ALBANY, N.Y. -- Before heading over to see the world champions this morning, touching base on two subjects in the news:
1. He knows what he doesn't know. I counted four times in our conversation that he said some version of, "I just don't know the answer to that yet,'' or, "I might know better in two months. I just don't know now." He's a CEO of a truck stop company with more than 500 locations in the United States and Canada, but he's smart enough to know he's about to enter a business in which smart men get their heads handed to them in competition every year, and no one's a genius.
2. He was schooled in, and took valuable lessons from, one of the best football laboratories in the league -- Pittsburgh's. As a 12 percent owner of the Steelers for the last three seasons, he's seen the benefit of the Steeler way. "One thing I took from the Steelers,'' he said, "is if you've got a great leader, GM and coach -- which they do -- you've filled the three most important boxes, and you're off to a great start.'' Add the quarterback, and he's right. The solid, consistent competence of the Rooney family, general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin give the Steelers a chance every year.
3. He's going to be much more involved day-to-day with the Browns than Randy Lerner was, from the sound of things. He'll buy a home in Cleveland and be around the team at least one day a week during the season, while continuing to run his business in Tennessee. Even though his presence guarantees nothing, Haslam wants to sit in the stands at a game or two, and he wants to go into the community to thank the fans for being so loyal.
"It's very important to thank your customers for their loyalty,'' he said. "In my business, I go to the stores unannounced fairly often to talk to my employees. It's important to assess your business often, and to ask the people out in the field for ideas. I ask, 'What are we doing wrong?' Ninety-five percent of our new ideas come from our employees."
Football's a different business; the fans in the Dawg Pound can't tell him who to draft. But his idea about contact with the people who have supported the team for so long is laudable.
One thing Haslam has judged -- critically -- very early is the Browns' coaching merry-go-round. "They've averaged a new coach once every 2.8 years [since the franchise returned to Cleveland in 1999],'' Haslam told me, "and that's just not a good recipe.'' Do the math: Excluding interim coach Terry Robiskie in relief of Butch Davis in 2004, Cleveland's had five head coach in the 14 seasons between 1999 and 2012 -- 2.8 seasons per coach. "One thing I learned from watching the Steelers is the importance of consistency in coaching, and how much it sets you back when you're always making a change. When you change coaches, it can be a three- or four-year deal to get back.''
Haslam won't talk about his plans with any employee until his ownership bid is approved -- which from all indications is imminent. But he'll find out soon enough that finding a quarterback is the biggest predictor of future success. And everyone in the organization's going to be a lot smarter if Brandon Weeden can play.
Now onto your email:
THE TEBOWIZATION OF THE NFL.
So you're saying ESPN has covered the Jets a lot? Boy, hadn't heard that.
ON THE HONOR OF ROBERT GALLERY.
So Robert Gallery plays his entire eight-year career with Oakland and Seattle, signs a deal with New England, decides a week into training camp he doesn't want to play anymore, and you think the Patriots should pay him the $1.4 million they'd agreed to pay him for playing the full season? I understand your point about many players being chewed up and spit out by the system over the years in the NFL, but that logic is preposterous.
FUNNY -- THE WRITER OF THIS EMAIL IS FROM COLORADO.
Lewis and Johnson have no business in your argument, as they're not in the Hall of Fame. Forget them, and let's address the problem with your argument, which is the problem so many Hall of Fame arguments have: They're incomplete, and they conveniently leave out salient facts the way partisan politicians do every day.
I don't make my decision because he didn't do enough when he played. My argument, obviously, is that he didn't do it long enough, and he wasn't the sort of transcendent running back a Gale Sayers was. I think once we start opening the door to the Hall of Fame to men who had three terrific years and one good one, that's troublesome. But as I said yesterday, I'd support his somewhat parallel case, Sayers (and let's make one thing clear -- I wasn't on the committee when Sayers was voted in), because I think Sayers is one of the most electrifying players in NFL history. I greatly admire Davis, but I don't see him in the same light.
ON GARRETT REID.
Many have asked the same question, and it's a valid one. And who knows -- maybe Reid will walk away tomorrow and have a different job, and priorities, for the rest of his life. But I look at it this way: I didn't live in the Reid house. I don't know what happened there. Do we know that Reid's children, if he'd chosen the life he actually wanted to pursue (he went to college wanting to be a sports writer, of all things), would have turned out differently?
When you get into the coaching life, you get into a competitive life with long hours. If you stay in the life, you have to play by the rules of that life. And let's say Reid dropped out of coaching when it became apparent his sons were struggling with drugs. You and I may have done that; who knows? Would that have changed what happened to Garrett Reid? Who knows that either? Craig, I hear what you're saying, and believe me, I've had many of the same questions. But the truth is, we're not there, and we don't know what the impact of our dropping-out would have had on the situation.
IN SUPPORT OF A QUIET STAR, DEANGELO WILLIAMS.
Nice email. But there are 29 modern-era Hall of Fame running backs. If Williams is better than 90 percent of them, then John Fox and Ron Rivera need to be drawn and quartered immediately for their irresponsible coaching. Williams is not one of the top five runners of the last three generations. But the rest of your point is a good one -- Williams is an under-appreciated player.
I DO NOT SEE THIS HAPPENING.
Ironic, yes. Realistic, no.