Banner Impressing Cleveland With His Handling Of Weeden
By Steven King
The member of the Cleveland Browns who has made the most positive impression in the early stages of training camp doesn’t wear a helmet or shoulder pads.
What CEO Joe Banner has said (and not said) and what he has done (and not done) concerning QB Brandon Weeden should make fans feel better about the executive and the direction he’s taking the club.
People in Cleveland shuddered when Banner, a nearly two-decade member of the front office of the Philadelphia Eagles, was hired by Jimmy Haslam last Oct. 16 – the same day the NFL approved the latter’s purchase of the Browns.
It was hardly a newsflash. It had been rumored for several months that Haslam would bring in Banner to run the team once it was officially his. But fans were hoping those rumors were not true. Banner was perceived as a non-football person who was going to be making football decisions – that is, a disaster waiting to happen.
The fact that the Browns hired Mike Lombardi as general manager shortly thereafter only made things worse. Banner believes strongly in Lombardi, who became an unpopular person in Cleveland in his first stint working with the Browns in personnel and scouting from 1987-95.
Banner and Lombardi seemed a deadly combination for the Browns.
And they were certainly not fans of Weeden when they took over. They could not find anything kind or positive to say about him in that first month. It was believed that they would find another quarterback as soon as they could.
Meanwhile, the Browns hired Rod Chudzinski as coach and Norv Turner as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Both of them believed almost from the outset that Weeden – with better coaching and a downfield passing attack to suit his strong-arm skills – had a chance to be the quarterback the club has long sought.
But would Banner and Lombardi allow themselves and their opinions to be overruled by those of Chudzinski and Turner? Not a chance, most figured. Cleveland, though, did not take Geno Smith or any other quarterback in the 2013 NFL Draft and went through its spring programs with Weeden as the starter.
What was going on? Why wasn’t he asserting himself? This wasn’t the Joe Banner that everybody in Cleveland thought they knew.
It wasn’t until training camp was set to start and Banner did a whirlwind tour with all the local media did it come out that he had indeed listened to his coaches and allowed them to proceed with Weeden as the unquestioned starter. Banner even used the word “we” when talking about the “organization’s” belief that Weeden had shown enough last season to earn a second chance to prove himself.
So the non-football guy had let the real football guys make the biggest football decision a team can make, choosing its starter at quarterback – the most important position in team sports. Banner didn’t come out and proclaim that he or anybody else on the Browns knows for sure that Weeden is the franchise quarterback. That would not be “honest,” he said.
“We’re just going to sit back and watch to see what happens,” Banner summed up.
That’s all that Weeden -- or Browns fans, even the most vocal opponents of Banner, and Lombardi – can ask for.
What does all this tell us?
Maybe – just maybe – there is going to be rational thought driving the actions of this management team, and for Browns fans who have watched regime after regime doom itself with head-scratching decisions that were doomed to fail, that’s the best early training camp news of all.