Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Friday, August 3, 2012
Advice to Haslam: Don't clean house

By Jamison Hensley

When an owner buys a sports team, the usual result is an overhaul. Owners want to put their stamps on the franchise, and soon-to-be Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III has over $1 billion reasons why he certainly has the right to do so.

If there's anything that can be learned from soon-to-be-gone Browns owner Randy Lerner, changing decision-makers doesn't always lead to a change in fortune. Haslam needs to give this current regime a chance to prove itself. The lack of wins have certainly been disappointing, but the talent level has improved each year under president Mike Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur.

Mike Holmgren, Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert
President Mike Holmgren (left), head coach Pat Shurmur (center), and GM Tom Heckert (right) face uncertain futures in Cleveland under a new ownership regime.
Haslam told ESPN's Adam Schefter that he wants to "listen and learn" before making any decisions. He doesn't have to take the advice of an AFC North blogger, but he should listen to the best player on his team.

Before re-signing with the Browns last year, All-Pro offensive tackle Joe Thomas spoke with Heckert and Shurmur. "I got to see what their vision was and see the direction that they want to take this thing in," Thomas said during my visit this week to Browns training camp. "I believed in that vision, and I still do. I told them straight-up when we were negotiating the contract, I wasn't going to re-sign if I didn't think this was going to be a winner in a few years."

If Haslam isn't persuaded by Thomas, he should look at the numbers. In Lerner's 10 years as sole owner, the Browns have had four head coaches, three general managers and one winning season. This instability has been underscored by the fact that the Browns play in a division with two of the most stable franchises in the NFL right now (Steelers and Ravens).

The Browns are on the right path now. Heckert is bringing in more and more talented players every year. The reason why this hasn't resulted in instant success is the fact that he took over a team that had no talent. This was never going to be a quick fix.

Looking at the projected starting lineup shows the promise of this franchise. Of the 22 starters, there could be as many as 14 players who were selected in Heckert's three drafts. That includes the top running back in the 2012 draft (Trent Richardson), a strong-armed quarterback (Brandon Weeden) and one of the best young cornerbacks in the league (Joe Haden).

The reality is no one knows what Haslam will do. Many predict Holmgren will be gone because former Eagles executive Joe Banner is tied to Haslam. Heckert could also be out based on mixed reports of his 10-year relationship with Banner in Philadelphia. And Shurmur might be done if the Browns win a handful of games again this year.

"Certainly as an older guy who has been around, you know what this stuff means. Sometimes you know too much," Thomas said. "But you never know what's going to happen. The things we're going to show this year is really important. That's just the way it is. It doesn't change what we have to do. I think everybody is really excited as they should be. We have a lot of good talent. This thing is headed in the right direction."