|Browns owner Randy Lerner relishing team's solid start|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 17 October 2007 12:07|
These days, owning the Cleveland Browns isn't much of a burden.
After years of frustration and failure, football seasons filled with pathetic performances and nearly constant internal change, the Browns finally seem headed in the right direction.
They're 3-3, a surprising start for a team given little regard around the NFL.
For Cleveland's long-suffering supporters, these are times to savor.
And the intensely private Lerner, a lifelong Browns fan who inherited the club following his father's death in 2002, is enjoying them.
``It's a good moment for us,'' Lerner said with pride Wednesday.
The Browns aren't alone, either. With the Indians one victory away from a trip to the World Series and the Cavaliers fresh off their first appearance in the NBA finals, Cleveland's three professional sports teams are enjoying an unprecedented run of success.
Like most Clevelanders, Lerner watched Game 4 of the playoffs between the Indians and Red Sox on Tuesday night, cheering every ball and strike with his 10-year-old son, whom he said was ``going absolutely berserko.''
``The overwhelming emotion is a lot of pride,'' Lerner said.
It's the same feeling he's now having while watching his own team play. That hasn't always been the case.
Following a 34-7 drubbing at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the opener, the Browns seemed destined for another disastrous season. They started 1-5 in 2006, and a similar start would in all likelihood have led to more upheaval, including the possible firing of coach Romeo Crennel.
Lerner wasn't about to let things slide again.
On the Monday morning after the Pittsburgh debacle, Lerner began a series of meetings with Crennel, general manager Phil Savage and senior vice president Mike Keenan.
``We spoke one-on-one, we spoke two-on-one, we spoke as a foursome,'' Lerner said. ``Everybody pitched in. There were some memorable visits during that period where all four of us got together and dug in and put our heads together and figure out how to strengthen the resolve within the building.''
They discussed practices, meetings, team leaders, captains - anything they could think of to fix the Browns.
The next day, Cleveland traded starting quarterback Charlie Frye to Seattle, an unprecedented move - no NFL team since 1970 had dealt its opening-week starter so quickly - that moved Derek Anderson into the starting lineup.
The impact was immediate as Anderson threw five touchdown passes the next Sunday in a 51-45 shootout with the Cincinnati Bengals, the first of three straight home wins by Cleveland.
``That was a difficult move,'' Lerner acknowledged in the middle of Cleveland's bye week. ``A conspicuous, high-profile move and it worked without a doubt. It was a very crisp, quick, difficult decision that has to be considered very, very successful.''
Lerner, who downplayed his role in the Browns' turnaround, was asked if he saw it coming.
``No,'' he said, bluntly.
Lerner feels the Browns, who have made the playoffs only once since 1999, succeeded this time by ``staying the course.'' Instead of rolling heads, he trusted the people he hired to turn things around, and they came through.
``It's definitely hard,'' Lerner said. ``But it's made slightly less difficult by trying to rely on competent people that are around you that understand this business and are going to prevent there being some sort of big reactionary crisis.''
During a 30-minute talk, his first scheduled gathering with reporters in more than one year, Lerner expounded on other topics.
-On Savage's development in his third-year as GM: ``The results speak for themselves. The foundation is in place and we're in strong financial shape in terms of the (salary) cap. We have an organization that is communicative internally. I think in the simplest terms, that's what Phil set out to do, and I think he has accomplished it.''
-On Crennel handling the post-Pittsburgh storm: ``We had a very difficult first game and I think he weathered it very professionally and very effectively. He took the hit square on himself and continued to keep the team poised. He deserves a lot of credit for that. We were 1-5 last year, we're 3-3.''
-On his eagerness to see rookie quarterback Brady Quinn play: ``Not right now. I think it is so much more important to get Brady as much observation experience as possible.''
-On the Browns playing a game in Europe: ``I think the Browns spent enough years outside Cleveland in the 1990s. I want to keep them in Cleveland and I want them to play in our stadium. It's for simple, elementary reasons.''