Options galore for Haslam
It’s called Black Monday, the day on the National Football League calendar when heads roll, jobs are lost, reputations are tainted.
It’s not actually on the official NFL calendar, but it might as well be because it takes place every year on the day following the conclusion of the league’s regular season. And it won’t be any different this season.
That day this season is next Monday, Jan. 4. That’s when several coaches, some general managers and a slew of coordinators will need to haul out the résumé, update it and seek employment elsewhere because there will be an ex in front of their current title.
The carousel began spinning almost a week early when the Philadelphia Eagles stunningly fired head coach Chip Kelly Tuesday along with a high-ranking member of the front office in the personnel department.
Among others in jeopardy, if the rumors are to be believed, are Browns General Manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine. And why not after what will most likely be a 3-13 season following Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh?
Even though Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III said last summer he would “not blow things up,” the belief is he is leaning heavily in that direction for the third time since becoming owner. He has three options -- and, suddenly, now a fourth -- to weigh before Jan. 4 arrives.
He can decide to keep just one of his top football people; blow it up entirely and fire Farmer and Pettine; surprise everyone and keep both men; and then there's Kelly. More on him later.
The worst mistake Haslam can make is keeping one man. Right now, that one man probably would be Pettine, who surprisingly has received endorsements for his retention from several highly respected veterans on the team.
If only one man is retained, it should be Farmer. Do not interpret this as an endorsement of the GM because he certainly has not come even close to improving the roster from a talent standpoint.
It is only because he should be allowed to pick the next coach. That’s a move most owners delegate to the general manager. Pettine was not Farmer’s choice, although he was with the organization at the time as assistant GM.
Keeping Pettine and releasing Farmer would be worse because the incoming new general manager should be allowed to choose his own coach. By making that move, Haslam would be repeating the same mistake. As the saying goes, those who choose to ignore mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.
The only sensible move, even though it would be going against his summer declaration, is a general housecleaning. Get rid of them both because all they have done is perpetuate a losing culture that has lasted far too long.
If, however, Haslam stuns everyone and keeps both men, he is sanctioning what they have accomplished. Those accomplishments include a talent-poor roster (Farmer) and only 10 victories in 32 games (Pettine).
If the owner, whose prime goal is to return the Browns to NFL respectability, chooses to keep that kind of production around, he has more patience than Job. By doing that, he risks alienating a fan base that is already beginning to crumble.
But now, there is a fourth option for Haslam. Kelly’s dismissal in Philadelphia very well could ramp up the rumor mill again with a possible destination of Cleveland in the future. Kelly and the Browns were linked nearly three years ago.
It was initially reported by various outlets in January 2013 that Kelly was on the verge of becoming the Browns’ new coach, succeeding Pat Shurmur. Negotiating for the club were Haslam and then-CEO Joe Banner.
Kelly, also courted by the Buffalo Bills and Eagles at the time, eventually decided to remain at the University of Oregon. A week later, he changed his mind and signed with the Eagles, with whom he recorded a pair of 10-6 seasons before slipping to 6-9 this season.
One of the main reasons Kelly was let go was his insistence on controlling player personnel in addition to coaching. It’s more than a coincidence his coaching record suffered after gaining control of that department.
Kelly’s availability certainly could complicate matters for Haslam, who eventually settled on Rob Chudzinski shortly after Kelly changed his mind and went back to Oregon. Chudzinski racked up a 4-12 season and was fired.
The last time something like this occurred with the Browns, then owner Randy Lerner couldn’t act fast enough after learning the New York Jets fired Eric Mangini on Black Monday following the 2008 season, Romeo Crennel’s last with the Browns.
Nine days later, Mangini was named Browns coach and guided the team to a pair of 5-11 seasons before he was canned and succeeded by Shurmur.
Will history repeat itself at 76 Lou Groza Blvd.? Stay tuned. Black Monday is right around the corner.