If it wasn't already clear after the Cleveland Browns cleaned house this offseason, it should be now: Owner Jimmy Haslam is very involved with the product the team is putting out on the field, whether he admits it. If Exhibit A was the rash decision to fire head coach Rod Chudzinski after one season, Exhibit B is the revelation from quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains that Haslam gave the order to "pull the trigger" and trade up for Johnny Manziel during the 2014 NFL Draft. Via ESPN Cleveland:
“[Manziel] shoots me a text and says, ‘I wish you guys would come and get me. Hurry up and draft me because I want to be there. I want to wreck this league together,’” Loggains said.
“When I got that text, I forwarded it to the owner and to the head coach. I’m like, ‘This guy wants to be here. He wants to be part of it.’ Soon as that happened, Mr. Haslam said, ‘Alright, pull the trigger, we’re trading up to go get this guy.’”
Loggains' radio interview came nearly a weeks after general manager Ray Farmer insisted that Haslam had played no role in the decision to take Manziel. Farmer reportedly preferred Teddy Bridgewater, and Farmer acknowledged that the Louisville product had graded out as a better player than Manziel by the Browns' own analytics study.
Manziel's text message apparently prompted Cleveland to act. Or maybe it was a homeless man. Or maybe Haslam simply got his way.
There were loud rumblings Haslam picked Manziel long before Loggains spoke. Only folks spinning reality are those not wanting to believe it.— Evan Silva (@evansilva) May 16, 2014
Whatever the case, we're left, still, with an unclear picture of who is making personnel decisions in Cleveland -- the Browns' front office and coaching staff or the billionaire owner of an inherited truckstop chain.
Haslam's past meddling
A few examples of Haslam as an overreaching owner:
- The seemingly rushed decision to hire Chudzinski after being rebuffed by Chip Kelly
- The perhaps even hastier decision to fire Chudzinski, who had been tasked with changing and reinvigorating the team's offensive identity with spare parts
- A protracted coaching search during which multiple candidates withdrew their names after meeting with the team
- A bizarre attempt to trade for Jim Harbaugh by giving up an expensive package of draft picks
- Disapproval from players
- Pushback against media who suggested that the coaching search, perhaps, wasn't going as planned
Nothing by itself is egregious, but together, packaged with his apparent war room demand, draw a caricature of Haslam as an exceedingly confident owner who may be trying too hard to fulfill his promise to shape the organization in his own image.
Manziel may ultimately save face for Haslam by fulfilling his enormous potential. Few fans in Cleveland will care if Haslam breached his boundaries to select the Texas A&M star if it ultimately leads to something like offensive competency in the defensive-minded AFC North. But whether Haslam's Browns ultimately become a winner, we should probably stop pretending that the team isn't his.