Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Only one man to blame for this mess

In this buck-stops-here world, there is only one man who can be held responsible for what very likely is going to be a winless season for the Cleveland Browns.

He is Sashi Brown, whose name appears at the top of the so-called braintrust chart in charge of running the National Football League franchise (into the ground). Everything flows from his office.

He is a Harvard-educated attorney who, for some bizarre reason, was unwisely chosen to make all the command decisions for the franchise. And just about every one of those decisions has rewarded the team with its current embarrassing status.

This ill-equipped so-called football man sat down Monday for an informal conversation with the team’s beat writers and radiated hope and confidence for the future.

“We like the path we are on,” he said unbelievably, not for a minute adjusting his blinders. “We always knew this was going to be a major challenge where we sat with our roster, our (salary) cap situation and where we were standing at quarterback as well

”. . . we knew what we were undertaking and not at all necessarily (had to) rethink it. We always want to learn, but no, we are steadfast in our plan and we feel we’re on the right course.”

Right. The Ivory Tower is steadfast with a program that has steered this team so far away from the essence of playing the game, it will take years to plow out from under the rubble that surely awaits if something isn’t done soon.

Brown called what has unfolded thus far this season a major challenge because of the roster.  Really? Monumental challenge is more like it.

After allowing five veterans who were major contributors last season to escape in free agency, what did he expect? He basically, with few exceptions, tore the roster apart, making it one of the youngest and least experienced in the NFL.

If Brown considers this the right course, he is either delusional or watching an entirely different team than most of us. The Browns are rightfully 0-10 at this point with all indications pointing toward only the second winless season in league history.

Either Brown doesn’t realize what is happening and the fallout caused by it or he just doesn’t care. During the exhibition season, he said he would be disappointed with four victories this season. How about zero? Talk about blind optmism.

“We are disappointed, but we also know the process we’re on and how hard the challenge that this going to be,” he said. “I can appreciate the fans’ (concern).” He must have figured out that one after losses nine and 10.

He then stated the obvious. “It’s hard to look at this other than wins and losses,” he said. Again, isn’t that the essence of why they play the game?

“I can certainly appreciate that,” he went on. “ I’m disappointed for our fans and the folks here working in the office. We don’t want to be there. But we also think we’re on our way to a much brighter future.” Blinders adjustment required.

Brown is talking like a snake oil salesman. The fans are not stupid. They see the kind of football this team has played this season. They hear and/or read words like that being uttered by him and scratch their heads.

Let’s take a look at his first – and hopefully only – college draft. Seven rounds, multiple trades and 14 players selected. Can you, or Brown for that matter, name one player in that class who has been an impact player this season? Of course not.

Corey Coleman? Injured. Carl Nassib? Injured. Shon Coleman can’t break into the starting lineup. Cody Kessler? Accurate but with an average throwing arm. Joe Schobert? Contributes nothing. No need to continue. Nobody there worth mentioning.

Seven rounds, 14 bodies and not a one who has made an impact. The closest is outside linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah, who has been inconsistent at best. One week he’s up; the next he disappears.

Of course others in the front office besides Brown are responsible for the players selected. But the buck ultimately stops at the desk of the titular head of this team: Brown, the executive vice president of football operations.

What this team needs – and has for a very long time – is a solid front-office football man. Someone who has been around the NFL for a long time. Someone who has successfully rescued struggling franchises in the past. Someone who can fix things.

I’m not talking about a football man like Mike Holmgren, who swept into Cleveland several years ago and managed to steal money for a few years before being found out and jettisoned. Holmgren was a great coach. Off the field, he was abysmally bad.

Jimmy Haslam III knows how successful front offices work, having been a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers before having the courage to put up a billion dollars to purchase the Browns. He knows how successful the Steeler way is.

He tried that route initially after taking over with a veteran football man in Joe Banner, but Banner’s ego and autonomous way of running things hastened his exit. Right idea, wrong man.

There are others out there without the temperament of a Banner and much more capable of taking this woebegone franchise and turning it around. Neophytes like Brown, who has no business running the football side of the Browns to begin with, is not the way to reshape this franchise.

Brown was asked how confident he was about his status with the club in the wake of this terrible season. “I can’t worry about that one, “ he said, “but I’m confident. I’m confident we’ll have the opportunity to build it and keep our ownership well informed. They also see signs of progress.” Really?

When you go out game after game and lose, just about everything can be considered as progress. The mere fact they show up every week is progress. Unfortunately, the only progress the Browns have made this season cannot be measured in wins and losses.

As for Brown’s status with the team, here’s hoping the owner is smart enough to realize this can be fixed. The noble experiment of an analytical front office has failed. Time to get back to football without the analytics.

Get back to winning and losing, especially the former.

It behooves Haslam, who must be livid and totally embarrassed at what he’s been forced to witness this season, to make a move within his Ivory Tower. It is time to get serious about turning this once-proud franchise back into one fans can be proud of again.

There is only one man above Brown in the club’s hierarchy. If he doesn’t make a move at the end of the season, he deserves everything he gets from that point on.

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