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Jimmy Haslam press conference - 1/3

Posted Jan 3, 2016


Opening statement:
“I spoke with both Ray (Farmer) and Mike (Pettine) earlier today and let them know we were going to be making changes with both of their positons. I hope you can appreciate these really difficult conversations. Most of you all are around enough to know how much time these guys put in, how many hours, the toll it takes on their families and it’s not easy. They were both very gracious and very professional, but they understand it’s a bottom line business and you can’t lose 18 out of 21 games – that’s not acceptable. We had good professional conversations and they’re good men and good people, and I appreciate what they did for the Cleveland Browns.
 
“I think it’s really important – I thought a lot about this lately and I think it’s important for you all to hear this – that all of the attention as of late has been on Ray and Mike or most of it I should say, and I think appropriately so, but the fact that this franchise has not done better the last two or three years, the blame lies squarely with me because ultimately, it’s the head person who is responsible for everything. We can lay blame on Ray or Mike or whomever, but ultimately, it’s our job to put the right people in the right position and provide the right resources. I think we’ve done the latter, but the fact that this franchise is not performing any better, certainly not like its great fans deserve, is my fault. I fully accept that responsibility.
 
“Some of you have heard me say this before: it’s a steep learning curve coming into the NFL. It’s been very humbling and it’s been a lot harder than we thought. I think we were probably naïve when we came into the process. It’s one thing to be the minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s much different to be the majority owner. Hopefully we learned a lot over the last two or three years – certainly, have been learning the hard way – but I do think it’s important to acknowledge that. At the same time, (Browns Owner) Dee (Haslam) and I have become extremely fond of Cleveland, Northeastern Ohio, the community, the people and obviously our fans. We are extremely determined to turn this team around and take it from one of the worst teams in the NFL to one of the best teams. That is not at all going to be easy – there are lots of really smart, capable people running NFL teams who’ve done it for a long time and who are very good at it – but it’s something we’re firmly focused on doing and I think it’s extremely important.
 
“We’ll begin the search for the head coach right away. There are several key criteria we’re looking for in our head coach. The first is intelligence. We need somebody that’s smart. Obviously, we need somebody who’s a strong leader, somebody who is collaborative and can work well with others, a good team player, if you will. An individual that can put together a good staff, that’s incredibly important in today’s NFL as a complex as the game is, and somebody who has an intense desire to win and improve every day. The search committee will be made up of Jed Hughes with Korn Ferry. I think most of you have probably heard of Korn Ferry. It’s an international search firm. We’ve used them in our other [business] lives a lot. I’ve known Jed over the last couple of years. Jed has done several searches as of late, I should say, over the last several years. (Seahawks Head Coach) Pete Carroll, (Seahawks General Manager) John Schneider at Seattle, (Chiefs Head Coach) Andy Reid at Kansas City, (Texans Head Coach) Bill O’Brien at Houston, (University of Michigan Football Head Coach) Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, (Falcons Head Coach) Dan Quinn at Atlanta, and he along with Sashi Brown, Dee and myself will head up the search committee. We’ll go to work right away.
 
“You all have watched these searches before. There’s incredible pressure and everybody wants you to find somebody right away. We’re obviously going to try find somebody as quickly as possible, but by far the most important thing is to find the right person. I can’t tell you if that’s going to take two weeks or two months. It’s a competitive environment out there, but we think Cleveland has a lot to sell, and I’ll come back to that in a little bit. That’ll address the coaching situation.
 
“Once we hire a head coach, then we’ll go out and hire a GM. Let me talk about why we’re going to do this. Effective today or tonight I should say, Sashi Brown will be our executive vice president of football operations. Sashi, I believe, is the right person to do this for the Cleveland Browns. He’s been in the NFL for 10 plus years, has been involved in the cap and has been heavily involved in our football administration and operations for the last year or two. He’s very smart, very organized, good at systems and processes and an outstanding team player. He’s also very strategic so we will use those skills and working for him will be a GM whose primary job will be talent acquisition. If you look at the Cleveland Browns and this is prior to our arrival and during the time period we’ve been involved with the team, we have not been good at talent acquisition. If you look at the teams that are successful, they’re very good at talent acquisition. That’s something that we have to get right, and we think this setup with somebody with a background in systems, processes, analytics and very strategic married up with a football person, if you will, who is very good at talent evaluation will hopefully put us in a position to win a lot more games than we have in the past. The same group Sashi, Jed, Dee and myself will be involved in the search for the GM, and the head coach will also be involved in that process. We think by doing it in that manner we’ll hopefully have very good alignment moving forward because that alignment is hugely important.”
 
On if Farmer and Pettine had trouble working together:
“Mike said it before, said it earlier this year – I’m not sure exactly when it was – when things go badly, everybody tends to start pointing fingers. I think there’s an opportunity for us to work much closer together going forward than we have in the past.”
 
On which of the ideal head coach criteria mentioned Pettine lacked:
“I think that’s unfair to say. Mike is an incredibly good football man. He works hard. He put a lot into this franchise. I promise you nobody feels worse about our record the last two years than Mike does, and I think that would be unfair to see.”
 
On the decision to use a consulting firm:
“I think it’s a good question, and like I said we’ve used Korn Ferry a lot in our other lives and had gotten to know Jed. Actually, when we first bought the team, he approached us. He’s around at NFL meetings, and we’ve talked to him a lot. I just think it will help the process and help us run a better process than we have in the past. Jed has a tremendous amount of contacts in the league. He’s been involved in both college and pro football for literally his entire life, very smart, very well educated. I think he’ll help us a lot.”
 
On what he has learned from the two previous coaching searches:
“I think more not just the searches but I think the entire being around an NFL team and really around one, not showing up on Sundays like we did in Pittsburgh, but really being around one is the importance of getting the right people in the right place, having very clear expectations and understandings of everyone’s roles and making sure they work extremely well together. I think those are where I could have done a lot of things better, obviously. If I was being self-critical of myself, I would certainly put that at the top of the list.”
 
On why the team will hire a head coach first and then a general manager and not the other way around:
“Remember, Sashi Brown’s job as executive vice president of football operations, he will have the ultimate say on the roster. If you think about it, we just think this makes more sense to hire the head coach first, then second to hire the talent acquisition or general manager.”
 
On if other NFL teams have used that model:
“That question came up earlier. I have looked and spent a lot of time over the last year looking at NFL teams and then other professional sports teams in terms of how they are organized. You can look at New England, Green Bay and Seattle, and they are all organized differently and they all have been very successful. I will just reiterate what I say: I don’t think structure is quite as important as right people in the right place and everybody understanding their roles and working well together.”
 
On if the Browns are better to move forward with or without QB Johnny Manziel:
“That is a question Sashi and our new GM and our new coach will answer. That will be completely their call.”
 
On all of Manziel’s actions impacting the team and him ultimately having say as owner:
“Ultimately, as the owner you do have say. I just don’t think right now is the time to comment on that. There will be plenty of time to work on that over the next several months.”
 
On if the draft will be the new general manager’s primary responsibility:
“The GM’s job will be this: he will be in charge of our entire scouting group. He will be in charge of putting the draft board together. The ultimate say will be Sashi’s. In reality, I would expect several people to work really close together – the GM, Sashi and our head coach.”
 
On OL Joe Thomas’ comments about the importance of the QB position and the Browns QBs as it relates to acquiring a head coach and general manager:
“We had three quarterbacks on our roster this year. First of all, let me say that Joe is right. If you look at all the really good teams in the NFL, what is the common thing they have? You could look at some teams this year that were really good coming into the year and had the quarterback hurt, and how they did? Not so well. Quarterback is clearly the key position. I don’t think there is anything that compares to it in professional sports in terms of importance to a team. Joe has been around the game. He is smart. He is exactly right. I don’t think, however, that quarterback was the problem on the team this year. Our quarterback play was OK. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t terrible. We do have the second pick in the draft.”
 
On if Sashi Brown will have the final say on draft picks:
“Sashi will make the final call, but I think in any well-oiled organization, there will be several people involved in those calls.”
 
On if the new structure precludes a head coach who wants say in personnel:
“Say, no. Overall control, yes.”
 
On why additional changes will not scare candidates away:
“That is a good question. As we have gone out and talked to a lot of football people, some in the league now and a lot of well-known people that you all suggested we hire as advisers, I still think it is an extremely attractive job. It is a great franchise, great fans and there is only one way to go with the franchise – 11 draft picks this year, two first-round picks really because we have the 32nd pick in the draft, some talented young players and we are totally committed to winning. Do I think it is easy? No, but do I think for the right person this is a great job? I absolutely do.”
 
On if this is a full-fledged rebuild and there will be more patience with the next coach and general manager or if the expectation is to produce now:
“I don’t think this is a team that is going to go from three wins to 13 wins in a year. I think this is probably a several-year rebuilding program. As long as we feel we are directionally correct and getting better, then we will stick with things. We will be patient. We do want to do this the right way. We are going to build through the draft. I know there are probably rolling eyes because that hasn’t worked so well, but if you look at the successful teams in the NFL, they have built through the draft. That is what we are going to do. We are not going to go out and spend a gazillion dollars in free agency. We are going to build through the draft because we are firmly convinced that is the right way to do it.  The team we played today has been pretty good for a long time, and that is certainly how they have done it.”
 
On if anyone on Pettine’s and Farmer’s staff will be retained:
“Yes. There are several coaches, and I don’t want to get into the specifics, that we will ask to stick around and several that won’t. I prefer not to get into that because we haven’t covered that with those individuals yet.”
 
On Manziel will be required to do certain things to remain a member of the Browns:
“I think we will expect that of everybody. We certainly expect that of Johnny, too.”
 
On if Manziel was supposed to report to a as he was in the concussion protocol:
“That is my understanding. I think when you are in the concussion protocol, you don’t come to the stadium; you just go to Berea.”
 
On if Manziel was present at the team facility in Berea:
“It is my understanding that he was not there this morning.”
 
On reports Jaguars assistant head coach/offensive line coach Doug Marrone will be the first head coaching candidate interviewed:
“That is not correct. Not correct. I don’t want to comment on any specific people we will be looking at for obvious reasons. We will confirm after we have talked with people that we have interviewed them. You all have done this enough that you know there will be all kinds of rumors. I am cautiously optimistic that we can find a great head coach for the Cleveland Browns.”
 
On the person with final say on draft day not having playing, coaching or scouting experience:
“I think that is the final say with a lot of input from a lot of very qualified people, whether they be our quarterback coach at the time, our offensive coordinator, our head coach, our general manager. It won’t be just one person making that decision in a vacuum.”
 
On why continuity of head coach and general manager was not worth trying:
“We thought about that a lot. That is something I am obviously very sensitive to because we have done a poor job of that. I just think directionally we were not going in the right direction. The arrow was not pointing up. It was pointing down. We felt like it was the right thing to make a change.”

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