Give new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam credit for one thing, he recognizes quickly when he’s stepped in it.
He created the impression he was going to be another absentee owner when he reclaimed his old role as CEO of Pilot Flying J, the family truck stop business.
That was after stepping aside from that job when he bought the Browns, creating the impression he’d be invested beyond finances.
So Haslam did a round of interviews to try to emphasize that, telling ESPNCleveland.com’s Tony Grossi he was still going to have a hand on the wheel, unlike previous owner Randy Lerner.
“The main reason for doing these [interviews] is to communicate that nothing’s going to change,” Haslam said. “We’re going to be just as involved as we said we were. The proof’s in the pudding. I think everybody will see that there is going to be no difference.
“We feel a tremendous responsibility as owners of the Browns to turn this thing around and turn it into a winner.”
Haslam resigned as CEO of his company in September.
“I thought about that a lot myself,” Haslam said when asked why he gave up his old job. “It all transpired [buying the Browns] pretty quickly. The NFL mentioned in June there might be a team [for sale]. I met Randy in July. And then we just bought another company [Maxum Petroleum]. At the time, I was feeling a little bit overwhelmed. And the opportunity to get a man like John Compton to run our main company seemed to make a lot of sense.
“But sometimes the best-laid plans go awry. Not that this went awry, but I just had a change of heart and decided I missed it.”
So instead of leaving that guy in charge of the truck stops, Haslam’s giving more responsibility to Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi.
“The demanding part [is] that it’s so high profile,” Haslam said. “Everything you do and everything you say is just magnified way more than it should be. You just have to be careful in what you say. That’s just the way it is.
“You know, we’ve lived in Knoxville all our lives, we own a pretty big company there, but . . . I’m much better known in Cleveland than in Knoxville and that’s because of the Browns. But we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
As Haslam said, the proof is in the pudding. If his hand-picked guys can’t steer the team into smooth waters, those Browns fans will naturally assume he’s content in a Tennessee truck stop, and that nothing has changed.