Once the news of the impending sale of controlling interest in the Cleveland Browns from Randy Lerner to businessman Jimmy Haslam III, I’ve really only had one key question on my mind; Is Haslam a positive community activist or is he the kind of guy that cares more about talking about the problems than fixing them?
I don’t care so much whether or not Haslam needs to sell of his Pittsburgh Steelers stake before he can become an honorary Clevelander, and I there aren’t any hoots coming from me about where he was born (Detroit), where his business is headquartered (Tennessee), or even who he’s going to bring with him to run the team (rumors of ex-Eagles President Joe Banner are intriguing). I care about his nature as a businessman.
The business of owning a team is different than the business of fielding winning teams, and when we’re deciding whether or not Haslam should bring in all his own executives to run the Browns, we should keep in mind that distinction.Clevelandhas two polar opposite examples of this already.
Cleveland Indians owner Larry Dolan is the type of guy that is so busy trying to add every last penny to the bottom line that he’s practically forced the executive duo of President Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti into failure. The truth of business is that cutting costs will increase your profit by a greater margin than spending to increase sales, but once you’re no longer competitive and your customers have all but abandoned you, you’ve gone too far.
There are plenty of folks out there who are convinced that Shapiro and Antonetti would fail even with different ownership, but I’m not one of them. Pointing out their mistakes is easy, but what isn’t easy is finding general managers from other teams that don’t have at least as many blemishes on their resumes.
Every general manager and president makes bad trades, drafts busts, and overpays players sometimes. In the case of the Indians, the Dolan family makes those mistakes so much bigger than they truly are because there is never any extra money or support to fix them.
The opposite is true of Cleveland Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert and General Manager Chris Grant.
Gilbert and Grant have made mistakes. Grant completely butchered the roster trying to add talent to the Cavaliers team led by LeBron James and there’s reason to believe that Gilbert created an atmosphere that ultimately built up the feelings of entitlement that led LeBron to leaveClevelandforMiami.
There is no doubt that those were HUGE mistakes. Larry Hughes, Luke Jackson, and Donyell Marshall are pretty much the Cavaliers versions of Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt LaPorta, and Shelley Duncan. But when Chris Grant made a mistake, Dan Gilbert stayed the path of effort and optimism.
Gilbert knows that mistakes were made – I’m sure by now there’s a big, comic sans sign that tells him to reread every email – but also continues to see his team as an opportunity to do good business inCleveland. In order to do good business, he has to stay committed to doing everything he can to win. It’s that simple. The Cleveland Horseshoe Casino wasn’t born from a mistake free basketball team, but from the commitment to recognize those mistakes and to move forward without repeating them.
That’s why my first question about Jimmy Haslam is so Cleveland-centric. And that’s also why it should be.