Jimmy Haslam needs to be a leader for beleaguered franchise

Cleveland has a lot of things going for it these days. New construction projects are popping up all over the city, businesses are growing and expanding and there is a steady flow of people making a move to live downtown.

In the midst of all that positive news, however, is the state of the Cleveland Browns. It’s not just that the team is losing games, going 1-25 since the start of the 2016 season.*

Those who remain loyal to the Browns would tell you that this is all part of the plan. The team has released most of its veteran players to make way for younger talent that it hopes will get things turned around. Thus far, that talent has struggled and the NFL’s youngest team is in contention to get the top pick in the draft for the second consecutive year.

The bigger problem is what’s happening off the field and the reluctance of Browns owner Jimmy Haslam to take ownership for what has transpired. Reports of friction between the front office and the coaching staff came to a head on Halloween.

That’s when a potential trade for veteran quarterback AJ McCarron was scuttled after the Browns failed to file the proper paperwork with the league office by the 4 p.m. deadline. League observers have speculated that there was disagreement between the coaches and front office on the trade and perhaps even an attempt from within to sabotage the deal.

While his wife, Dee, reportedly called out the front office in private, Mr. Haslam has not made any public comments. Aside from releasing a statement of support in September for players who chose to make a statement by kneeling during the national anthem, the Haslams have, for the most part, not been making public appearances.

The Browns are an organization crying out for someone to take charge and show leadership. While this franchise has only existed since 1999, it took on the name, the colors and the history of a brand that was once a source of great pride for Cleveland and Browns fans around the world.

According to Browns Backers Worldwide, there are roughly 355 clubs in 14 different countries that continue to bleed brown and orange and support the team. That brand has been tarnished and the number of empty seats on Sundays at FirstEnergy Stadium continues to grow.

Mr. Haslam has been criticized in the past for making rash decisions and not giving hired personnel a fair chance to turn the team around. That may be the reason for his being reclusive. Evidence would suggest this plan isn’t working.

The city and the fans deserve an owner willing to take responsibility for the team’s performance and communicate that to the public. Mr. Haslam owes them an explanation of his plan to build an organization the city can be proud of once again.

* At the time of publication.

Fred Koury is president and CEO at Smart Business Network