The Cleveland Browns are in a state of transition at many key positions on the field. It appears that they are about to undergo an even bigger transition off of the field. How one will affect the other is yet to be seen.
Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that a group led by Jimmy Haslam III, part owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, could have their bid to buy the Browns from Randy Lerner approved before the season even begins. The group includes former Eagles president Joe Banner, which should cause pause among Browns fans if they like the direction of the team under Mike Holmgren.
Cabot reports that in a press conference after Banner stepped down as Philadelphia's team president, he said he wanted to be "involved with the world of buying and selling a sports team with the possibility of becoming part of a group that buys a team."
The plot thickens by adding speculation that Banner was having a power struggle with Eagles head coach Andy Reid, and as Cabot points out, Holmgren, head coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Brad Childress are all close to Reid.
Holmgren's fate under Haslam is unclear, but Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland thinks that Holmgren is likely out if the sale goes through. This would be a fundamental change because as NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal put it, "Holmgren possessed more organizational clout than perhaps any non-owner in the NFL except Bill Belichick."
Make no mistake, this is a Browns team built in the image of Holmgren. Without his influence, Banner could dynamite any part of the Holmgren blueprint, starting with the quarterback. The monetary and draft pick commitment to Brandon Weeden isn't really that overwhelming when compared to quarterbacks around the league, and the Browns are likely to be back in the top 10 of the draft next year in any scenario.
While most questions around the sale focus on Holmgren's job security under new ownership, perhaps there should be more inquiries into the fate of Weeden, Shurmur and Childress.
Whatever direction the franchise takes, the loyal Cleveland fans will stand behind the team, as they have through losing the franchise and many years of losing from the 2.0 version of the Browns. If the team goes back to square one yet again, will they hang around? That's what Haslam and company are gambling on, and they will make the moves from top to bottom that they deem necessary to make it happen.