Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner addressed the perception Thursday that the Cleveland Browns did not have a plan when they conducted their coaching search that resulted in the hiring of Mike Pettine.
They had a plan, they said. Their plan was simply different from most.
“We’re going to spend thousands of hours researching whether to pick a quarterback in the draft or not,” Haslam said. “Why would you not spend a lot of hours researching who the head coach of your organization is going to be?
“This thought that the first person to finish the coaching search is the winner I think is extremely far-fetched. This is an important hire. To not take your time and talk to people and do the research, the background checks we’ve done I think would be inexcusable.
“We think it was a great process.”
Haslam went as far as to say the Browns did not start with a first choice or lead candidate, but went in ”with a wide-open field.”
“This is a fluid process,” he said, “and it changes all the time.”
Many teams do their coaching search by choosing one or two candidates, then zeroing in on them immediately and hiring them quickly. The Browns chose to cast a wide net, talk to as many people as possible and talk to many candidates. They acknowledge that Pettine was available immediately, but saw no rush to interview him when they knew he’d still be available in mid-January.
Haslam said the team interviewed 10 people in person, and a few others on the phone.
The time it took to hire a coach, though, and the Browns' decision to keep the search secret, led to a lot of reports, some of them inaccurate. A source familiar with the search said the Browns had no interest in hiring Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Penn State’s James Franklin or Bill O’Brien, formerly of Penn State and now with the Texans. (O’Brien reportedly left his interview with the Browns a year ago unimpressed with the team.)
Those names were widely reported as part of the search.
There are many different ways to hire a coach. The Baltimore Ravens did extensive research on John Harbaugh before hiring him. Haslam and Banner chose to go the in-depth route.
“With Mike we spent four or five hours twice, we spent another hour (Thursday),” he said. “These are exhaustive sessions when you ask all kinds of intense questions. They ask us very good questions. You tell a lot about the candidate by the questions they ask. There’s not one moment, it’s over a period of time. These are extremely important hires, so to rush into it in any way would be a huge mistake.”
There’s no escaping the fact the Browns did not rush into anything. Haslam said any negative perception generated by the search was caused by the media.
“This perception that’s been created out there is not reality,” he said.
Banner said fans and media have “no idea” who the candidates were and who wanted the job, but he declined to clear up misconceptions.
The pair felt the Browns had a plan all along. It was a unique plan, one that isn’t always followed, but they felt it was a plan that didn’t deserve the “pummeling” (Banner’s words) that the team received.
“I’ll take the ultimate responsibility that we did not perform last year,” Haslam said. “It’s all on me. I call all the shots at the end of the day. That’s all on me. We’re highly focused on putting together a team that will win consistently over a long period of time.”