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Joe Banner runs a bootleg into football operations by naming a club president

Dec 19, 2012 -- 6:00am


By Tony Grossi

The Morning Kickoff …

Rumors alive: Browns CEO Joe Banner had the opportunity on Tuesday to refute the rumor that Mike Lombardi will replace Tom Heckert as head of Browns football operations. He declined.

“I am going to stick with the same answer just because going down the path of speculating on these things is not going to be helpful at this point,” Banner said on a conference call. “We’re still going to decide at the end of the season and make public those decisions on people that are here. That will lead to whatever the next steps are at that point.”

And there you have it.

Banner reiterated that he will announce the fates of Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur “quickly” after the season.

He maintained that no “definitive decisions” had been made, “but obviously as time has gone on we’ve talked about it more, thought about it more. More factors that will influence the final decision have become clearer and clearer.”

And Banner indicated nothing can happen in the next two weeks to affect his decisions – even though they haven’t been made.

“Not something new, but I think continuing to spend time with them, and observe things focusing on the criteria you use I think helps you gain confidence that you’re doing the right thing and looking at it the right way,” he said.

Banner will oversee football operations and, we’ve been told by sources, will name Lombardi – the ex-49ers scout, ex-Browns scout-turned-personnel director, ex-Eagles consultant, ex-Raiders personnel executive and current NFL Network analyst in his fifth year out of the NFL -- to a glorified player personnel director position.

The fact that Banner appointed a club president on Tuesday certainly would indicate that he intends to devote more time to football operations here than he did in 12 seasons as president of the Philadelphia Eagles.

The business of football: The naming of the highly qualified Alec Scheiner as Browns president relieves Banner of the business tasks that he handled as Eagles president.

Scheiner, 39, was senior vice president and general counsel of the Dallas Cowboys the past five years after joining them as the team’s chief lawyer in 2004 after specializing in sports transactions.

For much of his time in Dallas, reporting only to the Jerry Jones family, Scheiner reviewed every contract related to corporate sponsorship, local TV and radio rights and preseason broadcasts, contracts for vendors and coaches as well as stadium suite agreements.

Scheiner’s legacy with the Cowboys is the $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium, for which he supervised the planning, construction, financing and marketing.

More new energy for a stale franchise: The Browns’ press release states that Scheiner “will oversee all aspects of the Browns’ day-to-day business operations, including in-game stadium enhancements and local TV-radio broadcasting.”

He talked on a conference call Tuesday as if his immediate priorities are upgrading the fan experience at Cleveland Browns Stadium and filling the 10,000 or so empty seats and approximately 50 unsold corporate suites. But he also will be in charge of revamping the team’s Internet operations and multiple TV shows, and will participate in discussions ranging from new uniform design to what kind of food is served in the Dawg Pound to the possibility of introducing cheerleaders to the game day equation.

In Cowboys Stadium, the famed Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders dance on tables in a swank club above an end-zone club during timeouts on the field.

“It’s like nothing else, right?” Scheiner said of the Cowboys game-day experience. “The way the fan experience at Cowboys Stadium is similar to the fan experience at Lambeau Field, which is that you know you’re going to get something unique, that fits in with the culture of the organization. That’s what I’m most proud of, that we created something that is perfectly fit for the Dallas Cowboys.

“I’d like to do the same thing in Cleveland – create something that links us to the past and links us to the community in a way that when fans from outside Cleveland come, they know exactly where they are and they enjoy it.”

Banner cautioned, “The experience here will be nothing like the experience in Dallas.

“The only similarity I hope is that we create an energized experience that people feel appreciated, whether it’s concession line or sight line or quality of the music, that people feel that for who we are here, that the experience matches up and feels like it’s fun and enjoyable to them.”

Scheiner will start with the Browns on Jan. 7. At the same time, Banner announced that Bryan Wiedmeier, the Browns’ top business executive under former President Mike Holmgren, will move into a new role focusing on strategic planning for the organization, “including stadium projects and other capital endeavors.”

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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