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 NFL.com.
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.