Sunday, January 3, 2016

Right moves, wrong moves

Jimmy Haslam III made two correct moves Sunday when he fired General Manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine.

Then the Browns owner, at least on the surface, turned around and made a colossal mistake by promoting Sashi Brown from executive vice president/general counsel to executive vice president of football operations.

Unless Brown is some secretive football genius who has been stashed away in the dark dungeons in Berea, this moves totally baffles.

“Sashi, I believe, is the right person to do this for the Cleveland Browns,” Haslam told the Cleveland media after disposing of Farmer and Pettine. “He has been in the NFL for 10-plus years, has been involved in the (salary) cap and has been heavily involved in our football administration and operations for the last year or two.”

In other words, he knows nothing about the football end of the business outside of negotiating contracts and handling other matters of business and yet he is being placed in charge of the 53-man roster. A lawyer is now in charge of one of the most important football positions on the team. Wonderful.

“He’s very smart, very organized, good at systems and processes and an outstanding team player,” said Haslam, who further explained the new general manager will work under Brown and his “primary job will be in talent acquisition.”

The owner, who vowed at the beginning of last summer’s training camp that he would “not blow things up again,” finally declared what most of the fan base already knew. “I think this is a several-year rebuilding program,” he said of his talent-poor team.

To make matters worse, Haslam and his select committee will first name a new coach to succeed Pettine and then a new general manager. Apparently, he did not learn his lesson that a general manager should be given the opportunity to hire his own head coach.

Whoever gave him that piece of advice either wants to see Haslam continue to fail or has no idea what they are talking about. General managers generally hire coaches with whom they are compatible. Farmer was named GM following Pettine’s hiring and the two reportedly grew further and further apart as the recently concluded season of misery progressed.

The new coach – and there are plenty of names already being bandied about in the Twitterverse – will be part of that select committee, which will consist of Haslam, his wife, Dee, Brown and Jed Hughes, a former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back who works for a search firm that will help hire the new coach.

Why in the world does Dee Haslam have a say in who the next coach is? That makes no sense. Then again, if you’re the owner’s wife, it doesn’t have to make sense.

According to the new organizational chart, the new coach will only coach and report directly to Haslam, while the new GM will concentrate on talent only and report directly to Brown.

Nowhere, it would appear, is there going to be a tried and true National Football League lifer with a plethora of winning on his résumé working for the Browns. This seems a convoluted way to replace Farmer and Pettine.

Whoever is fortunate to negotiate the numerous Berea hurdles to be the new Browns coach will be club’s sixth head coach since 2008 in what has become a graveyard for coaches. Unless and until the culture is changed, any high profile coach or front office type would be reluctant to come to Cleveland.

Only those desperate enough to take such a job – like Pettine, Rob Chudzinski and Pat Shurmur, for example – would seriously consider making the move to the North Coast.

“The blame for the franchise doing so poorly lies right here with me,” Haslam acknowledged, admitting his leaning curve did not jibe with the ultimate results. “I will quickly say this has been much harder than we thought it would be.” No kidding.

And now, he is taking steps he believes will eventually rectify the situation, but his unorthodox tack in naming a new coach prior to naming a new general manager and elevating a non-football man to the top football post is concerning.

By heading in what appears to be a completely different direction than most NFL teams seeking to make changes, I’m not really certain what Haslam hopes to accomplish in his attempt to turn around this dysfunctional franchise.

At this point, all we can do is sit, wait and watch as the story unfolds. Names like Josh McDaniels, Adam Gase. Doug Marrone, Chuck Pagano (maybe), Chip Kelly and Jon Gruden will be thrown around by the media.

Haslam hinted the naming of a new coach won’t happen overnight unless one of their main targets surprises and accepts the job right out of the chute. “I have no idea if that’s going to take two weeks or two months,” he said. “. . . We’re determined to find the right person.”

The longer it takes, though, means most of the primary targets most likely will be gone once a decision is made. That happened in each of the last three coaching decisions. 

The owner went on to call Cleveland an “unbelievable football town, great fans. . . . I still think this is a very attractive job and I’m excited to go out and find the right person to do it.”

He spoke all the right words with regard to the fans and how the city still embraces the team despite its annual losing ways, but he’s kidding only himself if he honestly believes coaching the Browns is a very attractive job. He embellished by adding: “ . . . I think for the right person this is a great job. I absolutely do.” It sounded as though he was trying to convince himself.

That’s the kind of blowing smoke that turns off a certain segment of Browns Nation that knows when they are being smooth-talked. Sometimes, it’s best the owner keep certain opinions to himself and not attach hyperbole to them.

This is one of those times.

Bottom line: Haslam has not learned from his past mistakes. Thus, he was doomed to repeat them. That's exactly what he did Sunday. And for that, the fans will continue to suffer.


  1. The sky is falling, the sky is falling......

  2. Putting a salary cap wonk in charge of football operations - I guess Jimmah didn't learn anything from The Banner Experiment. And once again it's we fans who will pay for it. The Factory Of Sadness gets a lease extension...


    1. Yeah, right. Having a GM and HC in charge worked real well!

  3. Southie & DW,

    It's just another sad chapter from the book of Murphy's Law. All I can advise is just hang in there if you can.