NFL.com is reporting that Randy Lerner has finalised the sale of the Cleveland Browns to Jimmy Haslam. The new owner should keep the current regime in place, particularly team President Mike Holmgren and young head coach Pat Shurmur.
The Browns may have managed only nine wins in the last two seasons, but subtle signs suggest the long-dormant franchise could be ready to spark back to life.
Holmgren has added a healthy collection of young talent during the last two years. The group includes 2010 first-round pick Joe Haden, already one of the league's best cornerbacks.
In 2011, Haden was joined by rookie defensive linemen Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard, both of whom impressed as part of a new-look 4-3 front. Holmgren has made similar changes to the offense.
Two first-round 2012 draft picks were used on running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden. They join second-year flanker Greg Little, to potentially give the Browns a trio of legitimate playmakers.
The point is that these players have been drafted with a specific system in mind. A new owner shouldn't dismiss Holmgren in favour of someone who might use these pieces differently.
Nor should he dismiss the head coach responsible for implementing that system on the sidelines. Pat Shurmur was brought in to run the West Coast offense and he needs time.
With so much inexperience at the skill positions, Shurmur should get more than just the 2012 season to develop talent and craft his scheme.
Despite a 4-12 finish, there were signs of encouragement from the Browns in 2011. Surrounded by tough opposition in the fierce AFC North division, Shurmur's team played every divisional game close.
They lost by a combined total of 15 points to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 13 to the Cincinnati Bengals and 20 to division winners, the Baltimore Ravens.
Their defense ranked 10th in the NFL, a testament to the expertise of veteran schemer Dick Jauron and a superb staff assmbled by Holmgren.
Continuity is now the key for the Browns. Haslam is unlikely to make sweeping changes now, but he should embrace the long-term stability Holmgren is working hard to create.
While Browns' fans adjust to the idea of being owned by a Pittsburgh Steelers shareholder, they should also hope Holmgren and Shurmur are kept around for the long haul.736930