Randy Lerner Sells Cleveland Browns to Make Aston Villa His Sole Focus

Randy Lerner Sells Cleveland Browns


It’s time to get the scissors out and cut those half-and-half Aston Villa/Cleveland Browns scarves in two. Randy Lerner has sold the Cleveland Browns for a reported billion.

Personally, a ‘Randy Lerner sells Cleveland Browns’ headline is music to my ears, as I’m a big New York Jets fan and was always uncomfortable with the Villa club shops being littered with Browns merchandise. Ideally, for selfish reasons, I’d like to see Lerner now buy the Jets…that isn’t going to happen, but neither are Villa going to buy Neymar or Robin van Persie, but at least it means Lerner’s finances aren’t stretched and he now has one sports team to concentrate on.

Rather than paraphrase comment on Lerner’s Brown’s sale, below is a good in-depth look at Lerner’s tenure of the Browns from the local Cleveland newspaper, The Plain Dealer. It doesn’t look like Lerner is going to make the same mistakes at Villa, after learning a valuable lesson last season.


Randy Lerner Sells Cleveland Browns – the word from Cleveland


By Bill Livingston of The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The problem with the Lerner family’s feckless stewardship of the Browns was never lack of good intentions.

The patriarch, Al Lerner, is sanitized today by deed and death. Cast as a civic savior for buying back the expansion version of the team he helped move, Al Lerner wanted to win worse than any fan barking in a Dawg mask. The savior was really trying to save his own reputation.

The Browns became a Lerner family heirloom, passed on from Al, a billionaire with enough of a common touch to connect with fans, to his son, Randy. A recluse who lived for much of his tenure in the Hamptons, Randy liked soccer enough to buy Aston Villa, a Premier League team in England. Bloomberg News and Sports Illustrated reported losses on the soccer team of close to $100 million for the last two years.

Carmen Policy, the empty suit hired by Al to run the team, did Randy no favors when he told a story about the young Lerner, sleeping in Browns pajamas as a little boy. It was easy to picture Randy as Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” in his pink nightmare of a bunny suit, only with manly orange and brown sleepwear. If the anecdote was meant to belittle Randy, as I believed, it couldn’t begin to match the low regard in which Randy held Policy.

I can’t think of anyone else in Cleveland sports in the last 30 years who rode into town with similar fanfare and delivered so little in comparison. The ballyhoo was tremendous. Policy and Lerner would be a “Dream Team.” When Cleveland fans awoke from their nightmare, it was obvious that Policy was a snake-oil salesman, riding on a salary-cap trick and a shoeshine. It took perceptiveness and guts for Randy to nudge Policy out because he had so charmed Al.

As was the case with his father, Randy was not meddlesome. Reporters seldom saw him, except as a distant figure at training camp, conferring with his coaches or with Jim Brown, who was as up to date in the league as the Chicago Cardinals.

Randy Lerner’s hires turned out to be dismal for the most part. The problem is that fans and media members, including me, remain far too inclined to give the Browns the benefit of the doubt. The Dolans, who own the Indians and operate under a premise of fan distrust and a reputation as cheapskates, have actually been far better owners. Check their record.

The Browns’ record (68-160, .327) under the two Lerners is made more atrocious because the NFL does more to foster parity than any other league.

But if everyone is going to criticize Randy for his poor hires, it should also be noted that, with the exception of Eric Mangini — whom a sizable part of the fan base came to like because he won the 2009 Homecoming Game against Pittsburgh — most of Randy’s coaches and executives got good initial reviews, both in ever-adoring Cleveland and nationally.

The biggest constant among those Randy hired was a lack of judgment, bordering at times on a lack of professionalism.

General manager Phil Savage f-bombed a fan in an email, conducted a personal feud with Kellen Winslow II, and spinelessly left coach Romeo Crennel to answer questions about any and all of it. Crennel — who was from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, as was Mangini — lacked the energy to discipline Braylon Edwards and Winslow. They became even bigger divas as Browns than they were when drafted.

Mike Holmgren wasted a year with Mangini, even though their football philosophies were diametrically opposed. Throwing Colt McCoy to the wolves with poor receivers and a porous offensive line was the result of the collective wisdom of Holmgren, Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur.

Although there were extenuating circumstances, the Browns bungled the handling of McCoy’s concussion, which he suffered in 2011 against Pittsburgh, so badly that the NFL changed its protocol for head injuries during the same season.

Finally, Heckert used a second-round supplemental draft pick on Josh Gordon, a three-time loser in marijuana tests, who lied about it as well. Maybe Gordon is a steal. For now, he vaguely recalls Butch Davis’ embarrassing pick in 2001 of rootin’, tootin’, fast-shootin’ Jeremiah Pharms.

Randy Lerner had promised his father he would not sell the Browns until they were successful. That hasn’t happened. But Randy is selling them to an owner, Jimmy Haslam III, who has promised to keep the team in Cleveland.

Lerner did what was expected of him there. Other, higher expectations of the family went unmet. Randy Lerner wasn’t a good owner by any means, but he wasn’t a lucky one, either.

(Main article and photo from The Plain Dealer)


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