Reporting Daryl Ruiter
BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Less than 24 hours after being unanimously approved to buy the Cleveland Browns, incoming owner Jimmy Haslam introduced his new CEO – former Eagles president Joe Banner Wednesday.
Banner hopes to bring the success that he had leading the Eagles for the last 12 years. He spent a total on 19 years with the organization.
“You need to fill the organization with the best people in the business if you want to be the best in the business,” Banner said.
In Banner’s time with the Eagles, they made the playoffs 11 times, won 6 NFC East titles, advanced to the NFC championship 5 times and reached 1 Super Bowl.
The Browns have struggled to beat anybody, let alone teams within their own division. Banner has set the expectations for him as he comes to Cleveland higher.
“Our goal is to win the Super Bowl,” Banner said. “I don’t underestimate the other teams in the division but I don’t look at it as competing vs. 3 teams; you shoot to build best team in the NFL. We’ll have to build a very good team.”
Over the span of a decade, the Eagles won 103 regular season games to become the 13th team in NFL history to accomplish the feat.
He left the Eagles to pursue new opportunities with a fresh ownership group. Banner had no idea Haslam and the Browns would come calling as quickly as they did.
“I thought this would be a year or two process to find the situation I was looking for and the right ownership and the right city and everything like that,” he said. “To be honest, I wasn’t even sure I would ever find it. But I certainly thought it would take a while. To have found somebody like Jimmy and to be in a market like Cleveland, with a love of the team and love of the game like this, in a matter of four or five months to me is remarkable and very, very lucky.”
Banner will replace current team president Mike Holmgren, who is retiring at the end of the season, on Oct. 25 – the same day that Haslam expects the sale of the Browns to close with Randy Lerner.
Haslam is convinced after numerous conversations with league executives that banner is the man to lead the Browns back to prominence.
“Joe and I have spent a lot of time together over the last two or three months and have really come to know each other very well,” Haslam said. “I come from the business world and have hired a lot of senior executives. I can say I’ve spent more time with this senior executive, making sure he was the right fit for the Cleveland Browns than any we ever interviewed for Pilot Flying J.
“I checked out Joe as thoroughly as anyone I ever checked out.”
While focused on the future and looking ahead, Banner admitted that he is sensitive to the constant turbulence and losing that has occurred here.
“Fans have been through a lot of hopeful starts,” Banner said. “I don’t want to be the next promiser. We have to deliver.”
He even joked when asked about another 5-year plan with the team currently in the midst of one, “I’ll need a straight jacket if it takes that long.”
Banner’s first assignment will be to help Haslam evaluated the current personnel – on and off the field – within the organization including general manager Tom Heckert, coach Pat Shurmur and several other former Eagles hold positions in the pro personnel department.
Whether they will return in 2013 is now at the forefront of questions for the offseason.
“There isn’t a single one I don’t like personally, have a lot of respect for and I’ve seen them do their jobs extremely well in an environment where I worked right with them,” Banner said. “I come in with a very positive attitude and impression about all those people.
“There will be a thorough evaluation of everything that we do, but whether there will be changes or not I think time will answer that for us.”
Banner added to win in the NFL, you need a great quarterback and it’s his hope to raise expectations in Cleveland to the point where fans will be mad that the team could only win 10 games.
Haslam has said repeatedly since agreeing to buy the Browns that upgrading Cleveland Browns Stadium was a priority.
Banner led the charge in Philadelphia to get Lincoln Financial Field built and it’s highly likely that he will be in charge of stadium upgrades in Cleveland.
At the forefront of those plans is upgrading the experience within the stadium.
“We want our fans to have the best experience in the league,” Haslam said. “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.
“We’re going to do it, and as he said, we’re going to do it right, over an extended period of time.”
The NFL is a bottom line business and for the last 13 years the Browns have just sat at the bottom.
The team of Haslam and Banner are looking to reverse the fortunes of the franchise.
In banner’s eyes it starts with Haslam and ends with winning.
“He’s totally real,” Banner said of Haslam. “First of all, he’s incredibly passionate. He’s very smart. He’s a good person. He cares about people, and he is just laser focused on wanting to have the joy of running a football team that’s winning a lot of games and ultimately holding a Super Bowl trophy.”