With the start of training camp just hours away, excitement is brewing in Berea.
To take the pulse of the Cleveland Browns, Ken Carman and Anthony Lima of the Ken Carman Show on 92.3 The Fan recently interviewed Brent Stehlik, executive vice present and chief revenue officer for the Browns.
As you might expect, Stehlik didn’t reveal any state secrets. However, the veteran NFL executive did have several interesting points.
You can listen to the full interview here, though Stehlik’s main points are outlined below.
- Following a 3-13 finish in 2015, the Browns look to be headed for another losing season. But fans should have reason for optimism, says Stehlik, because of new head coach Hue Jackson:
“The first thing I would say is Hue Jackson. I’ve seen him here at the closed practices, I’ve seen him at Fan Fest, he brings a totally different level of energy and passion that I haven’t seen here in the last four years ... He’s got these guys focused, they’ve been preparing for the season. I’m excited to see what he’s going to bring out of the guys who have been here for a couple of years, that the fans haven’t seen yet. He definitely runs a different program from what I’ve seen in the past.”
- Asked about Josh Gordon’s recent re-instatement, Stehlik said he didn’t see it coming. Obviously Stehlik focuses on the business end of things, but his opinion is still interesting to know.
“I was definitely surprised because I don’t have any insight into the personnel side, I leave that entirely up to Sashi [Brown] and Hue. But it was just a pleasant surprise, because there’s no reason to not be optimistic about it ... Hue has made it clear he has really high expectations for the players, on and off the field. I trust Hue, the organization trusts Hue, that he’s going to manage the situation and work with Josh to bring the best out of him.”
- Here’s where the interview takes an interesting turn.
Asked about the problems or improvements he needs to make, the Browns’ new EVP said [emphasis mine]:
“We can do a lot for the community, we can invest in fields, donate money to the school district, spend time with our fans, have Fan Fest, but obviously the most important thing we can do for the city and the community is win football games. And we know we have some work to do on that front.
“Once that happens, the interactions with fans are going to change a little bit. Right now, it’s hearing them out. I appreciate hearing from fans, even when they’re upset, because they’re passionate, they’re loyal. When they stop caring, and they’re apathetic, I’ve been in those markets before. I’ve worked for some of those organizations, that’s no fun at all. I’d rather have the passion, because when we turn this thing around, the passion makes this thing explode.”
- Beyond the winning aspect, Stehlik realizes the alumni play a key role for the fans.
And it appears the 4-year Browns vet plans to emphasize alumni in his work.
“Our alumni will always be a key component to what we do on the community and the business side, and really as a relationship with our fans. Kevin Mack has done a fantastic job of reengaging alumni who might have lost touch with the organization over the last few years, so spending more and more time trying to get them out to practice. Hue has embraced it, Sashi has embraced it. Getting them out just to have them around these guys, because they remember, like I do, what it was like when the Browns were really, really good. We want their experience and expertise in some way just to transfer to these young players.”
- Speaking of, is Bernie Kosar back for good?
“That’s a good question for Bernie, although I’m looking forward to talking to him this week, and hopefully expanding on some of the things we may have done in the past. And have some conversations to get him back in good graces with everyone here in the building.”
I found the last sentence to be very interesting. Hopefully the Browns can put the petty differences aside and accept Kosar back into the family.
- Along the family theme, the Browns seem to be increasingly tied to the Berea community. A season or so ago, the Browns made noise about moving a large portion of training camp to Columbus. But from Stehlik’s statement, the move is far away from becoming reality.
“I think it’s something to evaluate with Sashi, Hue, and Dee and Jimmy [Haslam] down the road. And we’ll continue to evaluate all of our options for camp, but we’ve got 3.5 million fans throughout the state, and we will always have events here in Berea for our fans, so it’s something we’re keeping an open mind to, but nothing is imminent.”
- However, the new Browns’ uniforms are a reality, and not going anywhere, at least not for a few seasons. Asked to respond generally to fan uproar about the jerseys, Stehlik said:
“Give it some time. For me, the uniforms are a polarizing topic. We had the same uniforms for a long, long time. The people we had heard from wanted a change, so we made a change, so we hear from some people who want to change it back. I think you give it some time. When I think about uniforms, I think about the really great moments following the Browns growing in the late 80’s and early 90’s. When we have those moments in these uniforms, I think people will see them in a different light.”
- Wrapping up the interview, Stehlik discussed the new Jim Brown statue, set to be unveiled early this season.
“We are excited about this. [On] September 18, we will unveil that statue at the stadium. Jim and Monique Brown are super excited about it. I’ve had a couple sneak peeks at the progress we’re making, and it looks fantastic. I think it’s going to be great for the city, and I think it’s going to be a great moment for fans and as an area to take pictures during pregame and non-gamedays, and represent all he’s done for the city and the organization.”
As long as the statue looks better than the uniforms, fans will love it. But the one question I might have asked is: Who will be the next Browns’ legend to receive a statue? Certainly Paul Brown deserves a prominent one, as do Otto Graham and perhaps Kosar.
Either way, as Stehlik said, it’s a new season and a new regime. The winds have change have blown through Berea, and the time to survey the result is almost at hand.