Browns owner Jimmy Haslam laid out the criteria he's looking for in the Browns' new head coach Sunday and stressed patience as he and the rest of his four-person committee embark on the immediate search.
Haslam and his wife Dee, newly appointed executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and Jed Hughes, a consultant from Korn Ferry, Executive Recruitment & Talent Management will conduct the search. They'll be looking for the replacement to Mike Pettine, who was relieved of his duties after Sunday's 28-12, season-ending loss to the Steelers, and the qualifications are clear-cut.
"The first is intelligence. We need somebody that's smart," Haslam said. "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 complex as the game is, and somebody who has an intense desire to win and improve every day."
The coach will ultimately become the 16th full-time head coach in the Cleveland Browns' history. It will be the third hired by Haslam, who was candid Sunday as he discussed the "steep learning curve" he's faced since taking control of the team in 2012. He put the blame for the team's struggles squarely on his shoulders, accepted responsibility for it and repeated his vow to bring a consistent, winning franchise back to Northeast Ohio.
The ingredients to the start of that turnaround is making the right hire for head coach.
"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," Haslam said. "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."
Whoever Cleveland hires as its coach will be involved in the search for a new general manager, Haslam said. As Pettine did, the new Browns coach will report directly to Haslam.
This will be the first time Haslam utilizes a search firm for a head coach, but he's worked with Korn Ferry on numerous occasions in the past in his other business endeavors. He repeatedly touted the credentials of Hughes, a former Browns and Steelers assistant coach who has connected some of the sport's top coaches with their respective, current employers. Among Hughes' claims to fame are Seattle coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien and Kansas City's Andy Reid.
"I just think it will help the process and help us run a better process than we have in the past," Haslam said. "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."
Haslam said he understood why some believe the Browns' opening is not as attractive as others around the league, but he didn't agree with it. He called the project the coach would assume as a "several-year rebuilding program" and said he would be patient with the team's progress. He acknowledged the understandable pressure to find a new coach as soon as possible but stressed the task is to find the "right person," whether it takes two weeks or two months.
The plan to build the roster through the draft and avoid splurging on free agents remains the same. The teams that surround the Browns in the AFC North are examples of how that plan works, and now Cleveland is looking for a new leader to help steer it in their direction.
"It is a great franchise, great fans and there is only one way to go with the franchise – 11 draft picks this year ... some talented young players and we are totally committed to winning," Haslam said. "Do I think it is easy? No, but do I think for the right person this is a great job? I absolutely do."