TheClevelandSound Posted October 27, 2010 Report Share Posted October 27, 2010 http://www.cleveland.com/browns/index.ssf/..._randy_l_1.html BEREA, Ohio -- Now in his eighth season as an NFL owner, Randy Lerner is excited about what he's seeing with the Cleveland Browns, who reached their bye week at 2-5 following Sunday's upset win at New Orleans. The 48-year-old Lerner, who has not spoken publicly since last November, shared some of his thoughts on the state of his team during a 30-minute interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday. The media-shy Lerner has maintained an even lower public profile in recent months, staying out of the spotlight while new president Mike Holmgren puts his mark on the franchise. Here are some excerpts: AP: Some Browns fans are concerned that if this is more difficult than expected that Mike might not be as committed as you had hoped. Is he entrenched? Lerner: I do. I think he has settled in. I think he's comfortable and he has told me that. And, he's ambitious and he's eager and he's hungry. AP: What are your one-on-one dealings with Mike? How often do you talk? Lerner: I'm more communicative with Mike than probably I have been with any football person or executive in my eight years. It probably means that roughly that once a week, sometimes twice, he and I take a few hours together and talk through a wide variety of subjects ranging from football matters to business matters to league matters. ... On the league matters, for purposes of our relationship and my role, that's where I spend the most amount of my time. That involves digging in and studying more about what the league office is presenting in terms of options and ideas. To make sense of the issues we face, whether it be revenue sharing or labor-cost sharing or what have you. That's the way I would paint the picture right now. AP: Has this been fulfilling for you? Lerner: Absolutely. What we have now is leadership and what leadership means in this particular case is that there is one guy who sits in Berea who is responsible for the Cleveland Browns. What that means is that when I come, I am dealing with one person and being able to deal with one person makes it that we can dig in completely and effectively certainly as compared to previous setups that we had here. It's been great for me. AP: Do you think the coaching bug has left Mike? Lerner: I don't know. We don't talk about that. Eric [Mangini] is here. Eric's coaching. Eric had a big win this week. My mind doesn't go there. I understand the question. I get it. But I don't think about that right now. AP: There are thousands of empty seats at the stadium this season. Obviously, the economy is still a huge factor as are the team's struggles of the past decade. Has it been tougher to win back fans, more particularly business groups who buy up bulks of tickets, than you imagined? Lerner: When it comes to anybody who comes to a Browns game, I think if you win games, guys are going to come back. That's the win. I don't think there is anything you can say, anything you can do. I think you have to demonstrate that you know how to win in the NFL. And if you are the Cleveland Browns, you will pack that house. I believe the love and passion for this team is fully intact. It's about waking it up. Obviously, you don't want to take too long. I'm aware of that on a minute-by-minute basis. I believe that if there are any small intangibles they are things like being conscious of your ticket-price policy, especially within the context of the NFL, having ticket prices and stadium policies that reflect the community you serve. ... Nothing comes near the importance of winning and nothing is going to drive people to that stadium in a way we're all used to seeing it other than winning. AP: Has the team's initiative to clean up some of the rowdiness at games and make it a more family-friendly environment on game days been successful? Lerner: I think that we have. I think those efforts are ongoing rather than ones you measure on any given day. To some extent, football is what it is, we're seeing the issues of hitting and how to penalize. It's a game that is very physical that is at times very violent and so on. And when you go to games, you are going to get people who are animated and passionate and noisy and that's what you've got to expect. I think our job is to try and provide areas within the stadium where people who want to have a high-energy, boisterous experience can do what they want to do. On the other hand, you want to designate areas where people can have a more low key experience, maybe they are bringing younger kids. I think it's much more being aware of a variety of expectations rather than trying to change what going to a football game is about. AP: In terms of the NFL's labor situation, and the possibility of a lockout next season, what do you see on the horizon? Lerner: I don't have a lot of visibility with respect to the horizon. What we do is we study two pieces of this puzzle. The first piece is what do we do in the event we're not able to resolve our labor situation and be prepared. Number 2, we deal with the relationship between teams and the extent to which making adjustments to those relationships, those financial relationships, will help us resolve whatever labor issues we face. AP: What was your take on the league's crackdown on helmet-to-helmet hits? Lerner: I don't think there is necessarily a low road or a high road with respect to the hits you're seeing or the league offices response to that. The league office is there to try and balance what we know the game is and also making sure guys aren't getting hurt in a way that some adjustments to rules or adjustments to the way the rules are interpreted could make the game a little safer. Other than just trying to understand and support what the league office is doing, I don't have any great insights to add. The Cleveland Browns have had players make hits and gotten fined. We've played teams that have made hits and they've gotten fined. It's going to happen. AP: You've been more high-profile in England and with Aston Villa. Are you getting more comfortable with being more out front with the Browns? Is that your hope? Lerner: If you are to look at profile in terms of speaking with reporters. The last couple years, I have spoken once a year in May or June -- and that's it. In terms of profile, I suppose if you're seen around town or seen at a game, you're considered to have some degree of profile. I think the role or the profile, in general, of the guy who has my job in England is generically different from the ownership role in the NFL. I guess that is simply something I need to do a better job of, so to speak. I'm not sure 'what do a better job' means other than be more visible. I also feel that I have to be sort of straight with who I am. I am not by nature one to run to the front and jump in front of cameras, so maybe I'm just not destined to be high-profile. I still think ultimately what people expect of me in Cleveland is substance, not necessarily profile. And so, if I'm prepared to make changes or acknowledge that things aren't going well or go out and recruit Mike Holmgren, in the end that's what is going to drive people's impressions of the job that I'm doing and I guess I rely on that. AP: Why isn't Browns Stadium used more often for other events? Lerner: That's a good question. Anybody in their right mind in this business would like to use the stadium as much as possible because otherwise it's an empty venue and you are not driving any revenue. Probably there are very few interesting factors other than it's too big, it's an open-air stadium and there's not many events that you can put on there. The days of having big, open music shows that would fill a stadium don't seem to be with us right now. They're more in arenas. It's not the 70,000, it's the 20,000. It's not that we haven't reached out to try and do that. In terms of our other hospitality opportunities, in this city there seems to be there's a lot of hospitality in downtown Cleveland and people aren't that inclined to come down and use the stadium for that purpose. Finally, at a much smaller level, we're conscious that we play on grass and we don't want to mess it up for games. AP: What about the grass? Would the Browns ever switch to a synthetic field? Lerner: Not with me around. AP: After LeBron James left the Cavaliers as a free agent, there were stories about poor Cleveland and how the city was back to being down and out. Does that hurt you to hear a city where you've spent a good chunk of your life take a beating? Lerner: Yes, it does hurt me to see Cleveland take the shots. More broadly, I read recently about the 86 years it took the Red Sox to get back to winning. Sometimes things take time. But if you almost refuse to accept that and you keep planning on winning and you keep believing you'll win, then that's what it takes. It takes believing. If you work hard enough and you stay focused and get the right people it will happen rather than allowing yourself to feel somehow jinxed. It's part of what leadership is about. It's part of what Mike Holmgren's leadership is about. Mike went to two organizations that were struggling and he turned them around. Simple as that. So, we have a chance that maybe this will be his third one and he wouldn't have come here if he didn't think it could be. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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