Are the Browns Making a Mistake Giving Jim Brown a Bigger Role in Cleveland?
Determined to put a better football product on the field in coming seasons, the Cleveland Browns are also making headway on establishing some positive public relations ahead of the 2013 season.
According to Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland, Brown will be introduced in a new position with the organization Tuesday, ending several years of disassociation and hostility between the two parties.
One source told Grossi that the agreement is a "big deal" for Brown and a "nice peace" for both the Browns and arguably the greatest running back in NFL history.
Peace has been hard to come by for Brown and the organization in recent times.
Cracks in the relationship began in late 2009, when the Browns hired Mike Holmgren to be the team's new president. Shortly thereafter, Brown's role in the organization was reduced, and sparks began to fly.
According to Grossi, Brown wrote Holmgren a letter in August of 2010 that insisted his new role was nothing more than that "of a mascot." Before Holmgren's arrival, Brown had served as a highly compensated executive advisor to then-owner Randy Lerner.
Brown also stated he would not be attending Holmgren's planned induction of Brown into the team's Ring of Honor for the coming season. It was a slap in the face to the new regime.
Brown's letter—which all but castigated Holmgren from start to finish—quickly became part of the public record. By all accounts, the ordeal was a public relations disaster for the organization.
However, Brown wasn't done taking shots at his former club.
Before the 2012 NFL draft, Brown wasn't shy in voicing his opinion of Alabama running back Trent Richardson, who was a popular pick for Cleveland and eventually went there at No. 3 overall.
“I’m not overwhelmed with it,” Brown said of Cleveland drafting Richardson, per Pro Football Talk. “The problem is that he’s ordinary. I think he’s ordinary.”
Even after Richardson was the Browns' selection, Brown didn't back off. He continued to call Richardson an "ordinary" back who lacked a skill set of the "special" and "outstanding" variety, according to Grossi.
Richardson rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns during his rookie season.
Even Lerner wasn't out of his aim, as Brown took the former owner to task on his management decisions and, in particular, the continuing deference of power to Holmgren.
Brown on Lerner, per NFL.com: "I think that the owner, and I have to be very candid with you, is trying to turn all the power over to someone else. I don't think that's possible. I think that the owner is ultimately going to be the leader and I think until Randy takes that position, it's going to be difficult."
Once a franchise icon, Brown was on the brink of becoming the Browns' version of Joe Namath, who over the years has publicly lambasted the New York Jets on a number of occasions. Bitter and out of touch were becoming adjectives not far from the horizon.
Now, new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam—who could use some positive public relations of his own right now—will give Brown the chance to resume a prominent role with his old club and hopefully regain some of the goodwill he might have lost over the last two or three years.
Grossi believes that Brown will be asked to help the Browns in relationships and management of players.
Regardless of the role, Brown's return to the organization is a positive step for a team that needs results on the field and off it.
Are the Browns making a mistake in bringing back Jim Brown to the organization?
Since returning to the NFL in 1999, Cleveland has been to the postseason just once in 14 years. The team's current playoff drought sits at 10 seasons.
The rebuilding process is now in full swing, with new head coach Rob Chudzinski and coordinators Norv Turner and Ray Horton expected to bring a jump in wins from the five Cleveland produced in 2012.
For the first time in several years, guarded optimism is brewing around the club.
At the very least, Brown's new position should ensure a franchise legend is quiet in his criticisms and at peace with the direction of his former organization.
He told Grossi that he wants to be a part of the franchise's turnaround.
"The fact is we are married because of that history," Brown said. "And if I can be a part of the development of a new, winning attitude … man, that would be fantastic.”
Brown may not be a significant factor in turning around the Browns on the field, but the organization's peace offering is a positive approach off it.
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