Banner joins Browns as CEO

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By TOM WITHERS, Associated Press

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Joe Banner helped transform the Philadelphia Eagles into an NFL power. He's got another huge challenge — making the Cleveland Browns a consistent winner.

Banner was introduced Wednesday as CEO of the Browns, joining new owner Jimmy Haslam III in trying to turn around a franchise stuck in an almost continuous cycle of losing.

Banner spent 19 years with the Eagles, spending 12 seasons as president before leaving the club last season. While he was with Philadelphia, the Eagles went to the playoffs 11 times and won six NFC East titles. The 59-year-old will officially start his job on Oct. 25, when Haslam's $1 billion purchase of the Browns from Randy Lerner closes.

Banner is expected to oversee Cleveland's day-to-day football operations, but it's not yet known how involved he will be in personnel decisions.

For long-suffering Cleveland fans, Banner represents another new start. However, Banner wants to be different from the previous regimes with the Browns, who have made the playoffs just once since 1999.

"Fans have been through a lot of hopeful starts," Banner said. "I don't want to be the next promiser. We have to deliver."

Haslam said as he searched for an executive to run his club Banner's name continually came up.

"It came up from people we know and people we don't know," said Haslam, who built his fortune with Pilot Flying J truck stops. "Joe and I have spent a lot of time together over the last two or three months and have really come to know each other very well. I come from the business world and I have hired a lot of senior executives and I can look everybody in the room in the eye and I can say I've spent more time with this senior executive, making sure he was the right fit for the Cleveland Browns than any we ever interviewed for Pilot Flying J, because I do think it's so important."

"I checked out Joe as thoroughly as anyone I ever checked out."

With Banner joining the Browns, team president Mike Holmgren will leave following this season and retire. Holmgren was hired by Lerner in 2009 to turn around the Browns, who returned to the league as an expansion team 13 years ago but have undergone numerous coaching changes and roster overhauls.

General manager Tom Heckert's future in Cleveland is uncertain. Banner worked with Heckert, Browns coach Pat Shurmur — and several other former Eagles employees in Cleveland's front office — in Philadelphia. Banner said Heckert, Shurmur and everyone in Cleveland's personnel department will be evaluated after the season.

"There isn't a single one I don't like personally, have a lot of respect for and I've seen them do their jobs extremely well in an environment where I worked right with them," Banner said. "I come in with a very positive attitude and impression about all those people."

Banner said he has not "necessarily" resigned himself to making changes.

"There will be a thorough evaluation of everything that we do, but whether there will be changes or not I think time will answer that for us," he said.

Haslam has said the hiring of Banner will be the only personnel move he intends to make until after the season.

Banner resigned as Eagles president in June to pursue part-ownership in an NFL team. That's when he met Haslam, who still holds a minority share in the Pittsburgh Steelers. Banner said he was impressed with Haslam's passion to revive the once-proud Browns just as he had seen owner Jeff Lurie do with the Eagles.

"Our goal is to put together an organization that will be the best at everything we do, whether it's our work in the community, whether it's the business that we do and most importantly, and this will be the clear focus of the organization, what we do on the field and our goal to try and win championships," Banner said. "We're going to do that by putting together great people, having a common mission, working hard and doing everything in a way that everyone will be very proud of this organization and what we represent."

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