Jimmy is likely getting upset.
Earlier this week, when new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam disclosed that he’ll be heading back to Tennessee to resume his former job as CEO of the truck-stop company that kick-started his immense wealth, some Browns fans complained that Haslam is no different than former absentee Browns owner Randy Lerner.
And so when Haslam made it clear he’ll still be involved with free agency and the draft, some Browns fans complained that Haslam is no different than über-meddler Jerry Jones.
There’s a huge difference between an owner who is neither physically present nor engaged in the active ownership of the team (like Lerner was) and an owner who doesn’t live in the city where the team is located but nevertheless cares deeply about the football operation. The problem for Haslam is that he unwittingly has camped out at two extremes: (1) abandoning Cleveland for his “first love” of truck-stop management; and (2) rolling up the sleeves and nudging his football experts out of the way when it’s time to make decisions.
The fact that he otherwise won’t be around until periodically swooping in and telling the folks doing the heavy lifting what to do creates the worst possible perception for a sports owner.
The best owners fall in the middle. They’re committed primarily to the team, but they know what they don’t know and when it comes to football they trust the folks who have been hired to take care of business.
For Haslam, the problem is that he’s following a guy who didn’t seem to care at all about the team he owned, and who kept the franchise for as long as he did simply because his late father wanted him to. In this specific case, Browns fans may not have even realized that Haslam was tending to his truck-stop business in the offseason if Haslam hadn’t been so vocal about it — and if Haslam hadn’t justified the move by suggesting that he loves running truck stops more than he loves running a football team.
Either way, the honeymoon is officially over for Haslam and Cleveland.
At least he still has his truck stops.