July 24, 2014

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Notes: Owner Jimmy Haslam sells naming rights to FirstEnergy

A new name will adorn Cleveland Browns Stadium next season.

For the first time in franchise history, the Browns have sold naming rights to the big building on the lake. Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. is the buyer.

The team didn’t confirm reports, but the Akron Beacon Journal reported a news conference will be held at 2 p.m. today at the stadium.

The news shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Owner Jimmy Haslam made no secret he would search for new revenue streams when he bought the team from Randy Lerner for $1 billion in October.

Lerner was adamant against changing the name of the stadium because his father, Al, named it Cleveland Browns Stadium when he bought the expansion franchise in 1998. Al, who died in 2002, believed the name should remain.

The old Browns played at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

“The commercial route makes sense for all the obvious reasons,” Haslam said in an August interview with The Chronicle-Telegram when the impending sale was announced. “I respect tremendously what Mr. Lerner did. Randy, of course, honored his wishes. But I think we gotta put the team in position to be competitive and I think that’s something we ought to do.

“I asked Mike (Holmgren, former president) last night at dinner, and the first thing he says was you’ve got to take advantage of some of these revenue opportunities.”

The amount of money FirstEnergy will pay isn’t known. The richest deal in the NFL is MetLife’s 25-year deal worth between $17 million and $20 million annually at the New Jersey home of the Jets and Giants, according to Forbes. M&T Bank’s deal with the Baltimore Ravens is worth $5 million a year, and the Carolina Panthers receive $7 million from Bank of America, according to the Sports Business Journal.

Forbes also reported in September that 22 of 32 NFL teams have stadiums with a corporate name attached.

FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Schneider released a statement.

“FirstEnergy has been a proud supporter of civic, arts and professional sports organizations throughout the company’s service area, which extends across Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey,” the statement read. “In Ohio, we’ve long championed Cleveland teams with prominent sponsorships at Browns Stadium, Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena.

“While we remain committed to partnering with local community leaders and businesses to make our communities attractive places to live and work, we have no new announcements regarding any major sponsorships at this time.”

The Indians sold the naming rights to their ballpark in 2008, changing it from Jacobs Field to Progressive Field.

 

FARMER FOR GM?

The Browns have interviewed Chiefs director of pro personnel Ray Farmer to fill the role of general manager/director of player personnel. Tom Heckert was fired as GM on Dec. 31.

FoxSports.com’s Zac Jackson reported Farmer interviewed Thursday before Haslam and CEO Joe Banner flew to Charlotte, N.C., to hire coach Rob Chudzinski.

Banner said Friday he and Haslam had already met with GM candidates, and the hiring of Chudzinski would accelerate the process.

“It’s clearer now than it was,” Banner said. “It was our expectation that the primary skills we’re going to be looking for is putting together and managing a department and just being as good a grader of talent as there is in the NFL.

“There’s outstanding candidates left. We’ve started and will continue to meet with them and I have no concern at all we’re going to get a really good person.”

Farmer, 38, played linebacker for the Eagles from 1996-98 and has been with the Chiefs for seven seasons after four years as a scout in Atlanta. He interviewed for the Chiefs’ general manager job, but Green Bay’s John Dorsey was hired.

Other reported candidates for the front office are NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi, 49ers director of player personnel Tom Gamble and Seattle vice president of football administration John Idzik.

The Browns reportedly asked for permission to interview Vikings assistant GM George Paton, but the meeting never happened, according to profootballtalk.com. The website said either Paton turned down the interview or the Vikings declined permission.

 

TRACKING PAT

Coach Pat Shurmur, who was fired by the Browns on Dec. 31, interviewed for the Carolina Panthers’ offensive coordinator position Monday, the Charlotte Observer reported.

Chudzinski held the job the last two years, so they would be trading places.

The Panthers planned to interview other candidates, including Cincinnati assistant Hue Jackson and former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, according to the Observer. The expectation is Shurmur would have to overhaul or scrap his West Coast system in order to fit quarterback Cam Newton.

The Jets are also interested in Shurmur but no interview had been scheduled, the New York Daily News reported. Coach Rex Ryan is looking to replace Tony Sparano as coordinator.

Other candidates are Cam Cameron, Marty Mornhinweg, Stanford’s Pep Hamilton and Jackson.

** The Browns requested and were granted permission to interview Jaguars defensive line coach Joe Cullen, USA Today reported. That likely signals the end of Dwaine Board’s time in Cleveland after two years in the job.

** Joshua Cribbs is heading back to the Pro Bowl.

He was named first alternate as the AFC’s kick returner and special teamer last month, but has been guaranteed a spot in Hawaii. Either the Ravens or Patriots will go to the Super Bowl – they meet Sunday in the AFC championship game – and will be unable to play in the Pro Bowl the week prior.

Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones was voted the AFC’s kick returner, and New England’s Matthew Slater the special teamer.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.