Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Takeaways from the news of Alec Scheiner “stepping away” as Cleveland Browns president ...
1. The tip-off that Scheiner was on his way out came in late summer when Jimmy Haslam met with former Indians president Mark Shapiro and, according to a source, spoke to him about a similar position with the Browns.
Through a club spokesman, Haslam has denied it. Shapiro has declined to comment to multiple reporters asking about a Haslam job offer. In retrospect, Haslam obviously was considering changes to his organization before the 2015 season unfolded, despite his “We’re not going to blow it up, OK?” decree. Scheiner was on thin ice in August.
Much of the friction behind the scenes that marked the Browns’ 2015 season involved Scheiner vs. GM Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine -- probably more so than Farmer vs. Pettine.
Scheiner was sensitive about the perception that he butted in on football operations. But if Farmer and Pettine had anything in common, it was their mutual irritation with Scheiner.
Ironically, when Farmer and Pettine were fired after the season, Scheiner was not permitted to participate in the search committee to replace them. Symbolically, Dee Haslam took Scheiner’s place on the committee.
A closed-door session between Dee Haslam and Scheiner in the coaches’ booth in Arrowhead Stadium prior to Game 15 in Kansas City -- with a team security officer guarding the door -- might have been when Scheiner was told he no longer was in the organization’s future plans. He disappeared after that meeting.
2. After years of speculation of a Haslam and Peyton Manning partnership with the Browns, the timing of Scheiner’s parting on Friday and Manning’s retirement announcement on Monday appear mostly coincidental.
If Manning were going to join the Browns as a football executive, Haslam wouldn’t have committed to the new management team of Paul DePodesta, Sashi Brown, Andrew Berry and Hue Jackson.
I’ve got to believe that somewhere down the line, Manning must have informed Haslam that he wasn’t interested or wasn’t ready to commit to a front-office role for the 2016 season.
Manning may give some clarity about his future endeavors at his retirement announcement on Monday. My hunch is that he will keep his options open in 2016.
I wouldn’t rule out Manning eventually following the career paths of Hall of Fame players Ozzie Newsome and John Elway as a team executive. Former Colts president Bill Polian has opined that Manning is eminently qualified to lead a team’s front office.
If he uses 2016 to prepare for his next job, Manning will continue to be linked to future roles with the Titans, Colts, Saints -- and Browns.
3. The Browns are not expected to name a successor to Scheiner -- for now.
The job description of NFL club president is written at the whim of the owner.
The position can be filled by experts in law (Dick Cass of the Ravens) or business (Ted Phillips of the Bears) or marketing (Peter McLoughlin of the Seahawks). Or it could be filled by ownership family (Art Rooney II of the Steelers, Jonathan Kraft of the Patriots, Michael Bidwill of the Cardinals), or the majority owner (Mike Brown of the Bengals, Jerry Jones of the Cowboys, John Mara of the Giants). Three teams don’t even list a president -- Colts, Buccaneers, Rams.
In 3½ years of Haslam’s ownership, Scheiner was the only Browns president. CEO Joe Banner hired Scheiner in December of 2012. Scheiner took on a much greater role after Banner was fired on Feb. 11, 2014.
Scheiner gained Haslam’s confidence as a producer of revenue. Following the model of the NFL league office, Scheiner leveraged bidders for sponsorships and always chose the highest bidder, at the risk of severing long-time relationships (example: Cleveland Clinic).
Scheiner spearheaded the two-year renovation plan of FirstEnergy Stadium, tried to improve the dreary fan experience on game days (slightly faster WiFi, wiener dog races at halftime, a perky drumline, smoking and flaming player introductions), and revamped the team’s website and broadcast media operations.
Scheiner also supervised the team’s rebranding of the team logo (which became a national joke and incurred the wrath of Dee Haslam) and the controversial uniform change. It should be noted that the Haslams -- Jimmy and Dee -- had the final say on the look of the uniforms, not Scheiner.
4. Scheiner’s exodus may help thaw frosty relations with Browns alumni.
Scheiner was the individual most responsible for the ouster of former quarterback Bernie Kosar as analyst on Browns preseason game telecasts. While that move was a PR disaster for the Browns with their fans, the fact is alumni relations plummeted to new lows during Scheiner’s reign.
Several Browns alums have told me that the attitude toward former players espoused by Scheiner was this: There’s no revenue in Browns alumni.
5. Scheiner’s exodus may thwart the move of Browns training camp to Columbus.
Scheiner was the driving force of this seeming money grab of moving Browns training camp to the highest bidder in the Columbus area.
Posed as a “football decision,” the plan was to have a Columbus municipality build the Browns a summer headquarters facility and move portions of historically free training camp from Berea to further the team’s market reach in the lucrative central Ohio market.
The hope was for the Browns to cultivate new business partners from Columbus. Season ticket-holders from the area have been trekking to Browns games for generations.
Although it was never publicized, the Browns probably would have secured naming rights to the facility and would have received a lump sum of money to move their camp south and inconvenience Northeast Ohio fans who attended free training camp in Berea.
But a deal never was finalized, ostensibly because Ohio taxpayer money couldn’t be secured to help finance a proposed $15 million facility.
Maybe this cockamamie idea will die now. If the Browns want to move a portion of training camp for the old-school purpose of building team bonding and camaraderie, there are plenty of Northeast Ohio locations willing to serve as host.