First things first – I owe Jimmy Haslam some kudos.
When he kicked off the search for the next coach and GM of the Cleveland Browns, I figured the team owner would once again hijack everything. It seemed lofty to assume Haslam would listen to chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, with the idea of him going with an ill-fitting hire based on his gut seeming far more plausible.
He instead did the opposite. He hired Kevin Stefanski, the coach DePodesta initially recommended last year. And today, he hired Andrew Berry, the GM who seems to be the perfect fit for the team’s analytics-heavy approach.
On paper, it appears Haslam has the fully aligned structure he’s been after since buying the Browns eight years ago. One would think this means things can finally start moving in the right direction for this hard luck franchise.
That could certainly be the case, provided Haslam doesn’t get antsy. Any positives which come from assembling a coaching staff and front office with a shared vision can still be undone if Cleveland’s owner doesn’t shed his trademark impatience.
Again, Haslam does deserve some credit for finally putting together a staff which wasn’t assembled via shotgun marriage. For the first time in what feels like forever, the Browns aren’t built around clashing viewpoints.
In DePodesta, Haslam has his champion for analytics. In Stefanski, he has a coach who’s fully on-board with utilizing this on game day. In Berry, he has a GM his coach wanted to work with, and who was a member of the Browns’ front office when they first tried to make analytics a part of their vision.
On paper, it’s encouraging that everyone on the Browns’ staff has the same mindset. Lord willing, it ensures we don’t get our annual dose of leaks detailing toxicity in the team facility.
However, despite there finally being a shared vision in Cleveland, instant success is hardly guaranteed.
The Browns have a solid roster, with enough cap space and draft picks to make notable upgrades in the coming months. That said, they’re still being run by a rookie GM. They’ll have a rookie head coach running the sideline on Sundays. Cleveland filled two key positions with men who’ll spend the next year learning on the job.
Knowing this, it’d be foolish to assume full team alignment ensures winning seasons are right around the corner.
As a result, patience has never been a more important requirement for Haslam.
Cleveland’s owner can’t afford to react emotionally to the first signs of adversity. He can’t get anxious when Berry or Stefanski makes a mistake which gets league-wide attention. If an analytics-driven decision backfires, Haslam can’t let doubt creep in.
After all, we’ve seen what happens when his emotions get the best of him.
The Browns have been a league-wide laughingstock for the entirety of Haslam’s ownership, due mostly to his inability to stick with a plan. He’s fired two coaches after giving them just one season. He promoted Sashi Brown to run a three-year rebuild, then fired him after success wasn’t seen in a season and a half.
With Haslam, the presence of mind to let plans play out is far too often ignored, replaced with the urge to scrap everything and restart.
This impatience can ruin everything. Even the fully aligned front office it took him eight years to build.
Which is why Haslam can’t just assume this new setup will be an instant success. He can’t let a rocky start to the year discourage him, nor can he actively seek advice from outside the team facility the minute he begins to doubt his new staff.
Yes, everyone he’s hired is on board with his vision for the Browns. For all intents and purposes, it should ensure Cleveland doesn’t have to worry about another year of sparring matches between the front office and coaching staff.
Yet, Haslam falling back on old habits is all it would take to derail everything. As long as he’s involved, the Browns organization will continue to be a high-wire act.
One would hope he’s learned his lesson by now. You’d like to think Haslam has realized Cleveland will never succeed if he doesn’t shed his impatience.
If he hasn’t, despite eight years of proof telling him otherwise, this new Browns regime is doomed from the get-go.