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Revisiting the Browns owner returning to job as CEO of Pilot Flying J

By Pat McManamon

Part of a person hesitates to make too much of something that really might turn out to be nothing, but then again the Browns have been so disconnected with folks the past few years Jimmy Haslam’s recent decision to return as CEO of Pilot Flying J deserves another mention.

Haslam decided recently he was going to go back to being the CEO of Pilot about four months after stepping aside and hiring a bigwig form Pepsi to do that job, presumably so Haslam could cut down on his workload and perhaps concentrate on the Browns. That happened in September.

But this week Haslam said he was going back to his “first love.” Which is Pilot. Which clearly means he’s leaving the team in the hands of the folks he hired, and as far as football goes that means in the hands of Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi.

Make of that what you will.

These developments do not doom the Browns to losing, nor are they guaranteed problems. Earlier this month, Haslam also announced he had bought a couple companies that supply diesel fuel to the fracking industry. The man has a lot on his plate, and the Browns say the decision won’t affect Haslam’s involvement with the team.

Since it’s the Browns speaking, make of THAT what you will.

It still is a tad quirky that an owner who promised to be all-in and who said he’d be transparent decided to go back and run his original company without mentioning it to the local fan base. It could be neither all-in nor transparent, depending on how it’s viewed.

I never thought that Randy Lerner’s involvement with Aston Villa affected his ownership of the Browns, so it’s not fair to jump to the immediate conclusion that Haslam’s running Pilot will affect his ownership either.

It’s just an odd development.

And a very unscientific survey — which means it’s based on two e-mails I received from two longtime Browns fans and season-ticket holders — did not paint Haslam in a positive light.

“He makes Randy Lerner look like Art Rooney Sr.,” wrote one, a guy who has had season tickets for decades, including club seats. Then he added: “This thing is looking more and more like another train wreck. Call ‘em the Cleveland Banners.”

Another went on a lengthy rant saying he’d rather have Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert as opposed to “a guy who is not  a football guy, but will have final say on all football-related decisions, and his right-hand man, who has been fired five times and has been out of the league for five years.”

Clearly this has to play out.

And just as clearly it’s hard to say what this means definitively. In the end it might mean nothing.
At this point it means enough to upset a couple Browns fans.

Call it just odd intriguing enough to cause a stir.

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