The 15th Annual Greater Cleveland Sports Awards took place Thursday night in at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel Grand Ballroom. Eddie George was the emcee for the event, and the "Professional Athlete of the Year" award went to Cleveland Indians' Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, who beat out Cleveland Browns CB Joe Haden and Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving. (Aside: last year's winner? Josh Gordon)
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Cardale Jones was at the event and even had a nice photo opportunity with Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. Haslam also took five minutes to field questions from the local media who were in attendance. I have transcribed Haslam's interview below, and the video of the interview from Cleveland.com is at the bottom of the text if you are interested in listening.
(Pettine said today that he spoke to the NFL investigators regarding this texting matter. Have they spoken with you?) "No."
(Is it concerning to you, though, the whole situation (sending of text messages down to the sideline)?) "I know that Ray [Farmer], Pettine, and Sashi Brown, our General Counsel, are cooperating fully with the NFL. If we did anything wrong, I'm sure we'll correct it and make whatever amends. I know we've cooperated fully with the NFL."
(The quarterback situation. Now that you've had a little time away, how do you feel about it? Do you still have confidence in Johnny to be the guy?) "I think we ought to say this -- we've had a little time, about 2-3 weeks, to evaluate our season. If we had said at the beginning of the year that we'd be 7-9, everyone would've said we had a pretty good year. But the reality is that we were 7-4 at one time, so now it looks really bad. I think there are two things we obviously have to work on as a team. First off, we don't have enough depth. We had injuries, and injuries are part of the NFL and everybody has them, but injuries hit us hard and that's one of the reasons we faltered hard down the stretch. I think the second reason, and everybody knows this, if you look at the teams in the final eight, the final four, and now the final two, you have to have a really good quarterback. Our situation, as Coach Pettine says, is really muddy. We don't know who our quarterback is going to be next year. All I would say to our fans is that we're going to continue to work really hard to find that quarterback who can make us a championship team."
(The fact that you had to replace the offensive coordinator -- Kyle not wanting to be here, the perception out there of someone not wanting to work for the Browns, how do you fight that and having to replace another coordinator?) "We're really excited about DeFilippo. John wants to be here, he's the kind of guy who welcomes a challenge. He looks at our quarterback situation and understands where he is, looks at our schedule next year and understands where he is and looks forward to the challenge. That's the kind of person we want to be part of our organization."
(Do you think your quarterback for next year is on the roster?) "I think Pettine and Flip said it well today -- we don't know yet. We're going to work until we find the right person. I'm not slighting Connor or Johnny -- we have two quarterbacks -- or Brian [Hoyer], if he were to come back, I'm not slighting any of them. We're going to work hard until we get a quarterback who can help us win and win consistently, which we've stated since Day 1 is our goal. It's not easy, but we understand it's the mission and we're going to work hard at it."
(Are you concerned about friction between the coaching staff and the front office reached the point to where Kyle wanted out?) "I'm not going to talk about Kyle. Kyle is a smart guy and has a great future in coaching. We had a good relationship. I will say this -- despite the outside view, and I think Ray [Farmer] took the high road, which our organization is always going to do, we work together extremely well. Ray, Pettine, Sashi, Alec [Scheiner] and I are going off for three days to do a little strategic planning session and I assure you we'll work very hard and close together. Do we have disagreements? Of course, but I'd venture to say wherever you all work there are disagreements every day too. We work together extremely well. I think it's also important to remember that this group, the five of us, have only been together for a year and it takes time to build a team. We're learning each other, learning how to work with each, and we've got a really good group that we're really excited about. We're going to be together Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, and I'm personally really looking forward to that session."
(What are you looking to see from Manziel in order for him to start?) "You know Mary Kay, that's really a question I think Johnny has to show on and off the field he can be a professional. He knows that, everybody in the organization has told him that. It'll be up to Flip and Pettine whether he can be the kind of quarterback we need him to be. He knows what we expect of him on and off the field, and it's up to him to prove he can do that."
(You're one of 32 owners. How do you feel about the situation with the Patriots footballs?) "I honestly don't know very much about it. We're focused solely on the Browns and getting things turned around and trying to become a consistent winner. I don't know anything more than you -- you probably know more about it than I do."
(Quarterback is on the table just like everything else?) "Yeah, I think there's no doubt -- Pettine said our quarterback situation is muddy and I think that's an accurate way to say it. To describe it any different would be not the right thing to do. We've got to get quarterback fixed. That's not to say that Conor, who played really well in the last game for a first-timer, hadn't worked first-team, against a really good team on the road, and that Johnny can't do it, but they both have to prove it they can do it over a period of time."
(You mentioned Brian Hoyer -- where do you stand on him?) "I think every option is open on the table for us in terms of who is going to play next year?"
(Are you going to negotiate with Brian?) "That'll be up to Ray and Pettine as far as where we go on that."