Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Welcome to the Berea Zoo

At the rate bad luck continues to hover over or near 76 Lou Groza Blvd. in Berea these days, fans of the Browns are going to need some psychological help.

First, it’s the departure of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, followed by the firing of quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, followed by the departure of wide receivers coach Mike McDaniel, followed by the denial-filled open letter by Josh Gordon, followed by the news that Johnny Manziel checked himself into a rehab facility, followed by the banishment of Gordon for at least one season by the National Football League.

Did I miss anything in this soap opera masquerading as a professional football franchise? In one short month, this franchise has done more to embarrass itself than most franchises do in an entire calendar year.

Could anything else go wrong? What’s that? We’re not done? There’s more? And Ray Farmer is involved?

Yep, Farmer reportedly is the guilty party in the club’s latest dalliance with negative publicity. Seems the Browns’ general manager, in direct violation of league rules that prohibit any communications with the bench during games, texted with the Cleveland bench during games this past season.

When the story first broke several weeks ago, Farmer’s name was not mentioned as the possible miscreant. The story indicated generically that a high-ranking personnel member from the front office had committed the crime. It could have been anyone. Certainly not the general masnager, who should no better.

There has been no official word from the NFL regarding the incident, but Farmer’s name has been linked to it by several news sources. If he is, in fact, guilty as charged, he faces a suspension, a fine and the Browns could lose a pick in the college draft in late April. Pretty stiff price to pay for a franchise that needs all the help it can get.

If owner Jimmy Haslam is looking for an excuse to dismiss his GM, this latest embarrassment would qualify. He is known for having a quick trigger finger with regard to hiring and firing. If he cashiers Farmer, chalk it up as just another stain on the positive culture Farmer tried to cultivate when he took over the team.

Speaking of Haslam, whose hands-on approach to owning a team is the total opposite of his predecessor, Jason La Canfora takes a scathing look at the Browns in his most recent piece on

He sets his sights on Haslam in particular and the meddling manner in which he runs his club. According to La Canfora, club President Alec Scheiner, initially hired to run the business operations of the team, has inserted himself into the football operations wing of the team, including personnel. 

 La Canfora reports that Scheiner is frequently in the same room with coach Mike Pettine and Farmer, whose football knowledge dwarfs Scheiner’s. “There is tension between Alec and Pettine,” he writes. “Everybody sees that.”

As if there weren’t enough voices on that side of the front office, Scheiner’s involvement only muddies the situation. Haslam, it would appear, has sanctioned it. No wonder a team source told La Canfora, “It’s a mess. Everyone is trying to do everyone else’s job. It’s crazy."

Not only that, it’s plain wrong and if not stopped by Haslam, like right now, it’s going to get even worse.

It’s getting so bad in Berea, the loyal legion of sycophants who still believe everything is wonderful in the land of the Cleveland Browns has to at least begin to wonder just what the hell is going on out there.


  1. Some have suggested that Farmer's texting was the result of his growing impatience with Shanahan's play-calling and what Farmer perceived was Shanahan's sabotaging the offense in order to grease his exit out of Cleveland. Or maybe Farmer was doing Haslam's bidding and Haslam is the real cause of the texting fiasco and Shanahan had seen enough of the owner's meddling to want out. Who knows?

    Regardless, whatever promise the Browns showed in November is long gone, just three months later. This franchise does really appear doomed the more we see how Haslam operates as an owner. I don't know if Farmer would turn out to be a great GM or not. Aside from Johnny (Haslam's directive) and Gilbert (Pettine's wish?), Farmer did quality work in his personnel upgrades in his first season as GM. Unfortunately, we may only see if Farmer can be a great GM with another team because it's difficult to see anything else but a crappy season next year given the front office mess and I'd be surprised if Farmer (and Pettine) survive.

    It's hard to believe the soap opera won't continue next off-season with a new GM and coaching search. Welcome to life as a Browns fan!

    Paul from Seattle

  2. To give those perceived those first two suggestions any response is to dignify them Paul. So I won't.

    Just know that Haslam, if you believe La Canfora's piece, is a walking, talking Murphy's Law. Talking to and listening to the likes of Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones is not going to help. He's better off doing it the Rooney way.

    As for Farmer being a great GM with another team, aren't we getting a little ahead of ourselves? If he loses his job over texting (violating NFL rules), what other club would hire him to be its top personnel man?

    Factor this in, too: The Browns play the eighth-toughest schedule in the NFL next season. They had one of the easiest schedules this past season.

  3. Rich, Wouldn`t you say that in many ways Haslam is doing things much like Randy did? The only real difference I see is Randy was never around but Haslam is. Both of them consulted with Kraft and Jerah! Granted one was hands off and the other couldn`t keep his hands off but the results are pretty much the same so far!
    You wrote this 6 years ago (almost to the day) and it seems like nobody in the Browns organization ever took notice. " Randy Lerner turned his head in the wrong direction when he decided to remodel his Browns after another proven winner, the New England Patriots. It should have been pointed southeast."

  4. Not really, Bussie. Lerner was strictly hands off as you mentioned. Haslam is anything but. He is the polar opposite. As for consulting, to the best of my knowledge, Lerner consulted with Kraft, but not Jones.

    The southeast I was referring to was Pittsburgh. The Steelers won year after year after year, whereas New England became a winner because it got lucky with its quarterback. No way do the Patriots and Bill Belichick win four Super Bowls and come close two other times without Tom Brady.

    As for the Browns paying attention to me, surely you josh.

  5. Well they should have paid attention to you! I bookmarked that article the day it was posted on scout. It`s one of my favorite all time sports pieces... Believe me I knew exactly what you were referring to by South East.....And I`ve lived through the whole transformation from loveable losers to 6 Lombardi's! When I was a kid going to games at the old Pitt stadium the Steelers were pretty much what the Browns are now. You guys need a guy like Dan Rooney

  6. I remember climbing up to Pitt Stadium many years ago. It reminded me somewhat of Heartbreak Hill at Fort Knox during basic training. Only difference was I didn't have to carry around 50 pounds of equipment.

    And yes, I remember the days before Chuck Noll when the Browns routinely beat the Steelers. I was particularly fond of the Saturday night games they occasionally played.

    It took a Cleveland guy to turn around the Steelers. How ironic.