Sports

Transcript: Conference Call With Browns President Alec Scheiner & CEO Joe Banner

By DARYL RUITER, 92.3 The Fan Browns Beat Reporter
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Former Cleveland Browns CEO Joe Banner / (Photo by John Reid, courtesy Cleveland Browns/NFL)

Former Cleveland Browns CEO Joe Banner / (Photo by John Reid, courtesy Cleveland Browns/NFL)

DarylRuiter_300 Daryl Ruiter
Cleveland Browns beat writer and member of the Pro Football Writers of...
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CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) - The Cleveland Browns named Alec Scheiner the team’s new president effective Jan. 7 Tuesday.

Scheiner as well as CEO Joe Banner spoke with reporters via conference call Tuesday evening. Below is a transcript of their remarks and answers to questions.

Alec Scheiner – Cleveland Browns President

Opening Statement: “Just wanted to start off by saying how excited I am to join the Cleveland Browns. Great organization with a great history. And I’m excited about the new leadership team with Joe [Banner] and Jimmy [Haslam]. I’ve admired what Joe has done for a longtime in Philadelphia and have a lot of mutual respect for Joe and we can already see Jimmy’s energy with the team. And I’m just ready to get started.

How does what you were able to do in Dallas play into your role here? “We focused on creating a new experience for our fans, our business partners, for everyone in the community. And we were creative, most of the things I think we did worked, but some didn’t. We brought a lot of energy and creativity to it. And that would be the goal in Cleveland. I understand the markets are different and the tradition is different and fans are different, but the energy that we bring to it and the creativity we bring to it and the thoughtfulness we bring to it will be the same.”

How can you improve Cleveland Browns Stadium? “I’ve been to the stadium twice. I’ve been very recently during a game and I paid as much attention as I could to the pregame, during game, the post game. So we have some thoughts. And our ideas are to really enhance the fan experience everywhere. At the stadium on gameday, but on the Internet, in our radio and TV, wherever we can. Wherever we touch the fan we should be always striving to improve. There are some things I saw about the stadium experience that can be better. That goes for every stadium in the NFL, and we’ll work at it and we’ll test things out. And if they work, great. and if not, we’ll keep testing. But we have a challenge, which is to get people to really enjoy coming to the stadium. The NFL has that challenge and we’ll work hard at it. It will be a big part of our job.”

What about improvements to the stadium? “We’ve spent some time talking about, but we need to have more time where we’re in the same office and seated together. The priority will be how can we make it better and what does that mean. Is it a substantial investment? Is it a major renovation? Were there other things we can do in the meantime? We just haven’t had enough time to really delve into it, but we will. We will.”

Are you most proud of the fan experience at cowboy stadium? “It’s like nothing else. I guess the way I look at it is the way the fan experience is at Cowboys Stadium is similar to the fan experience at Lambeau Field, which is you know you’re going to get something that’s unique that fits in with the culture of the organization. That’s what I’m most proud of. We created something that is perfectly fit for the Dallas Cowboys. And I’d like to do the same thing in Cleveland. Create something that links us to the past and links us to the community in away that when Browns fans outside Cleveland come, they know exactly where they are and they enjoy it.”

How did you get to meet Banner? “It’s interesting. I’ve gone to NFL owners meetings over the last 9 years. Not as if cowboys and eagles are great friends, on the field at least. But I’ve seen Joe at the meetings, I’ve admired what he’s done from a business standpoint, from a football standpoint. The Eagles are a model organization, or they were, when Joe was there. That’s it. We just got to know each other a little bit. But really it’s just mutual respect and sometimes when you’re in the league you look around the league and you say, Who are the people that have really done a great job? Joe was always at the top of that list.”

What are your goals in terms of media, internet, etc.? “I haven’t studied it carefully, but my goal would be the same regardless, which is to have a really strong single brand that we can carry through all of our distribution platforms, and that once again links with the traditions of the team. And that when you’re being touched by our media,you can smell it and touch it and you know exactly what it is. and make it consistent and make it useful to our fans. Have our fans learn things that they couldn’t learn in other places, yet still be complementary to the other media that’s out there.”

Do you see this as marketing gem, in the same ways that the Cowboys are? “I do because the brand is so iconic and there’s so much history behind it and the fans clearly care about the team. We just have to harness it. We have to harness it everywhere. We have to harness it with our employees,we have to harness it with people in the community, everyone can be a Browns fan. Everyone in northeast Ohio, everyone in Ohio can be a Browns fan. We just have to reach out to people and kind of prove our value on the field and off the field.”

Do you have to make changes to uniforms, logo’s branding etc. to move the team forward? “I’m not sure you need to change those things to pull the team forward. I really think it’s really more about connecting with what we have already in more effective ways. That’s not to say it hasn’t been done well in the past, but you can always do better. I’m not sure we have to change any of the things that have made the Browns so great. We just have to keep doing them better and keep working harder at it.”

What was it like to get Cowboys Stadium built? “It was gigantic and it took our entire organization to pull it off and that’s one of the lessons I learned. We have so many unsung heroes here in Dallas that helped build that Stadium and it was a 40-month project, but it some ways it was a 10-year project and it’s still going. From the financing to the land acquisition to design to sales, this entire organization worked its tail off to make it happen and it was just incredible. When you see the Stadium now and you think where we started, it’s just incredible to see.”

How well have you gotten to know Jimmy Haslam and how does he compare to Jerry Jones? “I probably wouldn’t compare the two but I’ve gotten to know Jimmy a bit and what’s amazing about Jimmy, he’s got a couple of traits that I find very unique. He’s got incredible energy and charisma and I know you guys have seen that. He’s got incredible passion for football and I know you’ve seen that, but he’s also a tremendous learner and he’s accomplished so much in his career and yet he’s so open to learning about the NFL and the Browns and how the NFL business works, and that was the most attractive thing about this opportunity for me, which is someone with that kind of energy and passion and success, but still is curious about things and still learning.”

What do you think about adding a dome to Browns Stadium? “I’d have to sit down with Joe and Jimmy and talk about that. I’ve read about it. But I’d have to sit down and talk with them. I think that’s part of a much bigger conversation about how to enhance our Stadium for the fans.”

Joe Banner – Cleveland Browns CEO

When did the process of hiring Scheiner begin? “Alec and I started talking last June when it became public that I was looking for a new opportunity, about possibly joining each other. We had a series of meetings and then Jimmy, Alec and I had a series of meetings together and just felt like it was a great fit and represented what you’ve heard us talking about in terms of trying to be the best of the best of the league and ending up with a really strong organization. I think he’ll impact the organization in a lot of ways. I think the biggest ways will be the very things you were asking him about. His ability to transform the fan experience and all the different ways they connect to us, whether it’s the internet or a television show or a gameday experience. My personal opinion is there’s nobody better, more established and having done more of those areas and more successfully than Alec. I think it will happen over time, but I think people will see an enhanced experience that will really help add to the enjoyment of being connected to the team.”

Did you plan to fill the role of president? “I always felt there was a need for a person other than myself who had significant responsibility in the day-to-day operation. Whether it was going to be executive vice president, a chief operating officer or president was something that evolved through wanting to attract somebody who was really good.”

What’s the impact of adding Scheiner to the Browns? “Once somebody of Alec’s caliber was available, to me it felt like the right way to do that was to make him the president of the team.”

Does hiring Scheiner free you up to be more involved in the football side of things? “Alec will report to me, and some aspects of the day-to-day operation will continue to report to both of us, and the football people, in a management sense will have the same structure.”

Can you comment on the ongoing reports that Mike Lombardi is the primary candidate to take over for Tom Heckert at GM? “I’m going to stick with the same answer. Starting to go down the path of speculating on these things is not going to be helpful at this point. We’re still going to decide at the end of the season on the people that are here and that will lead to whatever the next steps are at that point.”

When will you make decisions re: Heckert and Pat Shurmur after the season? “I think we’ll make the decisions quickly after the season. I don’t want to say if it’s one day or two days or three days but I think it will be quickly.”

Will Alec be responsible for the decision related to changing uniforms? “He would contribute to that. he would be part of the discussion and the thoughts about whether we should or shouldn’t and if so, to what. That would ultimately be something that would really be Jimmy’s decision, but we want do anything like that without a lot of thought, a lot of inclusion of the fans, a lot of focus groups and I can assure you that we haven’t made any decision on it and it’s far from the top of our priority list right now.”

What is at top of your priority list: “I think the top is reflected by the hiring of Alec and other top executives and making the decisions we need to on the football side of the organization, really getting the right lineup of people here and then seeking to kind of create a period during which we have continuity to give this team an opp to build on both the business side, fan experience side, community involvement and the football side with a sustained period of continuity.”

Alec wants to bring things to Cleveland. How does someone who hasn’t been here acquire the knowledge of what that means? “The team has for many years done a tremendous amount of research that’s available to all of us. and the passion that’s in the market place, believe me, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to be here for people to start to share that with you. and we do have and will have a number of employees in this organization who are from this area and have lived with and loved the history and the traditions. So I think that’s not as hard as it may sound. I have a lot left to learn but I feel I know a lot more than I did a couple months ago when I first got here on this subject.”

Have the decisions on Shurmur and Heckert been made? “We have not made decisions but obviously as time has gone on we’ve thought about it more, we’ve talked it more, more factors that will influence the final decision have become clearer and clearer. I don’t want to make it sound like we’re in the same place we were two or four or six weeks ago. That has advanced quite a bit. But we’re not at the point where we’ve made definitive decisions.”

Who will have the final say on personnel? “Well, we’re going to see when we get the team together what the best way to do that will be. But our driving force as is the case on I believe all of the successful teams in the league are gather a group of good, smart, effective people and generate consensus wherever we can on the decisions we make.”

A lot of talk about Heckert and what he’s been able to do but what criteria are looking for him to meet in order to move forward with him as GM? “Well, generally I can do that. I think that what we’re trying to do is look down the road a couple of years from now and the qualities that will require to make the right decisions, have the right philosophy of building the team, integrate the right people together to add to each other and compliment each other. And whether we’re putting together a group of people that’s as strong as any in the league because our goal is initially to improve but eventually to be amongst the better teams in the league. We’re only going to achieve that if we’re collectively a group of the best people in the league at what we do.”

Are you comfortable with Heckert keeping the final say if he stays? “I think you’re getting ahead of where we’re at. I think when we make the decisions then announce them we can deal with specifics like that.”

Anything in the last 2 weeks that can happen to impact decisions? “Not something new but I think continuing to spend time with them and observe things rather than focusing on as you said the criteria that were going to use I think helps you gain confidence that you’re doing the right thing and you’re being objective and you’re looking at it the right way.”

How do you make the stadium experience unique to Cleveland in relation to how it is in Dallas? “The experience here will be nothing like the experience in Dallas. The only similarity I hope is that we create an energized experience that people feel that they’re appreciated. Whether it’s a concession line or a sight line or the quality of the music or the halftime entertainment that people feel that for who we are here that the experience matches up and feels like it’s fun and enjoyable for them and consistent with an organization that’s trying to do things the best they can do them. There won’t be any market not just Dallas where you can look at it and say it’s going to be like that. It’s going to be what fits this marketplace, whether that’s the field, the nature of the music, you know hopefully some of the areas – concession lines, getting into the building what people are frustrated with now we can make improvements in. They’ll all relate to our experiences here not what anybody else is doing.”

Are you considering cheerleaders? “As long as you won’t tell my wife it’s high up on my list. I don’t think we’re focused on that question. We’re well aware because it’s something in the marketplace, people are well aware about and ask about and are very curious about but it’s not anything we’ve spent any time discussing yet at all.”

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