Browns sale to Haslam approved; Holmgren to leave
CHICAGO (AP) — New owners want their own people running things.
Jimmy Haslam III is sticking to one of the oldest adages in sports, which means Mike Holmgren is out as president of the Cleveland Browns.
Haslam's $1 billion purchase of the franchise was unanimously approved by the 32 NFL teams Tuesday. Shortly after the vote, Haslam announced that Holmgren would be leaving, although the Super Bowl-winning coach will remain with the franchise until the end of the year to help in the transition. Former Eagles President Joe Banner will become the chief executive officer on Oct. 25 when the sale is concluded.
"Mike was brought in to be the president and I think in a lot of ways the de facto owner," Haslam said at the NFL's fall meeting, "and with us coming in and taking a more active role, Mike has decided to, effective at the end of the year, leave the Cleveland Browns ...
"Mike will work very closely with us over the next three or four months to ensure that this transition goes as well as possible."
Haslam plans no other personnel changes before 2013, meaning the jobs of coach Pat Shurmur and his staff and general manager Tom Heckert appear safe for now.
"I told Pat on Saturday night that this was the only personnel move until the end of the season," Haslam said. "But I am not at all saying we'll make changes at the end of the season."
The Browns were the last team to win a game this year, beating Cincinnati on Sunday after five losses. They are tied with Kansas City for the worst record in the league.
"At the end of the year we'll evaluate everybody in the organization just like we will at the end of every year, whether we win the Super Bowl or we win two games," Haslam said. "That's our philosophy and that's what we'll do."
Later Tuesday, the NFL confirmed that Minnesota will host Pittsburgh in a second London game next year. The Vikings and Steelers will play at Wembley Stadium on Sept. 29, 2013, four weeks before Jacksonville hosts San Francisco at Wembley.
"This is a unique opportunity," Vikings President Mark Wilf said. "It will give excellent and exceptional exposure for the team."
The league also announced that Houston, San Francisco and South Florida will bid for the 2016 and '17 Super Bowls.
The 57-year-old Haslam, who built his fortune with Pilot Flying J truck stops, has been a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and is in the process of divesting that stock.
The Browns have gone 10-28 since Holmgren was hired by Randy Lerner to run football operations in 2010.
"He has been and still is committed to doing everything he can to make the Cleveland Browns a winning football team," Haslam said of Holmgren, with whom he spoke at length in the 2½ months since he agreed to purchase the Browns. They met Sunday to work out the logistics of the transition.
"Mike was brought in to do a certain role and I don't think he wanted a different role," Haslam said.
Holmgren led the Green Bay Packers to the 1996 NFL championship and lost in the Super Bowl the next year to Denver. He left the Packers in 1999 to become coach and general manager in Seattle. Six years later, the Seahawks won the AFC title — Holmgren had given up much of his personnel duties by then to concentrate on coaching — and fell to Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.
His time in Cleveland hasn't been nearly as successful. Indeed, Haslam has said his mission is to bring winning football back to Cleveland; the Browns have made the playoffs once since returning to the NFL in 1999.
"I would never stand here and say we need to have X number of wins, but we want to see a positive direction," Haslam said. "I think we want to see continued improvement and we want to see them play hard."
Banner joined the Eagles in 1994 and was team president when he resigned in June.
"His track record in Philadelphia has been impressive," Haslam said. "Joe is in charge of day-to-day operations of the company. Any big decisions, we will be involved in. Football (operations) will report to Joe."
The late Al Lerner, Randy's father, purchased the franchise from the NFL in 1998 for $530 million after the original Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996 and became the Ravens. The elder Lerner died in 2002.
The Browns made the playoffs in 2002 and lost to Pittsburgh in the first round. They've had only two winning records in 13 seasons.
Also at the meetings:
— Owners amended an anti-tampering resolution. Three days before a player becomes a free agent, teams will be permitted to contact the player's agent and begin contract negotiations. But a contract can't be completed until after free agency begins, and no direct contact is allowed with the player before his contract expires — except by his current team.
— South Florida and San Francisco — actually Santa Clara, where the 49ers are building a new stadium — will compete to host the 50th Super Bowl in 2016. The loser of that bid will compete with Houston for the 2017 game.
Some owners have said SunLife Stadium in Miami needs major upgrades before it should be considered for another Super Bowl; Miami has hosted the most NFL title games, 10.
"We understand the Dolphins and South Florida are looking at renovations and they do feel that is a large part of their bid," Commissioner Roger Goodell said.
Houston has hosted two Super Bowls, the last in 2004. There was one Super Bowl in the San Francisco Bay Area, at Palo Alto, Calif., in 1985.
"Nothing brings a region together like a Super Bowl," 49ers CEO Jed York said.
Asked if he would recuse himself from the appeals process, as the four players punished in the Saints bounty probe have asked, Goodell said he would respond to the letters requesting that "after these meetings."