Friday, January 18, 2013

Murphy's Law out of control

They won’t send them, but you can bet Ozzie Newsome, Kevin Colbert and Mike Brown would love to send thank-you notes to Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for hiring Mike Lombardi as your de facto general manager. You have just assured yourself semi-permanent ownership of the basement in the AFC North.

The three guys who basically run the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals right now can’t believe how unbelievably lucky they are that Haslam and his buddy, CEO Joe Banner, chose Lombardi to guide Cleveland’s personnel department and have a strong voice in all decisions.

There is no question Haslam has spoken to Cleveland media regarding Lombardi, who previously worked for the Browns from 1987 to 1995. As a relative stranger to the history of this franchise, talking to veteran media members gives him a more focused look and greater insight into that history.

By allowing and sanctioning the hiring of Lombardi, is it clear he paid no heed. He listened to only Banner, a relative newcomer to the Cleveland scene..

If he had paid attention, he would have discovered Lombardi was more of a hindrance than a help when he guided the personnel department for coach Bill Belichick. The Browns did not get better with those two calling the shots. Their drafts were awful.

It became obvious what Belichick thought of Lombardi when he eventually took over the New England Patriots. The two went their separate ways.

He won’t know right away, but Haslam will find out over the long haul that he has made his first serious mistake as the new owner of the Browns.

In a prepared release, the Browns speak glowingly of Lombardi’s accomplishments, but do not address why the man cannot keep a job. He has become a National Football League vagabond. Good men do not bounce around in the NFL.

This move has Banner’s fingerprints all over it. It establishes, once and for all, that he has become a little dictator. Haslam has handed him the keys to his billion-dollar kingdom.

In a world where the accountably factor weighs heavily in a person’s employment, Banner has placed enormous faith in Lombardi’s ability to come in and become the Browns’ personnel savior.

The problem is there is no evidence that Lombardi, who has been out of the NFL inner loop for the last five years, can step right in and make a difference. It seems as though Banner is clearly gambling Lombardi is the man he hired as a consultant with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1997.

But when the Eagles hired Andy Reid away from Green Bay the next year, Lombardi was excused and resumed his vagabond ways.

The hiring of Rob Chudzinski to replace Pat Shurmur as the head coach is clearly a step in the right direction, But to replace Tom Heckert Jr. with the likes of Lombardi borders on stupefying.

Chudzinski, who we are told will have input into the final roster and any subsequent moves, stands no chance with Lombardi, who has a much stronger personality, in charge.

There will be a power struggle. Count on it. And Haslam will be squarely in the middle of it. That’s when he’ll find out how seriously unwise his decision was to back Banner. And there will be only one loser that comes out of it: The Cleveland Browns fan.

The reaction to Lombardi’s hiring, rumored for months, has been swift and vicious by the fans. An overwhelming majority of fans on are outraged. The very constituency Haslam needs in his corner is supremely unhappy.

Snide and surly comments litter the comments section following the Plain Dealer article heralding Lombardi’s arrival. Positive posts are few and extremely far between. I can’t remember when a Browns appointment was met with such vitriol by the fan base.

The fans have longed for – and deserved – a winner for so long, it’s understandable they would react in this manner. They are fed up with wrong moves by this franchise.

Ever since their rebirth in 1999, the Browns have flirted almost annually with Murphy’s Law. You know the adage that says “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When is this madness going to stop? Most of us thought the Browns were finally getting an owner who cared, really cared, about improving the club. We knew Randy Lerner did not and that’s why we bought into the Haslam line.

As it turns out, it’s the same-old, same-old, wrapped in a different package. 


  1. Lerner didn't care? There's a difference between caring and failing. They're not mutually exclusive. Lerner may have been in over his head, but it's not like he was at the floor of the salary cap every year. He may have failed to bring a winner to Cleveland, but he did try.


  2. Hi Dan,

    Lerner did not care. He cared more about his soccer team in England. The only time he showed any interest in the Browns was when they had to make a coaching change. And he screwed that one up with Crennel, Mangini and Shurmur.

    You can give him the benefit of the doubt if you want, but after 10 years of stewardship, it's painfully obvious to me the man's priorities were all messed up when it came to the Browns.

  3. Rich--

    He went out and brought in Holmgren for a pretty penny. His soccer team isn't relevant--other NFL owners have them (Kroenke, the Glazers), so I don't know why Browns fans care about that.

    Lerner went out and did seek counsel from other team owners. He didn't pinch every penny. He just didn't get it done. He never wanted to be the face of the franchise, but there's nothing wrong with that. He knew he didn't have the skills to run the team.

    The Browns aren't my favorite team, but I live back here--Lerner made an effort. It just wasn't successful. He knew he wasn't a football guy and tried to bring in the right people.

    I've experienced an uncaring owner firsthand and what she did to my team--all she cared about was lining her pockets and screwing her team's fan base. I never got that impression from Lerner. I think he would have loved to bring a winner to Cleveland.


  4. Please don't compare Kroenke and the Glazers with Lerner. They care much more about their NFL teams than their soccer clubs.

    As for seeking counsel, Lerner went to the wrong people, notably Robert Kraft. His advice should have come from someone like Dan Rooney.

    You are correct about him not wanting to be the face of the franchise. No owner in his right mind should want to be the face of the franchise. Lerner's problem was he didn't want to be the owner of a franchise.

    He did not know how to handle such a large responsibility. Tony Grossi was right when he called Lerner irrelevant.

  5. Grossi's comment was irresponsible and a personal shot, whether intended to be made public or not.

    Many Bucs fans have complained of the Glazers' involvement with MU and those complaints are as valid as Browns fans complaining about Aston Villa. None of the three owners are funneling money or anything like that from their NFL teams. The point is that owning a soccer team doesn't prevent an owner from trying to give an NFL team proper the proper resources.

    Lerner may have gone to the wrong people, but he did attempt to solicit advice from people in the NFL. If I had just inherited an NFL team, I would have looked at New England as well as others.

    No, he probably didn't want to be an owner. But that doesn't mean he wanted a bad product to be put on the field, either. He spent. He made an effort.

    If he never truly cared, he would have gutted the payroll every year, sucked up every penny he could, and kept the Browns right on the bottom of the salary cap, and never tried to improve the team.

    Lerner wasn't indifferent, just ineffective.


  6. You should be Lerner's spokesman.

    I'm not going to convince you that you are wrong and you're not going to convince me that I'm wrong. We each have definite thoughts about the man and they are diametrically the opposite.

    You go right on apologizing for the man, whose legacy will not be remembered nearly as fondly by most of the fans as by you.

    And I believe Tony's shot at Lerner was neither irresponsible nor personal. I know Tony and that's not the way he works. He was spot on and I said so in a rant shortly after he posted the tweet.

    I thought PD management severely overreacted. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened to him. He's much freer to opine at WKNR and give his readers far more than anyone at the PD can.

    I'm sure you find that shocking.

  7. Very well, I'll drop it. I wasn't trying to troll or make you mad. I thought it was a good back and forth. Apparently, I have irritated you.

    Lerner's spokesman? If it was meant to be insulting, I wasn't insulting towards you, so it's uncalled for--as was that "shocking" comment.

    I'm not apologizing for Lerner, merely pointing out that failing isn't being uncaring. I never said he was a great owner, merely that he made an effort. He could have been far worse--I should know.

    Hey, I like Grossi. But an insult is an insult. And last I saw, calling someone pathetic is insulting. You're the one who brought him up to begin with--I merely responded to it.

    Take it easy.


  8. And we move on. Please feel free to disagree with me in the future. I'm certain I'll give you many chances.

  9. Hey Rich,

    This hire is bad for many reasons. First is the public relations disaster. I have read the many negative comments regarding this hiring. What this tells me is this hire shows a complete disrespect for Browns fans. I understand that the team has to do what they feel is best for the team, and that in return will be good for the fans, at least that is supposed to be how it works. I have no doubt there were other better qualified candidates, but didn't want a job without the power that goes with the GM position. This hiring will do nothing but create drama because it seems that Lombardi will want to "establish" himself as the "GM" and that will simply create conflict, dissention in the Front office, and as you said, the subsequent power struggle.


  10. I've said for years, Marc, that pro sports teams do not really care about the fans. They care about the fans' money. It's not disrespect. It's business as usual.

    The drama of which you speak will not happen right away, but it will happen when Chudzinski realizes what he's gotten himself into. It'll be interesting how much of a peacemaker role Haslam will play.