Reporting Daryl Ruiter
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – As Jimmy Haslam continues to plot the course concerning the future of the Cleveland Browns, a key decision has yet to be made.
And it’s the most critical one of all.
Who will procure the talent for the organization?
The answer to that question could be coming very soon.
“We feel really good about our candidates,” Haslam said Tuesday. “And we hope to announce something in the not too distant future. I don’t want to pin down who that is but like we said on Friday, the key thing was to get the best person.
“We’ve made some good progress and interviewed some outstanding people.”
CEO Joe Banner, who has been conducting interviews with Haslam, reiterated that he’s looking for someone who is a master at finding talent in the draft.
“Part of their challenge in an interview is to convince us that all facets of this, which certainly the most important part of it is the college draft, they could do really well,” Banner said. “So that would be part of the challenge if they were coming from a pro background and couldn’t convince us of that. They wouldn’t be the right person for the job.
“We want our player personnel department to be the best evaluators, graders of players both in the league and coming into the league in the league. That’s the goal. So somebody who can do that well and lead and train a staff of scouts to do that well, that’s the primary criteria.”
While NFL Network analyst and former pro personnel director/GM Mike Lombardi has been the presumed favorite to replace Tom Heckert, who was fired on Dec. 31, Kansas City Chiefs director of pro personnel Ray Farmer is a legitimate candidate.
Farmer, who interviewed last week with the Browns, has spent the last 7 years in Kansas City overseeing scouting of players with professional experience. He was a pro scout for the Atlanta Falcons from 2002-05.
San Francisco 49ers director of player personnel Tom Gamble and Seahawks vice president of football administration John Idzik are also reportedly on the Browns’ radar.
Banner would not discuss specific candidates but did say they have met with 6 and while he hopes to make a decision soon, he won’t rush into it.
“We’re in the middle of the interviews that we’ve scheduled,” Banner said. “We’re trying to finish them as quickly as we can. At that point, we may evaluate whether we want to add any additional interviews or select from the group we’ve met. But we’re near finishing the first kind of wave of people that we wanted to interview, so hopefully we’ll move forward quickly.”
Banner continued to decline to discuss whether or not Lombardi is a candidate for the job but doesn’t see any issues or roadblocks in the way should he be hired.
“There wouldn’t be a holdup in bringing him in,” Banner said. “And really other than our completing the coaching search first, there hasn’t been a holdup in bringing anybody in.”
Based on the current structure within the organization that appears to be taking shape, it’s highly unlikely that Banner will hire both a general manager and pro personnel director – at least for starters.
“I think in the long run, there’s a possibility,” Banner said. “You could hire a general manager that wanted to hire a director of player personnel for example. I don’t want to rule anything out because you don’t know who you’re going to meet and maybe come up with a different plan, but we’re going into it planning on hiring one person.”
The key is that it must be the right person – or they’ll be doing this again in 2 or 3 years.
And Haslam knows it.
“Just get the right person,” Haslam said. “That’s very important. We think Chud’s off to a great start and if we can get the right player personnel/GM then I think we’ll put together a great team.”