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Browns sale approved; Holmgren out as president

CHICAGO – Mike Holmgren won’t be finishing the job he went to do in Cleveland.

New Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III said Tuesday that Holmgren was out as team president, although the Super Bowl-winning coach will remain with the franchise to help in the transition.

Haslam was introduced as the Browns’ new boss after the 32 NFL owners unanimously approved his $1 billion purchase of the team from Randy Lerner. Moments later, Haslam announced that former Eagles President Joe Banner would become chief executive officer. The move takes effect Oct. 25 when the sale is concluded.

Haslam plans no other personnel changes before 2013, meaning the jobs of coach Pat Shurmur and his staff and general manager Tom Heckert appear safe.

“I told Pat on Saturday night that this was the only personnel move until the end of the season,” Haslam said, “But I am not at all saying we’ll make changes at the end of the season.”

The Browns were the last team to win a game this year, beating Cincinnati on Sunday after five losses. They are tied with Kansas City for the worst record in the league.

The 57-year-old Haslam, who built his fortune with Pilot Flying J truck stops, has been a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and is in the process of divesting that stock.

He said Holmgren and Banner will “work together until the end of the season to transition in a seamless fashion.”

“He has been and still is committed to doing everything he can to make the Cleveland Browns a winning football team,” Haslam said of Holmgren, whose Browns are 10-28 since he was hired by Lerner to run football operations in 2010.

Haslam spoke at length with Holmgren in the 2 months since he agreed to purchase the Browns. They met Sunday to work out the logistics of the transition.

“Mike was brought into do a certain role and I don’t think he wanted a different role,” Haslam said.

Holmgren led the Green Bay Packers to the 1996 NFL championship and lost in the Super Bowl the next year to Denver. He left the Packers in 1999 to become coach and general manager in Seattle. Six years later, the Seahawks won the NFC title – Holmgren had given up much of his personnel duties by then to concentrate on coaching – and fell to Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.

His time in Cleveland has been far from successful, though. Indeed, Haslam has said his mission is to bring winning football back to Cleveland; the Browns have made the playoffs once since returning to the NFL in 1999.

“I would never stand here and say we need to have ‘X’ number of wins, but we want to see a positive direction,” Haslam said. “I think we want to see continued improvement and we want to see them play hard.”

Banner left the Eagles in June. He was been with them since 1994 and was team president when he resigned.

“His track record in Philadelphia has been impressive,” Haslam said. “Joe is in charge of day-to-day operations of the company. Any big decisions, we will be involved in. Football (operations) will report to Joe.”

The late Al Lerner, Randy’s father, purchased the franchise from the NFL in 1998 for $530 million after the original Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996 and became the Ravens. The elder Lerner died in 2002.

The Browns made the playoffs in 2002 and lost to Pittsburgh in the first round. They’ve had only two winning records in 13 seasons.

Before the sale was approved, the owners amended an anti-tampering resolution. Three days before a player becomes a free agent, teams will be permitted to contact the player’s agent and begin contract negotiations. But a contract can’t be completed until after free agency begins, and no direct contact is allowed with the player before his contract expires — except by his current team.

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