Like him, trust him, or not, Joe Banner has said all the right things so far as CEO of the Cleveland Browns. His Q&A with Clark Judge of CBS yesterday was just more proof of Banner’s self-confidence and willingness to espouse the Cleveland Browns as a defining project in his career and life. I can remember a time when an interview like that would have had the Cleveland Browns fan base absolutely giddy. I don’t get the sense that Browns fans have that in them anymore.
Joe Banner’s even been perfect in not asking for the full faith and support of Cleveland Browns fans. He’s preferred to fill in any voids that used to be filled with pleas for patience with statements about accountability. That’s really the best answer anyway. Any fans who’ve put their “faith” in a football team in Cleveland since 1999 have been disappointed.
Plus, if we’ve learned nothing in Cleveland since 1999 it’s to put our sports and entertainment choices in proper perspective. This isn’t life, death, family, job or our deity of choice, so proof is far more valuable than faith. Where patience and faith used to go hand-in-hand for many Browns fans, if there’s any patience left it’s constantly being tamped down by paranoia and a now-raging demand for results. And Banner isn’t shying away from any of it.
He even went so far as to attack the plans of many previous regimes, if somewhat generically to keep from naming names. “Everybody talked about a long term plan,” banner told Clark Judge, “but when’s the last time the team traded for a future draft pick?” With that statement banner is somewhat defending the previous regime that traded out of Julio Jones for last year’s draft, but he isn’t so kind in other areas.
Banner continued, “it doesn’t make much sense to invest in 31-and-32-year-old players,” when building a Super Bowl-caliber team, Banner seems to be speaking directly to moves that might cause a team to try and count on a player like Scott Fujita who was already 31 by the time he suited up for the Browns for the first time in a regular season game in 2010. Without guaranteeing success in their latest round of free agency, it at least attempts to project clear confidence in the Browns’ off-season free agency spend on 26 and 27 year-olds as opposed to more “experienced” free agents.
All the while Banner claims that the team will be markedly improved on the field this year even as they’re not ready to compete for Super Bowls right now. These are the kinds of empty promises that his very different predecessor claimed last year when Mike Holmgren spoke of a “big jump” that never materialized for the Shurmur-led team of a year ago.
So, where does this all leave Browns fans? Not-so-patiently demanding seems to be the right way to put it. Gone are the days of anyone agreeing to “buy-in” to anyone who takes up residence in Berea without seeing something tangible in the win column. Gone are the days where Browns fans sit around wondering if maybe a coach can improve over a dismal first year performance. Gone is the idea that hope is a plan.
I’m sure many Browns fans are somewhat encouraged by what Joe Banner says and how they’ve handled their business thus far this off-season, but I don’t get the sense that anyone has in this fan-base has put him on the savior pedestal like Mike Holmgren was placed on. In a way there’s an unfortunate loss of innocence that goes along with a defense mechanism reaction of just expecting the worst.
I can’t help but think maybe it’s especially unfortunate timing. Joe Banner really does sound like a guy who knows what he’s doing. Maybe he is finally the guy that should get the full faith and trust of Cleveland Browns fans. Unlike some of his predecessors though, he’s going to have to earn it.