Browns owner Jimmy Haslam's interest in having Peyton Manning join his franchise in a prominent team president/top executive role is very strong and sincere, league sources said, with the owner desperate to find ways to put a winning football operations and coaching staff together. The Browns are winless this season and have just one victory since the start of the 2016 season, when coach Hue Jackson was paired with general manager Sashi Brown, and Haslam is hoping his long relationship with Manning can lead him to Cleveland.
Manning has been in no rush to determine his next step in a post-playing career, though his love of the game and competitive nature had led many friends and former teammates to assume he will one day try his hand at running his own franchise as an executive, if not as part of ownership group. And those sources have pointed to the Titans and Saints as teams that would most interest Manning at some point, though it is obviously unknown if an opportunity to manage or own those teams as part of a group would materialize. In the meantime, Haslam, who has known Manning since he was a teenager being recruited to the University of Tennessee (where Haslam is a top booster) and is much closer with than many realize, has a very real problem right now and a deep hole of which he is trying to dig out.
It's a certainty the Browns will be undergoing sweeping changes this offseason, and given the failure of the franchise to be competitive under Haslam (4-42 since Dec. 2014) and the difficulty in luring top coaches and evaluators to Cleveland, Manning is seen as a potential cornerstone by the Haslams. He is universally respected -- even revered in some cases -- in the football world and would bring some immediate cache and credibility to the franchise and help convince other talented candidates to come on board. Haslam is desperate to find a management framework and flowchart that works -- he's vacillated through various power structures in his brief time as owner -- and while he has resisted the urge to blow up his football operations yet again, it's seen as inevitable now.
Some in the NFL believe Haslam would be willing to offer a small equity stake in the team to close such a deal with Manning. In the past some close to Manning have discounted the odds of him going to Cleveland, given the opportunity to get a chance to run a more successful franchise in a warmer locale at some point, and they've wondered if Manning would want to take on a challenge that daunting to begin his management career. But there are no shortage of football people who believe Manning could duplicate the success Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway has had steering the Broncos franchise, and an owner in Cleveland who would be very willing to find out.