Tag Archives: Ray farmer

In Five Years' Time

Sometimes when I’m bored, need to make a decision about something that is stressing me out, or simply want to put my brain to use and critically think about something, I try to imagine how something will factor into my life in five years. I first look at how a decision will effect me in one day, then in one week, one month, one year, and then after five years. Today, I am going to do the same thing with the Browns. So here is what I imagine:



One Day:


A day from now, the Browns’ front office will have a slightly more developed draft board, as well as a slightly more finalized plan for free agency. Nothing that big will change from today until tomorrow.



One Week:


In one week, Browns’ GM Ray Farmer and much of his staff will be beginning their fourth day of the NFL Scouting Combine down at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. Already, Farmer will have knocked off a few potential draftees from his boards, and he will be honing in on exactly who he wants to see more of and potentially draft. Also, by this time, CB Joe Haden will have inked a new deal with the Browns set to pay him an average of $12.1 million over the next six years.



One Month:


At this point, the free agency period will have been open for about four days. The Browns will have placed the franchise tag on S TJ Ward, and they will have signed C Alex Mack to a four year deal. As an exclusive-rights free agent, ILB Craig Robertson will have been signed to a one year contract paying him the three year veteran minimum salary. K Billy Cundiff will be gone, as will G Shawn Lauvao, RB Willis McGahee, and G/T Oniel Cousins as the Browns show no interest in resigning them. New to the team will be RB Knowshon Moreno, who will have a nice looking four year contract, and K Dan Carpenter. QB Jason Campbell will have been cut, and QB Josh McCown will have been signed. QB Brandon Weeden will have been traded away in return for a fifth round draft pick in 2015. Also new to Cleveland will be G Vlad Ducasse, who will be brought in to offset the loss of Lauvao and Cousins, and WR Josh Morgan. The majority of the rest of the Browns’ needs will be addressed through the Draft, with one or two more players being signed in the next couple of days.



One Year:


A year from now, the Browns will be entering the offseason having come off of a 9-7 season in which they finished second in the division to the Bengals on the combined back of QBs Josh McCown and Derek Carr. They unfortunately failed to make the playoffs, missing the wild card by one game. They did, however, have six players reach the Pro Bowl, with LT Joe Thomas reaching his 8th Pro Bowl, CB Joe Haden and S TJ Ward getting voted in for the 2nd time, and C Alex Mack heading to Hawaii for the 3rd time. TE Jordan Cameron will not be back in the Pro Bowl for a second year because he missed half the season due to a leg injury, but both RB Knowshon Moreno and WR Josh Gordon too get the nod. HC Mike Pettine and GM Ray Farmer will be looking forward towards the 2015 season hoping to improve on the past year’s success.



Five Years:


The Browns will be coming off a season in which they went 10-6 and bowed out of the playoffs in the Divisional Round. In the past five years, the Browns went to the playoffs four times, twice reaching the AFC Championship game and once reaching the SuperBowl, where they lost to the St. Louis Rams. Pettine, Farmer, and DC Jim O’Neil will still be with the team, but OC Kyle Shanahan will have moved on to a head coaching job. The great Peyton Manning will have retired after the 2015 season, and, after taking a year off from football, will now occupy a similar position to what John Elway held in Denver in 2012. Except it will be with the Browns after Jimmy Haslam uses his friendship with Manning to convince him to come to Cleveland. Speaking of Haslam, he will have escaped having to serve jail time for the Pilot Flying J scandal and will have put that far behind him. The Browns roster will no longer include players such as LT Joe Thomas or ILB D’Qwell Jackson, but Farmer will have proved to be a bit of a genius with the Draft, and these spots will be filled by solid replacements.



And that’s about it. It is fairly obvious that I am fairly optimistic about the Browns’ future, but I do believe that my predictions are also quite realistic. The Browns have the cap space and draft picks to vastly improve their roster this offseason, and it is quite reasonable to expect them to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 or 9 wins this coming season. And they will just improve from there. Cleveland will once again have a winning team to back for years to come.

Joe Banner Gone — It's Ray Farmer's Team

On Tuesday, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam unexpectedly fired his President, Joe Banner, and his General Manager, Mike Lombardi. No one saw this coming.
I should qualify that: some saw Lombardi’s removal when Ray Farmer (Lombardi’s assistant GM who has since been named GM) opted against leaving to fill Miami’s GM job. But the general consensus was that should Farmer be promoted to GM, Lombardi would stay and be named to another position, VP, consultant or some such thing.
But NO ONE saw both he and Banner being fired so suddenly and at such an odd time.
Banner just hired a new head coach. From what I’ve read, Farmer had little to no input on bringing Mike Pettine in to coach the team. That means Farmer has no connection with Pettine, has made no promises to Pettine, and has no obligation to keep Pettine. So unless Pettine can demonstrate an overwhelming reason why he deserves to stay after this year (read: 7+ wins) he will be gone and we’ll be looking at the fifth (!) head coach in six (!) years when Farmer brings in his own guy next off-season. Unless Pettine can do what only two coaches have done in the past fifteen years — improve the team a net plus three from last year — there will be another new coach again next season. And if you thought the job was toxic this year, wait until the fans, players and media have to go through this circus again next year. It will be interesting to see how the players react to what is effectively a lame duck coaching year. Why buy into a guy and his system when every indication is there will be a new guy and a new system a year from now? How many different schemes can these guys take before their heads explode?
What did Joe Banner do (or not do) to get fired so unceremoniously? Rumor has it that Haslam didn’t think Joe was at his best should we say during the coaching interviews. From what I’ve seen and read, Banner mucked things up pretty thoroughly during Ken Wisenhunt’s second interview in as many years. Evidently, Banner came across as arrogant and aloof which resulted in Wisenhunt taking the Tennessee Titans job in a huff after becoming irritated by Banner’s insipid questioning. Additionally, the hiring and firing of Chud within an eleven month period fell clearly on his shoulders and was exacerbated by the fact that Haslam liked and was committed to Chud.
Additionally, Mary Kay Cabot today reported that Josh McDaniels, who everyone believed to be off the Browns radar having allegedly taken himself out of consideration, tried to get back in the running and said he’d take the job if offered. And this was alleged to have been BEFORE Pettine was hired. Indeed, Bill Belichek himself came down from on high and backed McDaniels for the job, but to no avail. Instead, the Browns passed them all up for Mike Pettine. Nobody knows what impact or contribution Ray Farmer made to any of these decisions.
So the Chud firing, the screw-up in the Wisenhunt interview and the last minute bungling of the McDaniel candidacy spelled doom for Banner. He had simply made too many mistakes in too short a time. Plus, the way he was behaving seemingly went against Haslam’s “new direction” attitude.  When a head coaching job becomes “toxic” there are only so many people you can blame; the guy who does the hiring and firing of coaches being being the most prominent. And when Banner was fired, there was no place for Lombardi, he was Banner’s guy. Evidently, Lombardi was already packed and gone by the time Banner was officially canned. (Insert crocodile tears here.)
So where does that leave us as Browns fans now? It’s impossible to say whether this is a good or bad thing as we don’t know Ray Farmer or anything he has done well enough to judge him on experience. What we do know is that he was wanted for the Miami GM job and turned it down. I suppose that says something about his reputation outside of Cleveland but that’s about it. He was Kansas a City’s Director of Player Personnel for seven years and a scout before that so he’s got a good background in judging talent. That being said, he has NO experience in actual player and team management as far as we know. He has never made a trade, conducted a draft, gone through the ins and out of player contracts or any of the things a GM is expected to do. Basically, we are taking Farmer on blind faith. He has no track record that we can measure him against.
Finally, the management structure, now that it has been “streamlined,” has both Farmer and Pettine reporting directing to Haslam. Does anyone else think this is trouble? What has Haslam done to make us think he is competent enough to make serious and meaningful management decisions? He severely mucked up the Banner/Lombardi thing twice: once by hiring them, once by firing them at the wrong time, so why do we think he is going to make better decisions in the future? Additionally, this is assuming he isn’t indicted in the Pilot/Flying J rebate scandal. If so, and he has to give up ownership, he has indicated that the team will stay in the family. So who takes over then? His grandkids? Will it become a family tradition, sitting around the table deciding who to take in the draft by pulling straws? There is no end to the terrible outcomes this could have.
It’s funny how I keep thinking that things couldn’t get worse for the Browns, that we finally hit rock bottom, only to have something happen that creates a new rock bottom. The only thing the Browns ever consistently do is let down their fans. The only surprises they provide are in the new and unexpected ways they find to do it. I feel so sorry for this fan base.
And with several young Pro Bowlers, a lot of cap space and a lot of draft picks, the kitty is being handed over to a completely unknown Ray Farmer. If he fails, we are looking at an endless repetition of the last 15 years. If he succeeds? I’ll let you know when I see it.

Cleveland Sports Fans Need A 40 Degree Day

Are you a fan of the classic HBO series “The Wire”? If so, you probably remember this scene. If you don’t feel like watching the video (and if you’re at work, I’d probably suggest you don’t), the character is lecturing his peers about a “40 degree day”. A 40 degree day is a day where pretty much nothing happens, and nobody really notices anything.


We need this.


Why do I think we need this? Well, I don’t know, because MY LAWDY THIS IS STRESSING EVERYBODY OUT! Last week, Cavs GM/wunderkid Chris Grant was fired after the Cavs lost to the Lakers who virtually had only four players that were even allowed to be playing in the game. Not to be outdone by the Cleveland Cavaliers, our beloved Cleveland Browns fired GM Michael Lombardi, and CEO Joe Banner is “stepping down” and will be in a transitional role for the next couple of months. Yeah, ok. I’m sure Mr. Banner thought that it was “best for the organization” that he not be part of it a week after he basically told the entire league that this team attracts the smartest minds out there.


But don’t worry you guys! The vacated general manager positions have been filled by “up and comers” in their respective leagues! David Griffin was Chris Grant’s right hand man, and was seen as a rising star when he came over from Phoenix after spending a significant amount of time there. On the Browns end, Ray Farmer was seen in the same light. There’s just one thing about both of those guys–they’ve never been general managers before. Of the two of them, Farmer came the closest, but turned down the job a few weeks ago in Miami. I’ve read tweets from a number of people, both locally and nationally, that Griffin was a guy that was TOTALLY ready to run an NBA franchise. If that’s truly the case, then why wasn’t he doing it already? Was he really just waiting for the right opportunity to come along? If so, do you believe that? It’s not like these jobs are easy to come by. Same goes for Ray Farmer. Come on, you can’t honestly believe that Farmer wasn’t told Lombardi was going to be fired in a couple weeks and the job was his as soon as it happened. At the very least Jimmy Haslam probably said something to the effect of “Hey Ray–you might want to stick around here a little bit. Go ahead and interview down in Miami, but I have a pretty good feeling there might be something significant here for you if you come back and say this is a great place to work and not a toxic wasteland….if you know what I mean…*wink wink* *elbow nudge*”.


I’m rambling, I know it, and I’m sorry. And this is the exact reason that we need a break! These are the weird thoughts that go through are heads that is the fault of the leadership of our beloved teams. Seriously, I just typed up a (probably) fake conversation between the Browns owner and their new general manager. I’m over here wondering why David Griffin hasn’t taken the career path that I think he should have followed, even though the guy is probably a hundred times smarter than me and has made more money than I ever will. I am not, by any means, qualified to analyze the decisions that have been made in Cleveland this week. But that doesn’t matter.


You know why?


Because we’re fans, and we care, because we’ve been programmed to care no matter how much we might not want to. Nobody wants to see anything or anybody they care about skewered nationally, as the Browns and the Cavs have been in the past week. It’s embarrassing. One day last year I was walking down State Street in Chicago and I was wearing a Browns shirt. A guy pulled me aside and apologized for how miserable I probably was. And he was right!


The notorious Stringer Bell once said that nobody gives a **** about a 40 degree day. That’s all I’m asking for. Sports Gods, please give me a week, maybe even a few days without one of my favorite teams being in the national spotlight for something they’ve done. Give me Kyrie Irving getting through the All-Star Break without any scandal. Give me Ray Farmer making some moves that make a lot of sense that nobody can make a joke of. Give me some good stories about the Indians in Goodyear.


I don’t think we’re asking much. Just a few 40 degree days. And if you Sports Gods can talk to the Weather Gods, we’ll take a few literal 40 degree days as well.

The Browns' Ship Is Finally In Good Hands

Well thank goodness that finally happened. It honestly knocked me off my feet a little bit when I first saw that both Browns’ CEO Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi had been shown the door, but I am quite glad it happened. It was the last step that the Browns’ organization needed to take in order to start fresh.


On that note though, I am rather confused as to the timing. Browns fans were finally starting to settle down and look forward to the offseason after what had been a rather long coaching search. And then poof! The Front Office is shaken up and Banner and Lombardi are on their way out. Which for me begs the question if Banner and Lombardi were to ultimately be shown the door, why include them in the head-coaching job search? Why let them influence the decision if they aren’t going to be around for the start of the season?


In his press conference, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam sort of addressed these questions, and stories that have started coming out today may help to answer as well.


When asked about why he decided to make changes to the front office, Haslam stated that, “Joe and I began having conversations several weeks ago about potentially restructuring the organization. As Pett came on board and we evaluated where we are, we felt that it made the most sense.”


OK…    Now I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but after hearing that, I’m just more confused. If Banner had a say in the conversation regarding restructuring, and if Banner is as good of a negotiator as Haslam claims he is, then how the hell did he end up on his way out?      Just food for thought. Unfortunately, I don’t have any type of intimate relationship with Haslam, so I won’t really be able to get a straight answer to these questions. Oh well…


Anyway, returning to the timing issue. When asked specifically about it, Haslam avoided giving concrete reasons but instead blamed it on himself, saying that he realizes that there is a learning-curve for NFL owners and that he himself is, in fact, still learning the ropes of running an organization. To me, this implies that Banner was probably going to get the boot anyway, but that Haslam wasn’t quite sure of that decision yet.


What may be the most revealing evidence as to why Banner is out though is the NFL.com article that came out today. According to this, numerous potential candidates for the Browns head coaching job weren’t interested because of the presence of Banner, and that Banner’s behavior in interviews drove away and scared off some potential coaches. This led to a bit of a rift between Banner and Haslam; one which was perpetuated by Banner stating that he would have liked to wait and interview Seahawks DC Dan Quinn a second time after Coach Pettine had already been hired.


Overall though, it is a huge relief that Banner is out. Haslam talked about the need to streamline the front office structure, and now, instead of the muddled system where Banner has ultimate say, Pettine, new GM Ray Farmer, and President Alec Scheiner all report directly to Haslam. This will provide for more efficient managing of the team, as well as better decisions overall since each person will be in charge of what he is the most experienced in. On top of that, I am very excited to see Farmer start performing over the next couple of months. He is widely regarded as an up and comer across the NFL, and he is now going to be provided the chance to prove it. The Browns also brought in Farmer’s former boss at Kansas City, Bill Kuharich. Kuharich has an abundance of experience, having spent ten years with the Chiefs as well as fourteen with the Saints, and already has an intimate relationship with Farmer. His presence will give Farmer someone who he can trust and go to for help as he navigates his way through his first season as a GM in the NFL.


Anyway, now that the Browns couldn’t possibly make anymore major staff decisions for the rest of the offseason (fingers crossed), as fans, I think we can all finally settle down and breathe a sigh of relief. With a new set of hands running the ship that is the Cleveland Browns’ franchise, I think it is time to lay back and relax a tad. Definitely because the hands in charge are now finally capable pairs. It is finally time for all of us to raise a glass to what will hopefully be the solution to the Browns’ recent woes. Cheers.

And Then There Was One

Much to the chagrin of local television news guys and t-shirt designers the three stooges are no more. Jimmy Haslam dropped a bombshell in Berea as he shuffled Larry and Curly out the door and introduced a new General Manager and team structure for our Cleveland Browns. No longer will we have the condescending tones of Joe Banner or the quarantined silence of Mike Lombardi to soothe our ruffled feathers. They are now following in the footsteps of the legends of Browns past. Names like Clark, Savage, Kokinis, and Holmgren. And like the past departures of those fine football executives, this newest upheaval in Berea is something that we should all celebrate.

There have been indications ever since Joe Banner rode into town on Haslam’s coattails that he was an impediment to the success of the franchise. The league wide negative perception of Joe Banner was something that clearly hurt the Browns. To what extent that perception affected the team can be debated, but there is no doubt that it existed. Quite honestly, the extent doesn’t really matter. If the mere reality of having a certain executive in place handicaps the franchise then that executive needs to be removed. That’s what was happening with Banner and that alone is reason to support his removal. Now, this is the part of the paragraph where I would like to add on to my previous sentiment and make a case as to why Mike Lombardi getting fired is also a good thing. Unfortunately, I’m unable to do this as I can’t confirm that Mike Lombardi has actually been in Cleveland this past year. I’ve heard tale that he does exist and has the ability to speak, but as a professional I can’t run with those facts until I can verify them with two separate sources. For now, we’ll just have to go on faith and be happy that Mike Lombardi is no longer doing whatever job he has allegedly been doing this past year.

Aside from Banner and Lombardi no longer running things, the most exciting thing to come out of this front office reshuffling is the new structure that has been put in place. No longer is there some convoluted decision-by-committee-but-Joe-Banner-actually-has-the-final-say dynamic being pushed in the front office. Ray Farmer will decide the 53 man roster. Mike Pettine will decide which 45 guys play on Sundays. Alec Scheiner will run the business side of things. And all will report to the owner. For a franchise that has tried every kind of dysfunctional power structure over the past 15 years, this new set up is a breath of fresh air. It probably seems like an obviously simple fix for pretty much every other fanbase and organization in the NFL, but I’m dead serious when I say that the Browns merely shifting to a conventional team structure is a monumental step forward. And that doesn’t even count what I see as noticeable upgrades at each of the three spots that atop the organizational depth chart. I obviously haven’t been able to write about Mike Pettine here yet as we just launched, but I genuinely like the hire and feel it’s the best move the Browns have made at Head Coach since Butch. Not that that is exactly the highest of praise considering the guys hired in between but I do really like what I’ve seen and heard. There’s also Ray Farmer who, by all accounts, is highly respected around the league and thought of as an up and comer. And he was reportedly at the Senior Bowl, which sadly already sets him apart from his two most recent predecessors. And we also have Alec Scheiner as President who, well, who runs the business side. And that’s it. He seems really bright, good at his job, and he won’t have anything to do with picking players. This also, sadly, is something that sets him apart from his two most recent predecessors. These three guys are reason to be excited. Reason to be optimistic for the Browns. There is, however, one thing that still makes me uneasy. The man that those three will be reporting to is still Jimmy Haslam.

As the weeks and months go on it will probably become more and more apparent how I feel about the current steward of the Cleveland Browns. For now, I will just say that I won’t be applying for President of the Jimmy Haslam fan club any time soon. However, I’ll give him credit for his removal of Banner and Lombardi just like I did for his firing of Chud a few weeks ago. In both cases he saw that something wasn’t working and instead of drawing it out and setting things back even more, he cut bait and went a different direction. It would be fair to point out that he decided to hire all those people only a year ago, but at least he was willing to make the tough decisions and admit he was wrong. Well, at least kind of. While his actions certainly seem to indicate significant errors on his part, you would be hard pressed to get him to actually admit it. Which brings me to the absurdity of the press conference introducing Ray Farmer as General Manager. Haslam time and again talked about how great of a football mind Mike Lombardi has, how Joe Banner agreed that it was time for him to leave, and he again blamed the media for the negative perception of the Browns. The fact that Haslam would think that any Browns fan would buy into any of those things is borderline insulting. And it’s just another example of why I have less and less faith in him every time I hear him talk. Not to mention that we are apparently never allowed to ask about the federal investigation that could potentially land the owner of our football team in federal prison.

Regardless of my natural predisposition to not like Jimmy Haslam or the ever present chance that the next time we see him he’ll be waddling down a hallway in an orange jumpsuit, the dismissals of Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi are positive steps for the Browns. For one day the team undeniably improved and Haslam does deserves credit for that. Two of the stooges are gone. And if we’re going to be stuck with the third one, at least he wants to win.

Questions and Answers

I was planning on doing one of those ubiquitous mailbag/Twitter response columns until I realized that I didn’t have any mail or tweets to respond to. Despite that, I endeavored and will provide both the questions I would pose to myself and my responses thereto just for the hell of it.


Q. Who will be the Browns starting quarterback be on September 7th?


A. Brian Hoyer. First, I should disclose that I’m a Saint Ignatius graduate, the high school from which Brian Hoyer matriculated in 2004. That being said, Hoyer is a legitimate NFL QB. I’m not saying he’s going to take this (or any) team to the Super Bowl, but he is capable of winning games in the NFL. We know that. He looked great in the two games he started and won for the Browns. He showed great field recognition, quick release, accuracy and touch. He is the ONLY Browns QB since Bernie to show all of those talents. He doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, but I will take the former skill set over the latter quality any day of the week. Brandon Weeden and Derek Anderson both have rifles for arms, but both are so intellectually inept and unable to adapt that as soon as opposing teams figured them out, they struggled to change their games and simply withered. Their arm strength is not useless, but seemingly hinders their ability to throw soft out and screen passes which were, at least on their Browns squads, absolutely integral and necessary to the offenses they ran.

My prediction holds even should the Browns draft a rookie and sign a veteran quarterback. Indeed, I am hoping for it. Jason Campbell doesn’t want to be a backup (even though he clearly is) and he doesn’t like the cold weather (wuss). Ideally, the Browns would sign a veteran who can bring stability and leadership to a team and can also come in and perform competently in case of an injury. The rookie (preferably a guy drafted outside the top ten) would be the last option to start games.


 Q. Should the Browns draft a quarterback and, if so, who?


A. Yes, of course they should. I don’t know who it should be, but I know it should not be Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, or a Teddy Bridgewater at four.

Look, I know Browns fans are sick of trading down. We’ve seen it too many times and we’ve had to suffer with them passing up better players for guys who either didn’t work out or who ended up average or marginal. But just because former regimes messed them up doesn’t mean that this one will or that the idea itself is a bad one. The fact is that a quality quarterback can be found later in every draft and the Browns have a lot of other needs that can be filled in this year’s. We need to amass picks and use them wisely. If a quarterback on the Browns’ board is available when they have a later pick, take him. But if they can trade down, get more picks, AND still get a quarterback they like to back up both Manziel and veteran QB X, do it.

We need quality starters at literally every other position on the field. If they do their homework, make wise trades, and get legitimate starters, no one will care if they passed on Teddy Bridgewater/Blake Bortles at pick four. Especially if you expect (as I do) that there will be no franchise quarterbacks picked in the first round this year.


 Q. Assuming the Browns don’t trade down, what should they do?


A. Draft up to 2 and take Jadaveon Clowney.

If you want me to justify this objectively and based on empirical evidence, I can’t. I just have a feeling that this guy is going to be a monster on defense. And I know the arguments against: our least weak position is D line; we just drafted an end last year; the Quiet Storm and Big Money. Yes, yes, I know. But remember that one game-changer on defense, especially someone who can cause mayhem at the line, can utterly change the face of an entire defense. Think Jared Allen or Julius Peppers. They not only create persistent trouble for opposing offenses, they open up opportunities for other rushers, which we have a plethora of. If the defensive line can, finally, pressure quarterbacks consistently, the entire defense benefits. If Clowney pans out, it could change the face of the team.

Plus, you know mike Pettine is just drooling thinking about coaching him.



(After the completion of this column it was announced that the Browns management structure had been shaken up. I will comment more extensively in Thursday’s column, but will say this now:)


Q. What is going on in Berea?


A. It appears as though Haslam had enough of his other two stooges. He canned them both and put Ray Farmer in to head all of the team’s football operations. Quite simply, he replaced two old, tired guys with one young up and comer.

I guess it’s good Ray Farmer didn’t take the Miami job. Clearly, Haslam was getting the feeling that Lombardi and Banner were mucking things up and he had had enough. My guess is that Haslam was starting to doubt Banner’s ability to be a football man instead of just a business man, which is what he was good at in Philly. The Chud firing certainly seemed desperate and inconsistent. How long do you trust a guy who is so flippant with big decisions? And once he made the decision to fire Banner, Lombardi was gone too. There was no place here for Lombardi without Banner, it was a twofer.

All in all, this was a good decision, which could look better if Farmer is the man. The only issue is why this took two years to figure out. Haslam said things wouldn’t be the same under him, but they have been. In two years as owner, he’s now fired two Presidents (Holmgren, Banner), two GMs (Heckert, Lombardi) and two coaches (Shurmur, Chud). Hopefully, this will be the end of the revolving doors.

Just like when, again and again.

BREAKING OPINION: Browns Front Office Shakedown

If ever there was a day for breaking Browns news, it was (of course) on the day that Tribe pitchers and catchers broke camp.


See you later, Joe Banner.


Sayonara, Mike Lombardi.


In case you’ve been under a rock this morning, the Browns gave some breaking (read as: majorly heart-stopping) news that the front office was ‘restructuring’, and that Ray Farmer would be the new GM of the Browns. Joe Banner will be transitioning out over the next two months, and Mike Lombardi is out as of now.


Kitten Coach Is Confused By Breaking News...
Cleveland Browns interviewee Coach Kitten is cutely confused by the newest breaking madness (photo courtesy of icanhazcheezburger.com)


Now there’s a lot of things to read into, especially looking big picture and looking at several media outlets’ spins on the moves. I will submit to you my respectful and humble opinion below:

Breaking Point #1: The ‘restructuring’ is going to be a blessing in the long run.


Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam made it a point in his press conference to note that this restructuring was to streamline the front office processes:


“… I felt like the previous setup was cumbersome, and this new arrangement is much more streamlined and in line for what we want…” – Jimmy Haslam (via cleveland.com press conference report)


Reports also indicate that Farmer, new Browns coach Mike Pettine, and established Browns President Alec Scheiner will report directly to Haslam for the foreseeable future; the CEO position will literally be no more.


Now I see this as a good thing all in all. Minimal gridlockng and ‘hands in the proverbial pot’ will make for a lot less misunderstandings and debate on how to proceed. Haslam now has a final say on decisions by the major contributors to his product. As such, he also bears a large responsibility on putting together a winning product for his consumers (us fans). Haslam seems to me to be a man that wants success in Cleveland, and I feel he has two head men (Farmer and Pettine) that want the same. With the lot of them actually in a baseline agreement, and with less overhead to ‘fight through’, this puts the Browns in a good spot to shake the negative portrayal around the league.

Breaking Point #2: Ray Farmer was likely more involved in things than people realized.


There are many reports that are stating that Farmer wasn’t actually involved in the interviewing process that led to the hire of Coach Pettine. There’s likely a really good reason for that. Following on the heels of these reports, however, are the whispers of Pettine ‘not being the guy Farmer would’ve hired’. Will this spell the end of the Pettine Era before it even starts?


There is no possible way that Farmer, even as only the assistant GM, even being down in Mobile, didn’t have a say in the interview process with Pettine. In his part of the presser today, Farmer seemed very much in-tune with Pettine’s coaching style, and their willingness to work together:


“Running the draft is as simple as being in the process that answers all the questions in advance. I’m definitely solidified in that process, and we’ll be prepared to select players who fit what Coach Pettine wants to do. I helped establish that process, so I’m comfortable with where we’re at.” – Ray Farmer (via cleveland.com press conference report)


Farmer’s dedication to the Browns with the Dolphins dangling a GM position in front of him also points to an intimate behind-the-scenes knowledge that made today’s moves that much easier. An owner like Haslam, for whom image is important, would take a near-crippling hit if he’d let Banner and Lombardi go (as bad as they were) without plans and processes already in place. His opinion, and that of others in the business, is that Farmer would be a GM sooner rather than later.


It seems sooner has come sooner than we figured.


There’s also the fact that rather swiftly after the original bit of breaking news, some more breaking news came out. The Browns announced that they had hired former Kansas City Chiefs VP of Player Personnel Bill Kuharich to serve as Farmer’s assistant GM.  Kuharich, whom served as Farmer’s boss with the Chiefs, also served as GM of the New Orleans Saints in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. He was once touted as one of the NFL’s best talent evaluators, and his hire can only solidify and boost Farmer’s ability to give the Browns a shot in the arm through free agency and the Draft.


Breaking Point #3: HazMat Control


As much as Haslam would like to deny that the front office was dysfunctional, or that the behind-the-scenes was ‘toxic’, several whispers that have followed up today’s breaking news point to a situation quite the contrary.


While I personally have no inside look into the workings of Berea, or any people of that sort, it was easy to see how some of the things were shaping up. Several things I’d heard about involved who had control over personnel changes, roster moves, and the like. If there was struggles in this area, you can already get an idea of how well the organization was run; the phrase “too many Chiefs, not enough Indians” springs to mind.


As the season ended, you could see the wheels turning that change was in the air. We started seeing a little more Haslam involvement and a little less of Lombardi. Considering the madness we went through last year in the offseason, you would think that the mantra would’ve been “all hands on deck”. It seemed not to be the case, and apparently the rumor mill was pretty rampant about who was the next out the door after Chud.
And while Banner and Lombardi were involved in the new coaching search, you could get the sense that their guys weren’t exactly the ‘preferred guys’. You got the feeling that Haslam was finally getting fed up with the tomfoolery, and started to get his hands a little dirtier. Thus, his talk (I’m thinking rather one-sidedly) with Banner about streamlining the front office.


If I was the owner of the Browns, I’d have been taking stock in what was going on well before this point, and making sure the product I’d invested millions upon millions in was healthy. Haslam is to blame or some of the ineptitude by being hands-off for the good part of last season. However, it seems that he’s corrected that issue starting today (or within the last little while, according to his presser). Owning up to your mistakes is a big step, and I saw Haslam do some of that today.


The Breaking Conclusion


This is obviously a huge move for the Browns. Haslam is taking responsibility for his product, as a good owner should, and is getting people in place that will help with breaking the losing mentality here. You get a bigger feeling that Pettine was his hire, because he liked the man’s toughness and no-nonsense honesty. Ray Farmer has been the one busting his rear lately for this team, and already has a plan in place to be inclusive with his head coach on player decisions. That was something you weren’t really sure about in the last regime.


Farmer had a plan, a method, and the right mentality to get things done. He was rewarded. Banner and Lombardi were grating on Haslam’s last nerve. They were shown the door. All in all, I think we’re looking a whole lot better than we were a few days ago.


Thank you, Browns breaking news. You just made my day a little brighter.

Making Sense of the Browns Front Office Shakeup

Finally, things seem to have settled down with the Browns. The front office went through an exhaustive search to find their next head coach and landed former Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. The coordinators and coaching staff are in place. With the NFL Combine approaching in the next couple of weeks it’s time to move forward with the Browns off season and focus on free agency and the NFL Draft.



Press release: The Cleveland Browns promoted Ray Farmer to General Manager. Michael Lombardi will step down immediately, Joe Banner will step down in a few months after front office transition is complete.



Um, what?



I suppose there should’ve been some indication that another big change was coming when Ray Farmer turned down the General Manager position with the Miami Dolphins. He made it fairly clear that his goal and desire is to be the GM of an NFL team, yet he returned to Cleveland where he was the Assistant General Manager. He also represented the Browns at the Senior Bowl, not Michael Lombardi. Hindsight is 20/20, and in this case it gives us some indication that the Head Coach wasn’t the only position destined for change in Berea. More on Farmer later, but why make this move now?



For one thing, Jimmy Haslam reportedly wasn’t happy with the perception that the organization was a joke. The front office (or former front office) Haslam had in place hired and fired Rob Chudzinski in less than a year. Following the Chud firing reports of the front office being toxic poured out. The extensive head coaching search, right or wrong, didn’t help with the perception that this team didn’t have a clue what they were doing. Ultimately the only way to prove to your customers (and the general public) that you have a clue is to win, but clearly the reports of a toxic front office had some validity. This also at least partly justifies that Chud may not have been dealt a fair hand.



If you buy into anything Haslam said during his press conference, this was simply a restructuring process. According to Haslam, he and Banner mutually agreed that this new streamlined process was in the best interests of team and discussions for this move began “several weeks ago”. There is probably some truth to that as well, considering Banner is staying on with the team for a couple of months to help with the transition process. If Banner was such a toxic presence wouldn’t Haslam just fire him immediately?



As usual, the truth is probably someplace in between. The reports about the front office being “The Three Stooges” were probably a bit extreme. After all, it’s not like the Browns had inexperienced guys at their positions. Michael Lombardi and Joe Banner have managed to stay at least relevant in the NFL for a number of years, something many have failed to do, and many around the league thought of them as bright football minds. The notion that they were completely clueless is misguided. At the same time, if they were doing such a fantastic job why would Haslam feel the need to fire them? The truth here is they probably weren’t doing as great of a job as they were supposed to do. Haslam is big on accountability, and this move was at least partly done with that in mind.



So what does this mean moving forward? Well it’s hard to say this will lead to stability; clearly that’s not been the Browns M.O. up to this point. But there is some light at the end of this tunnel. Much like the Chud firing, Haslam deserves credit for getting rid of something that he felt wasn’t working, whatever the reason. Assuming the “toxic front office” reports were true, that entire mess has instantly become cleaned up. No more “group decisions” on major things like draft picks. No more wondering on who is in control of what. As it stands right now Mike Pettine, Ray Farmer and Alec Scheiner all report directly to Jimmy Haslam. Each person has a defined role. Pettine has final say on the game day roster, Farmer has final say on the 53 man roster and Scheiner handles the day-to-day business. No questions, no confusion (in theory), just a streamlined chain of command.



Regarding the remaining trio of Pettine, Farmer and Scheiner, all three of these guys are qualified. Pettine, while green, arrived with positive reviews for connecting with and getting the most out of players. Farmer is viewed as one of the bright front office minds in the NFL. Cleveland interviewed him to be the GM last season, so clearly there is some trust in him from Haslam. Scheiner is well respected for handling day-to-day business within the NFL.



On the surface this might seem like a sinking ship with no captain. In reality, Haslam might have just set the Browns up for a great deal of long term success.

Thoughts On The Browns, Indians, and Cavs: Is Lombardi Out? Why I Think The Indians "Get it", And The Dumpster Fire Cavs

What Is Going On In Berea?

–So this morning I wake up and I see that there are some interesting rumors concerning the makeup of the Browns’ front office. Specifically, the rumor says that GM Michael Lombardi will either be let go or reassigned, and Assistant GM Ray Farmer will be promoted to GM. At face value this seems pretty unlikely seeing as though Lombardi was given a ringing endorsement from leadership about a year ago. Then again, so did Rob Chudzinski.

–On the other hand, there have been some interesting developments in the past few weeks that make this rumor a little more believable. Ray Farmer was said to be a frontrunner for the Miami Dolphins GM job, and took himself out of the running. Could it be because Farmer was assured he’d be offered the same position in Cleveland if he decided to stay? Could it be that the owner of the Dolphins reportedly addressed him as “Roy Farmer” for the duration of the interview? Did he think that the Dolphins are even a bigger mess than the Browns? These are all factors that need to be taken into consideration.

–From a fan’s perspective, would you rather have Michael Lombardi or Ray Farmer as our team’s GM? Count me in on Team Farmer. Now don’t get me wrong, both of these guys have forgotten more about football than I’ll ever know, but I just don’t trust Lombardi. He was employed by NFL Network before coming to the Browns, and famously thought that drafting Joe Haden and taking Josh Gordon in the Supplemental Draft were both big mistakes. They are the two best players on the team. And he thought they sucked.

–So why do I like Farmer? Well pretty much because he isn’t Mike Lombardi, and because I thought he was pretty impressive on “Hard Knocks”. I know those reasons aren’t exactly scientific, but let’s just call it a gut feeling. Also, he was either savvy enough to recognize that the Dolphins are a complete train wreck right now and/or he sees some promise in the Browns.

The Indians “Get It” More Than Any Other Team In Town

Last week the Indians held an event called Tribe Fest at Progressive Field, where fans were able to meet some of the team’s players, notable alumni, and team employees. Now I understand this doesn’t sound all that exciting, but by all accounts it was a wildly successful event.

–Look, I didn’t attend the event, but by all accounts I saw in print, online, and social media, it seemed that everyone from the organization that participated genuinely enjoyed being there. We’ve all been to work events, whether it be representing your company at a job fair, a conference you really didn’t want to go to, or some kind of work party and it seemed like a real form of torture. That wasn’t the case for these guys. Nick Swisher was bro-ing it up, Jason Kipnis hadn’t recognized yet that he’s a budding superstar by being as personable as can be, and Team President Mark Shapiro even did a Q&A on Twitter.

–So why do I think they “get it” more than the Browns or the Indians? Well first, there isn’t a “Browns Fest” or “Cavs Fest”, and second because the Indians have built up a work atmosphere that makes the players proud to be a part of. And more importantly, they know the value of engaging their fan base. The Tribe are miles ahead of not only their fellow teams in town, but also ahead of the rest of MLB when it comes to social media (I believe their were among, if not first team in MLB, to have a “Social Suite”). They are a very progressive organization (no pun intended) and I honestly believe that has a trickle down effect to all members of the team.

How The Hell Did The Cavs Get Here?

–In case you missed it over Super Bowl weekend, there was a report in the New York Daily News about how dysfunctional the Cleveland Cavaliers really are. The piece centered around Luol Deng, and how eye opening his experience during his short time in Cleveland has been.

–To paraphrase, Deng reportedly said that the players have no respect for Mike Brown or other members of the coaching staff, players have been kicked out of practice for having crap attitudes, players were out partying into the wee hours of the night before playing the Knicks in Madison Square Garden, and that none of this conduct would ever be tolerated by the Chicago Bulls.

–You never know how much of this is true, since the NYDN source on this was a friend of Deng’s who reportedly was told all of this by Deng himself. Since this report was published, Deng has come out publicly and said that none of this is true, and he doesn’t even have friends or family members that talk to the media.

–Now do I believe everything in this story is false? Absolutely not. Now I’m not saying the whole team was getting hammered before the Knicks game, but they put on a pathetic effort (if you want to call it that) in their embarrassing loss at MSG. I realize that doesn’t necessarily mean they were out all night, but it sends a pretty clear sign that they are either apathetic or don’t have a ton of respect for their coaching staff.

–I’m not sure where that leaves us with our Cleveland Cavaliers. They were supposed to be a fringe playoff team this year (and I guess, mathematically they still are, but they’re 16 games under .500) and have been the most disappointing team in the NBA. Like I said, I don’t believe the NYDN report is completely true, but these kind of things don’t come out of thin air. There is certainly a kernel of truth in there, because you’d have to be completely dense to believe that everything is ok over there at The Q. We could be seeing some major things happen here in the next few weeks leading up to the All Star break, and maybe that’s something that needs to happen.