Eagles Notebook: Ex-Eagles executive Banner named CEO of Browns

Mike Holmgrem is being replaced as Browns president by Joe Banner.
Mike Holmgrem is being replaced as Browns president by Joe Banner. (GREGORY SHAMUS / GETTY IMAGES)
Posted: October 17, 2012

CHICAGO - In June, at the news conference to formally announce that he would be stepping down as Eagles president, Joe Banner said he was looking for "one more really big challenge in my life."

Welcome to Cleveland, Joe.

Shortly after the NFL owners unanimously approved the $1.05 billion sale of the Browns to Tennessee billionaire Jimmy Haslam III on Tuesday, Haslam confirmed that Banner would be joining the organization as its chief executive officer.

Banner's name has been linked to the Browns since early July, when Haslam began negotiating to buy the team from previous owner Randy Lerner. The sale was completed in early August and has just needed league approval.

Banner, who has technically still been on the Eagles' payroll since June as a "senior strategic adviser" to owner Jeff Lurie, will be officially introduced to the Cleveland media at a Wednesday morning news conference.

"It's a new ownership with a chance to create our own vision," Banner told the Daily News Tuesday about the appeal of going to a team that has made only one wild-card playoff appearance since it rose from the ashes as an expansion club 13 years ago.

With Banner coming, current Browns president Mike Holmgren is going.

Holmgren, who joined the Browns 3 years ago, will stay on until the end of the season.

"With us coming in and taking a more active role, Mike has decided to, effective at the end of the year, to leave the Browns and retire," said Haslam, a minority investor with the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2008.

Holmgren still has 2 1/2 years left on a contract that pays him $8 million a year. Haslam acknowledged that they've agreed to an "amicable" financial settlement, which is to say Holmgren will get pretty much all of the money left on his deal or close to it.

Asked why he wants Holmgren to stick around for the remainder of the season, even though Banner will be starting on Oct. 25, Haslam said, "The Browns are a big organization. And I don't think having a guy walk out the door one day and somebody else walk in the next to take his place, I don't think that's necessarily the best way to do things."

In his role as CEO, Banner will be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the Browns. That will include football operations and personnel. He obviously will have a big say in the futures of general manager Tom Heckert and head coach Pat Shurmur, who both worked for him in Philadelphia.

"We will review everything at the end of the season," Banner said. "I like and respect both of them."

The 58-year-old Haslam, who is chairman of Pilot Flying J, which owns truck stops in 43 states and six Canadian provinces, said he thought it was important to bring in a new front-office chief sooner rather than later.

"Candidly, we thought with Mike deciding the role no longer fit him, we thought it was important to bring somebody in, so we do have a good transition and can hit the ground running at the end of the season," he said. "At the end of the season, we'll evaluate everyone in the organization. Just like we will at the end of every year, whether we win the Super Bowl or win two games."

How hands-on Banner will be involved as far as other football decisions, such as the draft and free agency, remains to be seen. But it appears it will be considerably more hands-on than he's been with the Eagles since Andy Reid was named executive vice president of football operations 11 years ago.

"It depends on how deep you go, but, yeah, Joe's the CEO of the organization," Haslam said. "And generally that means you're going to be involved in all phases of the operation.

"Football [operations] will report to Joe. We haven't worked out all of the final details. But football will report to Joe. I mean, Joe's smart. He's got great experience with the Eagles. We'll figure out [his entire role] in the coming weeks and months."

Said Banner: "The details of that will evolve over time."

As was the case with the Eagles, Banner will not have any ownership stake in the Browns.

"I'm very, very happy for him," said Eagles owner Jeff Lurie, who brought Banner to Philadelphia with him in 1994 when he bought the team for the then-controversial price of $195 million. "I think he's going with a really solid owner there.

"He and Joe will be a good team to turn that thing around. They need some leadership and they have some hard decisions to make. And I think they'll do it."

The situation Banner is walking into in Cleveland is similar to the one he and Lurie walked into in Philly.

"It is similar," Lurie said. "It's a team certainly in need of a change of culture and turnaround in a big way. We had that combined with a stadium issue. They don't have that. Ours was kind of a double-big problem. There, the fan base is great and the stadium is fine.

"There, it's turning around the franchise in terms of on-field performance."

Contact Paul Domowitch at pdomo@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @Pdomo. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' blog at eagletarian.com.

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