that Heckert’s and Shurmur’s futures will be determined strictly on job performance and merit)- “Absolutely, I think we’ve made it very clear that every year we’re going to evaluate everybody in the organization. We’re going to do it during the course of the season and at the end of the year we’ll sit down and have those conversations with that individual. Although we’re coming in in the middle of the year and it’s a little awkward and a little different, that’s exactly how it’s going to work. Tom knows that and Pat knows that.”

Joe Banner

(On what the challenges were like as he tried to build a new stadium and practice facility while running a franchise and what he learned from that)- “It’s a team effort. We spoke to the organization earlier today and talked in terms of everybody pulling their weight and then nobody has too much to pull. Everybody can kind of make it work so I think you’ve got everybody pulling in the same direction towards a common goal, you’ve got all good people that are very dedicated and my impression is there are a lot of great people that are very passionate and doing great jobs. You just get a clear focus and everybody is pulling in the same direction and then all of a sudden it isn’t really that hard to move forward. You want to do it with kind of a clear vision and clear priorities, which we have from Jimmy and then everybody is able to know where we’re headed and get there easily.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On if he has looked back and studied the successes and failures of the different groups that have tried to turn this franchise around)- “I really haven’t and maybe we should have, but I really haven’t. I think I said this yesterday, we’re a little more look forward than look back type of people and when it became obvious that we needed to have somebody like Joe brought in we looked all over the place as I said in my introductory remarks and one name kept popping up and it was Joe Banner. We spent an exhaustive amount of time. I’m sure he and Helaine probably thought I was crazy as many places I’ve asked him to meet, as many times I came to Philadelphia, but we thought it was important to get it right. I’ve checked out Joe as thoroughly as anybody I’ve ever checked out and feel really comfortable he’s the right guy to run the Cleveland Browns.”

Joe Banner

“I feel like I’ve just looked at the league as well as having my own experience and have a vision as to what it takes to be successful in the league. It really sounds trite and sounds almost too simplistic, but it really is just about really making sure you’ve got the best people working for you and you’ve got a common vision, everybody pulling in the same direction so that’s going to be our focus. The other thing, I just want to be careful. I know these fans have been through a lot of hopeful starts and I don’t want to sit up here and be the next promiser in their eyes. We’re just going to have to deliver. I know this, nobody will work harder, nobody will have a clearer direction, I don’t imagine anybody could have more, maybe somebody else could tie, of a sense of the appreciation of the history of the fans and the city. Its remarkable when you look at the last 18-20 years, the passion, the intensity and they’re still filling the stadium so we’re going to just work as hard as we possibly can to reward that and put the best team on the field we can and just make it fun for everybody.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On how good of a feeling he has for this organization)- “I think that’s why you’ve heard us say we’ve asked a lot of questions. We’ve been around a lot and we’ll be around more now asking questions and listening and learning. We’ll continue to do so and I would remind everybody we’re six games into a 16-game season, we have 11 weeks left with the bye week and 10 games left to go so there’s still lots of time to learn, listen, evaluate, etcetera.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On if there are any changes to the business side of the organization that he will start implementing)- “No, I think in fairness to the business people and everybody naturally focuses on football, and rightly so, is we’re going to evaluate. We’ve told everybody in the organization. We’ve had one-on-ones with the top executives and this morning we met with the team, we met with everybody that works in the building and we’ve said, ‘Listen, everybody will be evaluated at the end of the year. Between now and then go do your job, work hard, focus, do what your bosses tell you to do and at the end of the year everybody will be evaluated, but don’t worry about anything because it doesn’t do any good to do so.’ Joe and I are here to support everybody in the building and help them do their job better. We’re not working against anybody, we’re here to support them and help them do their job better.”

Joe Banner

(On where the Browns are now relative to where the Eagles were when he took over there)- “There are a lot of analogies. You’re in a market with a fan base that’s just tremendously passionate and frankly, in running a franchise there’s nothing more valuable than being in a place where they care that much and there’s that much passion and interest. That’s very analogous to what I had in Philadelphia. The challenge is how do we take advantage of that and how do we reward that quite frankly, whether it’s a gameday experience, getting from your car to the stadium or buying a hot dog at the concession stand or how you feel when you walk out of the building based on how the team performed. We’re going to evaluate every single aspect of that and that’s again similar to Philadelphia. There will be some places where a little incremental improvement can be made and there will some places, frankly, where you’ll see dramatic changes, but it will take time. If we went and evaluated the gameday experience and felt there was an opportunity to enhance that experience dramatically, you’ll probably see some of that next year and a lot of it the year after that. This is not something that gets transformed in a couple of minutes. Jimmy’s leading a very long term vision of what he wants the franchise to be so we’re not going to do a number of things either with the team or on the business side or on the experience to just kind of fill in the moment. We’re going to lay the foundation for things that are going to get put in place, done right and then last a long time.”

Joe Banner

(On how the Eagles fans treated him)- “They were up and down (joking).”

Joe Banner

(On how confident he would be if they have to rebuild football operations because he didn’t have to do that in Philadelphia for long time due to the continuity with Andy Reid)- “Again, I don’t want to spend too much time on Philadelphia because we’re really trying to look forward here so I’ll really speak more generically. I don’t think you see any operations, I don’t care if they’re businesses, sports teams, whatever they are, that are successful that don’t have continuity. I view continuity as an important element. I think continuity is important as much because of the loyalty that continuity says that you have for the people that are coming in and doing a good job. You have to pick the right time to kind of begin the clock on continuity. When you feel like you’ve got the organization set up with the right people then you have continuity. That doesn’t mean you’re already at success. It means you feel like, you know what, we’re set up with the right people and the right vision that as I look down the road, I can see us getting where it is we want to get to. Then you want to put a very large emphasis on continuity. I’ve talked to Jimmy, and he asked me what some of my priorities were. I said to him, I want to be able to attract really good people and then create an environment where they’re going to want to stay. I think at the right time, you want to have that kind of an environment. We may have now or we may have to go through a process getting to the point where we feel like we have that in place. Now let’s just get the vision, get everybody working on the same page and move forward.”

Joe Banner

(On what is in place here that gives him hope that there is something to build on)- “Again, we’re going to look for people that are very hard working, high character. Some people are intimidated by big goals. If somebody’s worried that our goal is to win Super Bowls, not just improve our record. I’m not talking tomorrow, we’re going to build towards that. That’s not going to be the right person. They’re not going to fit in. If their vision is the same as ours, we’re talking about the importance of hiring good people. We want to have a head coach that understands the importance of putting together a great staff. You have a general manager, you want him to have a staff of great scouts. That’s just going to be kind of the mantra of the organization.”

Joe Banner

(On how well positioned he is now to make a step forward)- “I think that in terms of those basic qualities, and the people we’re describing, they have them. We’re going to have to evaluate through the rest of the season whether they fit together and whether they’re all the right parts to get us where we want to go.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On the ideas he has to enhance the fan experience in Cleveland)- “Joe’s probably better at this than I am, but I’ll take a stab at it. I think it’s everything from how you’re treated when you walk in the stadium, candidly, to how long you have to wait in line, to are the bathrooms clean, to do we have a great product on the field, which is by far the most important, to scoreboard, ribbons, etcetera. As Joe said, we’re going to sit back and evaluate all of that. We want our fans to have the best experience in the league. Let’s be realistic, 80-90 percent of that is whether you win the game. There are some things that other teams are doing that we probably ought to be doing, and we’ll look at it. Joe and I are looking at this as a complete white board. We’re going to do it, and as he said, we’re going to do it right, over an extended period of time.”

Joe Banner

(On other owners saying the Browns are gem in terms of history, tradition and marketing)- “I don’t mean to speak for Jimmy, but that’s why we’re here. We talked about this, and frankly we met before there was a franchise necessarily identified as to where we would be. Looking at this city and this marketplace, and the passion that these fans have, and the opportunity there is in every aspect of this organization, I don’t care whether you’re talking charitable. I don’t care if you’re talking gameday experience, on the field. Every aspect of what an NFL team can bring to a community is not only a tremendous opportunity, it’s just waiting to happen. Some places, and I said this to Jimmy when we were talking, I didn’t really want to go to some city where you’re going to sit around and most of the organization’s spent a lot of their time figuring out how to sell the tickets. I really wanted to be someplace where that passion exists then we can try to figure out how to take it to the next level. I was not going to go to a franchise, and I don’t think Jimmy was going to buy a team that he didn’t feel the ingredients that exist in the city and the kind of passion that exists for this team were in place. Then we can get to do the really fun and exciting stuff and hopefully reciprocate to what they’ve been giving to the team for all these years for even a better experience than they’ve had.”

Joe Banner

(On if pushing globally would be something he would explore)- “I think our priorities are going to be local first in terms of building the organization and the team on the field. At some point if we feel like we’ve made a lot of progress there, that may or may not be an issue that we get into, but we’ve got a lot of work to do on this first set of priorities, which I think will be our focus.”

Jimmy Haslam

“Let me say just one thing about the fans here. I think I said this yesterday, I can’t remember if it was with the big group or the smaller group. The feeling outside the stadium on Sunday after we won for the first time in 11 months and first time this year, reminded me of when I was in Pittsburgh when we won the AFC championship. I’m not kidding, it was the exactly the same. The electricity, the excitement, how happy the fans were. I called Joe when I landed back in Knoxville to tell him about it. I think that fired us up even more, not that we need that, about just how important, and just the significant opportunity there is here with the fan base. It’s incredible.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On if he addressed the team this morning and what he said to them)- “Pretty much what we’re telling you. First of all, I congratulated them on a win, and that’s the biggest thing. Then I said, second of all, a lot of things I said yesterday. We were greatly appreciative of the Lerner family. If Al Lerner hadn’t brought Cleveland back here, we wouldn’t be here. Randy and Mrs. Lerner have been superb people to work with in this transition. We talked about Mike (Holmgren), and talked about Joe. Then basically talked about, listen, the timing of this is not good, coming in the day before training camp, and here in the middle of the year. We’re here to support you. Focus on your job, work hard, win games and everything will take care of itself. We were probably in there, Joe and I together, probably 10 minutes, because they’ve got a big game this week against Indianapolis, and we need to get our second win.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On if they think they have their quarterback in place)- “I think Brandon (Weeden) is no different than everybody else. He’ll be evaluated at the end of the year.”

Joe Banner

(On what a realistic time frame is for building the team)- “He’s (Haslam) laughing because he keeps asking me this question and I won’t even answer him. I think fairly quickly people are going to see progress. If you ask me to really put a time frame on how quickly I think we’re going to win how many games. I really can’t do that. There are too many unknowns. I don’t think it should take very long before you’re all sitting here, and the fans watching the team are sitting there going, ‘You know what? These guys know what they’re doing. We’re on the right track. We can start to enjoy this. We’re going to end up in a really good place.’ I think you’ll start to feel that reasonably quickly. I think you’ll feel like there’s a plan, this is well run, these guys know what they’re doing, their priorities are exactly what they said they were. Obviously, this season we’re observers. I don’t think it’ll take long before you start to feel like I’m starting to see some smart things happen, some decisions that make me feel like this team is on the right track and I think we’re going to end up in a good place.”

Jimmy Haslam

“I think I would add two things I think are important. I don’t think you’re looking at two more impatient people in the world, the two guys up here. At the same time though, we want to do it the right way. There’s a shortcut to get to a 10-6, but there’s a better way to do it where you don’t just have one good year. I think how we want to be judged is are they consistently good. We’re not going to shortcut it to get there. We’re going to go as fast as we can, but we’re not going to take shortcuts.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On if there are restrictions before the sale is complete on October 25)- “That’s a good question. We were approved yesterday. We still have to write a rather large check and then it all becomes official. Those funds are in place, and we’re excited for that to officially happen on the 25.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On if he’ll be in Berea the whole time between now and then)- “No, Joe’s going to go back with his family tonight. Then his first day will be the 25 and he’ll continue here full time. We’ll continue to move back and forth. Dee (Haslam) is coming up Tuesday to move us into our new home, so we’ll obviously be here more with that. We’ll be very present. Joe will be running things on a day-to-day basis, and we’re excited to get going.”

Joe Banner

(On if he’s able to hit the ground running with the people he’s familiar with from Philadelphia or if he has to set those feelings aside)- “I think as Jimmy’s mentioned, it isn’t an ideal time. But, in a way it gives us chance to kind of step back and learn what we need to to maximize the chance that we make the right decisions. In terms of getting going quickly, I’m not coming in here next Thursday with a list of changes we’re going to make, even just internal subtle changes. My primary goal is getting to know the people here. There’re a lot of things that we do that don’t happen, you asked about the gameday experience, I need to understand really quickly what it is about the gameday experience that our fans like and don’t. That will then impact next year. If I don’t have a good feel for what the experience is and what parts of it are good or bad, in the next probably four weeks, it starts to get late to put in a lot of those changes for next season. Some of those focuses are going to be kind of invisible to the outside world, at least for the time being. It’s good in that we get a chance to kind of step back, and really make sure we’re thorough about our thought process and the decisions we make about the long term.”

Joe Banner

(On how he will get that input from the fans)- “I was just talking to some of those people this morning. There’s a fair amount of research that we’ve actually done that I’m anxious to read. There’s a group of people here that work with our fans whether they be suite holders, club seat holders or season ticket holders. I’m anxious to do that. I suspect we’ll do some additional research. I don’t even know to be honest, in Philadelphia we had a board made up of season ticket holders that we would meet with on a regular basis and get their feedback and experiences, and frankly throw some ideas off of them. That may or may not exist here, I don’t even know, but that was very helpful in really understanding what experience people were having. The first game I’m here for, we’re going to have a bunch of people that work here that are basically going to pretend they’re fans, and have different aspects of the experience. Someone’s going to stand out in the parking lot. They’re going to come in Monday and tell me, ‘Okay what was your experience like getting from the car to the building?’ Somebody else is going to get in the concession line at half time and they’re going to give me a report on Monday about what that was like. Somebody else is going to observe the score board experience, and I’ll have my own experiences of that, but we’ll probably have 20 people who work here who I’ll send out to have various experiences acting to what are the fans experience actually here and then give me a report on that. Hopefully with all of that together, we’ll get a pretty good picture quickly.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On why he thinks this franchise has struggled since its return to Cleveland)- “I think it would be unfair to comment, candidly. Like I said, we’re not look back people, we’re look forward. I’ve said this a thousand times and I’ll probably keep saying it, the fan base and the support here is tremendous. I think I’ve said this to you all on August 3 in this very room. If five years from now, this franchise is not more successful than it is now, a lot more, and you judge that in wins and losses then the two of us will accept all the blame because there are no excuses for this not being one of the top franchises in the NFL.”

Joe Banner

(On his philosophy on using free agents to build this team)- “You’ve heard this from Jimmy, I think the core of the most successful franchises in the league, are players that they drafted and re-signed. There are opportunities in free agency - sometimes in very conspicuous ways, sometimes in more subtle ways - that I think the best and smartest franchises take advantage of those opportunities. Timing matters too. If you’re in an early stage of a developmental process, just generically, it doesn’t make sense to me to be running out and investing heavily in free agents who may not still be a key part of your core by the time you get really good. We will be engaged in free agency, but the fundamental foundation of the team will be drafting and re-signing our own players.”

Joe Banner

(On if he will use Donovan McNabb as a benchmark for what you need in a quarterback)- “It’s just not going to focus on any given individual. We’re going to be looking for championship caliber performance at every level of the organization, whether it’s a player, whether it’s a coach, whether it’s somebody working in the marketing or guest services department. We’re going to strive for championship caliber performance from everybody.”

Joe Banner

(On if he will be the chief negotiator in Cleveland since he had that role in Philadelphia)- “I think the team has people in place that are doing these things, and we’ll evaluate whether that’s the best way to do it. I’ll obviously be involved in negotiations. Hopefully bring my cap strategies and expertise’s to the table. That will be just part of the evaluation we are going to do going forward is utilizing the skills that everybody brings to the table, putting them together, hopefully collectively building success.”

Joe Banner

(On if this is a perfect time because the other AFC North teams are on the decline)- “The way I think of it is, our goal is to win the Super Bowl. I never think in terms of competing with three teams. It’s not to deny the obvious, you don’t go anywhere without winning your division. I think we shoot to build the best team in the NFL. I always say, if you’re doing that, it will follow that, you’ll win your division. I don’t underestimate the other teams in the division either. They’re all run by good, smart people. They’ve all got young quarterbacks. They’ve got smart general managers and player personnel people. We’ll have to build a very good team to be strong in this division.”