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News » Pressure is on Lerner to secure good leaders


Pressure is on Lerner to secure good leaders


Pressure is on Lerner to secure good leaders
Pittsburgh - As the Browns stumbled to the end of their season with a 31-0 loss at Pittsburgh, the real Super Bowl begins for Randy Lerner.


The Browns owner wants to bring in a brand name to add leadership and a sense of hope to this franchise that finished the season Sunday with a 4-12 record and a six-game losing streak.

Lerner wants to hire former Steelers coach Bill Cowher. So do several other teams. And as recently as a few months ago, Cowher was telling friends he had no real urge to coach in 2009.

There were media reports Sunday that he planned to skip coaching for another year.

Can Lerner change Cowher's mind? He'll have to do it by writing more than a monster check, because other teams will offer huge dollars and major control of the Football operations.

He has to convince Cowher and his other targets that they can win in Cleveland with him as the owner.

Lerner hates to hear the Browns called "dysfunctional," but they have only two winning seasons in the 10 years that his family has been the owners. Even more alarming, they have lost at least 12 games five times in 10 years.

The staph infection issue also has to be addressed, because other teams use it against the Browns when recruiting free agents.

In their 10 years, the Browns have been through the front office of Carmen Policy/Dwight Clark/Chris Palmer, followed by slightly less than four seasons of Butch Davis, now completing four years of Phil Savage/Romeo Crennel. The basic results have remained the same while the fan frustration festers.

Savage has already been fired, and Crennel will soon follow him out the door.

But it's always easier to fire those whom you consider wrong for the job than to find the right people. Lerner is very concerned about the culture of losing and discouragement. He has to outline to his candidates how that can change.

Lerner must admit the team is not loaded with talent, but there are some attractive players on the roster. He can talk about having two young quarterbacks in Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson. He can talk about having young talents such as Joshua Cribbs and Jerome Harrison, who can be better employed on offense. He can talk about having Shaun Rogers on defense, and how a year ago, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow were Pro Bowl players.

He can mention that the offensive line has some talent with the likes of Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach.

He can stress that if the new Football man wants to trade a big name such as Winslow, Edwards or about anyone else, he will have the freedom to do so. He also can add that the Browns have picks in the first, second, fourth and sixth rounds in the upcoming draft.

Finally, Lerner can correctly insist that he has never been afraid to spend major money. Most of all, he can stress that he'll shape the front office to help the new GM/coach succeed.

But Lerner must be sure that his target wants more than a fat paycheck, that the man has the passion to tackle one of the NFL's toughest jobs because of the team's struggles. Cowher is Plan A. But if that fails, Lerner needs a Plan B.

That might be New England General Manager Scott Pioli, and he will be a tough sell. He had no interest in the Browns job when it opened after the 2005 season, partly because the corporate structure gave former team president John Collins enormous power.

A year later, Collins clashed with Savage, and Collins was fired. But Pioli will have to be convinced that the Browns now have an organizational setup where he can be successful. He also will be heavily recruited by Kansas City and possibly Detroit.

At age of 43, Pioli could remain with New England for the 2009 season and still be a hot candidate for positions with other teams because the Patriots are considered the NFL's model organization.

Lerner supposedly is an admirer of Mike Holmgren, but it's doubtful he'd come to Cleveland. He seems to prefer the West Coast, and has said he plans to sit out 2009.

If Cowher, Holmgren and Pioli are not options, then Lerner has to ask himself, "What type of leader do I want?"

He answered that in England, where Martin "The Magnificent" O'Neill coaches his Aston Villa soccer team.

When O'Neill came to Aston Villa, it was ranked No. 18. In his first season, it moved up to 11th. Then sixth. Now, it's fourth. Lerner is considered a great owner in English soccer circles, and O'Neill is an emotional leader who is strict with his players, loud with officials and loved by the fans.

Maybe a little like Bill Cowher was with Pittsburgh.

Or perhaps like Bill Parcells, who reportedly can become a free agent after this season if the Miami Dolphins are sold.

Lerner can probably hire Marty Schottenheimer or Brian Billick with one phone call and significant salary. Both would love a chance to coach the Browns, no matter what they might be saying publicly. He could hire a veteran general manager such as Floyd Reese, and allow him to pick the coach.

But those are not his favored options.

Lerner wants to make an impact hire with a big name who instantly gives fans and players a reason to believe. No one in this group needs the Browns, Lerner needs them. And the fans need Lerner to do his homework and be at his best to make this job attractive.

To reach Terry Pluto: terrypluto2003@yahoo.com, 216-999-4674

Previous columns online: cleveland.com/columns



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 30, 2008

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Jerome Harrison Name: Jerome Harrison
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