"Several weeks ago, Joe Banner and I began having discussions about the structure and organization of the Cleveland Browns, and over the last several days, have come to the conclusion that Joe has done a superb job putting the right people in place for the Browns. Joe was obviously solely instrumental in bringing Alec Scheiner, our president, who will continue to run our business operations in place, and played a key role in hiring (Browns Head) Coach (Mike) Pettine and in bringing in (Browns general manager) Ray Farmer to our organization and ensuring that Ray Farmer did stay with our organization. Joe and I, after a lot of conversation, mutually agreed that it was best for the organization if we streamlined things, where accountability and reporting lines were much clearer. Accordingly, effective today, we've announced that Alec Scheiner, as I mentioned earlier, will run our business side and remain as president, Mike Pettine will obviously be the head coach and Ray Farmer will be our GM. We will not have a CEO, and those three people will report directly to me.
"I cannot thank Joe, who will serve in a transition role for several months, probably until May or June, enough for what he has done for me personally and our family in terms of teaching us the NFL business, if you will. I don't know that I've ever met anyone smarter, who worked harder or a better negotiator than Joe. It's been a pleasure to work with him during this time period, and as I said, he'll help us as we transition over the next few months.
"I would also be remiss if I did not thank (Michael) Lombardi. Mike and his wife, Millie, are great friends of ours. Mike has great football acumen, and I think that Mike understands how to put together a football team. Mike and Joe have left us in good position in terms of both free agency and cap space, as well as this year's draft, where we have 10 overall picks and three of the first 35.
"At the same time, I can't tell you how excited I am about the opportunity to work directly with Pett, Alec and Ray. I believe that we have positioned this organization to become a winning football team, something that has not happened on a consistent basis around here in a long time. I will accept comments and criticism about change. I will accept responsibility for some of the changes that have been made. There is no primer for being an NFL owner. It is a learn-on-the-go, if you will, but I think what's really important is for everybody in this room but really much more so for our fans to understand that this ownership group, our family and this owner is committed to bringing a winner to the Browns. As I said when we introduced Pett a few weeks ago, ‘Talk is cheap, and actions speak louder than words.' When we finish this press conference, and I know that Ray is going to address you all for a little bit, I know that he welcomes that opportunity as do you, but we're going to go to work and we're fully committed to making this franchise a winner."
On deciding to change the front-office structure in the past two weeks:
"Like I said, Joe and I began having conversations several weeks ago about potentially restructuring the organization. As Pett came on board and we evaluated where we are, we felt that it made the most sense. It was a much simpler organizational structure than we had before, much clearer lines of responsibility and authority and something that we all felt more comfortable with and something that we're very excited with. I look forward to letting you all have the opportunity to work with Ray."
On reports that coaches were not interested in interviewing with the Browns:
"Let me say two things: I think that the reports of the people not wanting to talk to us are inaccurate, but most importantly, I think that we got a great head coach. I said that when we were up here three or four weeks ago, and I feel even stronger watching Mike work, watching his leadership and watching the staff that's he's put together."
On concerns with national perceptions on the Browns' head-coach search:
"No, like I said, we went through a very thorough search. Comments were made about how long it took. I would not do one thing different in this search, and I think that we got the best person available."
On why Lombardi was relieved:
"I will say again what I said: Mike, I think, knows and understands football as well as anybody. We feel that Ray is the best person to handle the personnel side of our organization for the Cleveland Browns. We look forward to working with Ray."
On praising Banner and his efforts, although the resulting structure did not include him:
"I think that Joe would tell you that putting together an organization is what he likes and enjoys doing, and I think that he felt comfortable that he had set us up for success, and it's now time for us to move forward."
On his comfort with Banner's say in personnel decisions:
"I felt like the previous setup was a little bit cumbersome. I think that the way that we're organized now is much more streamlined. It will be much more efficient and much clearer in terms of who's in charge of what."
On having all three individuals as direct reports:
"That's a setup that I'm used to, and I think that it will work well. I view my job as this: One, to provide the proper resources; two, to put the right people in the right place, three, to hold them accountable; and then four, do everything I can to help them be successful."
On if Banner commented that he would leave if Lombardi was relieved:
"No, we just took a step back. I think it was a normal time to do it with Pett coming in and saying ‘OK, are we setting ourselves up for success? What's the best way, in my terminology if we're going to whiteboard this, what's the best way to organize things?' We felt this was the best way to set things up."
On reports that the Browns are dysfunctional:
"Let me say that I would disagree with that, OK. I think that's a perception that you all have set out there. I will tell you as I talk to people around the league or at the Super Bowl last year, people view this as a great franchise. It's a great football area. We're in great shape with the cap. We're in great shape with the draft. I think that if you talk to people around the league, they'll say that this is a wonderful opportunity. Now, we've got to produce. I had dinner with Pett last night. We were looking at some records. There has not been a coach here since before 1991that had a winning record, and the team has only won 35 percent of its games. We've got work to do, but I continue to believe that this is an outstanding opportunity."
On reaction from season-ticket holders:
"Actually, our season-ticket holders are very excited. We sold more tickets last year than I think the Browns had in I know a lot of years – I don't want to say exactly how many – but our season-ticket holder base remains very strong, and at least the preliminary comments that we've gotten in this morning are very positive. We are excited about our fan base. As you all know, this a tremendous fan base around here. We're committed, and I can't say it enough. We've got to do it. We're committed to bringing a winner to this area."
On former Pilot Flying J employees recently pleading guilty:
"I don't think that this is the place to address the Pilot Flying J situation. I think that this about the Cleveland Browns organization, and I think that it's about Ray Farmer and his promotion to GM. I don't think now is the time to comment on that."
On the stability of Pilot Flying J:
"It's very strong."
On if former Browns Head Coach Rob Chudzinski may have been retained, considering today's front-office changes:
"Those are hard decisions. I think we made the right decisions. We're really excited about Coach Pettine."
On making changes one week before the 2014 NFL Combine:
"I think that you have to realize that Ray has been here for a year, and our scouts are in place. It's not like we're bringing in somebody totally new. Ray is here. It's probably not a lot of change in the organization as it might appear to be."
More on reports that the Browns are dysfunctional:
"I will just tell you that the people that I talk to around the country think that this is an outstanding opportunity here in Cleveland, whether it's to coach, play or work. I continued to hear that when I was at the owners' meeting last week. I think that the steps that we have taken clarify how our organization is going to be set up and run, and, as I've said several times today, set us up for success. We're excited about that opportunity."
On his contacts not wanting to openly share negative perceptions:
"Let me say this, I tremendously appreciate the passion that our fans have and that they care so much. I really do. I talk to some owners who laugh at our situation in terms of, ‘You should appreciate how much your fans care, how important they take football and how serious football is here in Northeastern Ohio.' We take that really seriously."
On spending more time in Berea with three direct reports:
"I think that you'll see us more in Berea, and we look forward working with what we believe are three extremely talented individuals."
On the timing of the front-office and head-coach changes:
"I said this earlier, and I will tell you that I underestimated this: It's a learning curve to be an NFL owner. If you want to look at me as a work-in-progress, that's fair to say or to do. I will tell you this: These are the last of the major changes that we're going to make in the organization, but we'll continue to, if I can use the word, ‘tinker' with the organization to continue to find was to improve it and make it better."
On needing to reassure Pettine of the organization's stability:
"No, I think if you talk to Mike, he'll tell you he's very excited about the opportunity, very excited about our players, and I think that he's put together a great staff."
On updates regarding Pilot Flying J:
"I think that there's a time to talk about Pilot Flying J. I think today is the time to talk about the Cleveland Browns."
On individual's roles in personnel decisions, specifically him approving Farmer's players:
"No, it will be a collaborative effort. I think that we've got a great group of scouts, and I think that Pett and his coaching staff – we talked about this at dinner last night – will participate, and I think that we'll all work together to get the best players we can. This question hasn't come up, but (Coach) Mike (Pettine) will have the final say on the 45-man roster and who plays on Sundays; and Ray will have the final say on the 53-player roster, and he'll talk about that more when he addresses you all."
On concerns with acquiring the correct quarterback in the draft:
"I'm concerned that we do a great job in this draft because I understand how important it is."
On if Farmer was promised the position when withdrawing from Miami's GM search:
"No, not at all. We thought very highly of Ray when we first interviewed him over a year ago, and when we interviewed him, we knew that he would be a GM someday. We're delighted that he's going to be the GM of the Browns."
"He's smart. He's been around football his whole life. He's organized. He's an easy guy to deal with in terms of give-and-take, and he's a tireless worker."
On weighing last year's personnel moves when deciding to relieve Lombardi:
"As I said, we looked at putting the best people in place, took a step back and said, ‘OK, for us to be successful, what's the org chart needs to look like? What are the key boxes and who goes in those boxes?' That's the decision that we made. Those are not easy decisions. We feel that Ray gives us a great chance to be successful in free agency and the draft."
On being on the same page with Banner on Pettine's hiring and potentially hosting a second interview with Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn:
"I was really committed to Coach Pettine."
On Farmer participating in head-coaching interviews:
"Ray, as well as several other people in our organization, played a key role in the search. The four of us [Haslam, Banner, Lombardi and Scheiner] were out talking to people, but I think I've said this before, there's a tremendous amount of background check and information gathering, and Ray played a very key role in that. I am highly confident that the two of them will work very closely together."
On if Farmer needs to hire additional staff to assist him this offseason:
"Ray and I have had a lot of talks over the last few days, and I think that Ray will bring in the necessary talent he thinks necessary to have a successful draft. I'll let Ray comment on that when he talk to you all in the next few minutes."
On if any head-coach candidates said they would consider the position if Banner or Lombardi were not on staff:
"I think that we got the best head coach that we could get, and I'm very excited about coach Pettine."
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