CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – As CEO of the Cleveland Browns, Joe Banner has the first right of refusal on any move.
It was the primary perk that convinced him to team up with Jimmy Haslam last summer in taking over the Browns.
To describe Banner’s reputation around the league as “hard nosed” would be kind.
His success on the business side with the Philadelphia Eagles is what attracted Haslam to him.
Banner successfully led the charge to get Lincoln Financial Field built after years of resistance from taxpayers and politicians. He also finagled a brand new state of the art training complex for the Eagles as well.
His influence in the overall organizational flow as well as contract negotiations were also both pluses in Haslam’s book.
Now that he’s in Cleveland, Banner wants to stick his nose deeper into the football side of the operation and that is not a good thing.
Banner’s ability to evaluate football talent is unproven but he clearly wants in on that process. Being the CEO and having football answer to him puts him in position to do so.
Since the hiring of Rob Chudzinski Thursday night as head coach, reports have surfaced about just how much power Banner is wielding within the organization.
Ken Whisenhunt turned down the job Thursday according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora because of disagreements with Banner over who would be on the coaching staff. Banner wanted to have input on the makeup of the staff and Whisenthunt wanted full say.
After the former Cardinals coach passed on the job, they flew to Charlotte to hire Chudzinski, who jumped at the chance to coach his childhood team. As a first time coach, and childhood Browns fan, Chudzinski would clearly be more open to input on his coaching staff than Whisenhunt or anyone else.
In the interest of fairness and full disclosure, the team has since denied La Canfora’s report through a “source” to Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer Monday.
Call it damage control.
See this quote from Banner following Chudzinski’s press conference Friday concerning whether or not he could hire his own coaches as exhibit A of how Banner sees his authority.
“Everything’s always subject to our approval,” Banner said. “But he’s going to have whoever he chooses to have on his coaching staff.”
This is the same exact situation that occurred when Pat Shurmur was hired in Jan. of 2011.
Mike Holmgren, who said the exact same thing, brought in Gil Haskel and Nolan Cromwell and had tremendous influence over the composition of the coaching staff under Shurmur.
So what does this mean for the new general manager or the search for one?
He will have limited power.
Banner conceded on Dec. 31 that hiring a head coach first and giving him discretion over the amount of power he would like would like concerning personnel and the roster would limit the search.
The Browns have hired Jacksonville Jaguars general counsel Sashi Brown to handle contracts and negotiations a league source confirmed to 92.3 The Fan on Monday. La Canfora was first to report the move Sunday night.
Hiring Brown means that the next GM would be more of a pro personnel director or talent evaluator.
Banner would like to get a top talent evaluator but unfortunately those kind of guys require power – something that Banner doesn’t appear willing to give up.
The list of candidates reportedly on the Browns’ wish list are NFL Network analyst and former GM/ pro personnel director Michael Lombardi, Kansas City Chiefs director of pro personnel Ray Farmer, Seattle Seahawks vice president of football administration John Idzik and San Francisco 49ers director of player personnel Tom Gamble.
To lure top personnel talent away from their existing jobs it requires an elevation in title as well as authority.
Vikings assistant general manager George Paton is out of the running according to a report from ProFootballTalk.com which offered contradicting views as to the reason.
After a decade of incompetence in the draft and blowing top 10 draft picks annually, Heckert finally found legitimate talent in the 3 years he was in charge of overturning the roster.
There’s no guarantee that with Banner wielding the final say authority in Berea that this new regime will get the talent evaluation – which is the most critical aspect of the organization – right.
And that is a reason for fans to be very concerned.