The Banner Takeover – Worrisome from the jump

Joe Banner’s presence is clearly already being felt in Berea. Nobody is safe.

I’ve been off the grid for a few days, tending to my real job (oh, if only I could be paid handsomely to work fulltime at WFNY!), but I have been monitoring things and as always, keeping my finger on the pulse of what is going on here in the wacky wide world of Cleveland Sports.

There’s never a dull moment in Berea. The uncertainty surrounding everyone from the GM to the janitors has everyone on edge. The fans are all excited about the Jimmy Haslam ownership era, but has some of the bloom come off the rose this quickly?

I was very disturbed to read that the Michael Lombardi rumors are becoming louder. Sure, you can say that it is Lombardi himself who is leaking these stories, but that really doesn’t matter at this juncture. I think we are seeing the start of something big. And by big, I am referring to CEO Joe Banner’s ego taking it all over.

This Lombardi thing is real folks, and it is not going away. The prior Banner/Lombardi relationship is there. Banner hasn’t said so publicly, but it is obvious that he wants a structure in place where the GM is nothing more than a personnel guy who will report up to him. Who else would want that job other than a young, up and comer looking for their first big shot, or a guy who has been out of football for five years and desperately wants back in?

Current and soon to be outgoing GM Tom Heckert has final say on the roster as we sit today. He has it written in his contract. I think those of us who think Heckert actually had a chance to stick around can now see reality. His days as Browns GM are just about over. Nobody says life is fair.

Why do you think Heckert gave an unscheduled press conference last Friday? He wants everyone in this town and in the NFL to know that when he is shown the door, it is not because he wanted it to be this way. While both Banner and Heckert say their relationship is fine, its become almost common knowledge now that Heckert has thought he’d be gone no matter what once Banner took over as CEO.

The latest veiled shot was the sudden release of CB Dimitri Patterson, a Heckert favorite. Patterson has been banged up this year after signing a three-year, $16 million extension in the offseason. The Browns paid him $6 million guaranteed for seven games, this despite an obvious need for more corners. There have been rumors that Patterson was an issue lately, but it’s still pretty obvious that Banner is now in charge with this move. Patterson was claimed by Miami a day later.

As for Pat Shurmur, he may have made a case for sticking around had he won out heading into last Sunday’s debacle home loss to Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins, but that ship has obviously sailed. I won’t lose much sleep over this as I wasn’t behind the hire from day one (which reeked of Mile Holmgren cronyism). Shurmur was completely overmatched by the Shanahan’s four days ago to almost an embarrassing level. While the three game winning streak Shurmur was banking on to help save his own skin was great, he beat Charlie Batch and his eight turnovers, the Raiders, and the Chiefs – the latter being arguably the two worst teams in football.

Make no mistake – changes are coming. Banner continuing to tell us all that no decisions have been made is insulting to our collective intelligence. I get why he is doing it, it is common courtesy, but the writing is on the wall in giant block letters. It is over for Heckert and Shurmur. Banner had this to say yesterday:

“I think we’ll make the decisions quickly after the season,” Banner said on a conference call. “I don’t want to say if it’s one day or two days or three days but I think it will be quickly.”

“Obviously as time has gone on we’ve thought about it more, we’ve talked about it more, more factors that will influence the final decision have become clearer and clearer,” he said. “I don’t want to make it sound like we’re in the same place we were two or four or six weeks ago. That has advanced quite a bit. But we’re not at the point where we’ve made definitive decisions.”

I expect that on the annual “Black Monday” in the NFL, Shurmur and Heckert will be shown the door. Lombardi will be brought soon thereafter and the coaching search will begin from there. While we all have visions of the Nick Saban’s or the Jon Gruden’s or other big name coaches swooping in and taking over, if Lombardi is the guy picking the players and reporting to Banner, you can forget about those possibilities. They aren’t realistic. Josh McDaniels, the current Patriots offensive coordinator and ex-Denver Broncos coach, will be near the top of the list. Current Broncos OC Mike McCoy will most likely get a look, as could the play-caller who shredded the Browns last Sunday and made an indelible impression on all who watched, Washington’s Kyle Shanahan.

These last two games at Denver and Pittsburgh could get ugly on the field. Off the field, things are already heading in that direction. Get ready for yet another regime change. Lets just hope this one doesn’t turn out like the rest of them have.

  • MrCleaveland

    What if Haslam turns out to be Ted Stepien? O, the humanity.

  • Harv 21

    TD, I want Heck to stay as much as anyone, but it sounds like you’re near hysterical, like you’re convinced a power-mad, drunken and corrupt general is about to stumble in and urinate on this beautiful edifice that is your Cleveland Browns.
    May I remind you:
    – There are other people qualified to be a GM. (If it is Lombardi, how are we sure he sucks?)
    – Organizational charts other than the blurred, inverted and picasso-like ones we’ve had here work.
    – The Browns record beginning ’08: 4-12, 5-11, 5-11, 4-12, and (most likely) 5-11 this year.
    Yes, Banner is about to swing his sharp machete, but that’s fine. We need it, long term. A solid org consists of more than a competent GM and a bunch of boobs. We’re just so beaten down that we now assume whatever little competence we’ve had is lost forever and none will replace it. You’re attitude is sooo Cleveland. Breathe, man.

  • mgbode

    no doubt. he has yet to make one hire that affects the football side of the organization and half the fans seem in a tizzy. let’s see what he is setting up before we decide it needs to be torn down.

    hey, I think that’s Mark Whipple yelling at the offense for scoring too many points again.

  • mgbode

    “Banner hasn’t said so publicly, but it is obvious that he wants a
    structure in place where the GM is nothing more than a personnel guy who
    will report up to him.”

    Why is this obvious? Or, why is it bad? If the GM is a personnel guy that Banner trusts on football matters but Banner helps decide on the salary structure (with inputs from the business side) and they all come together to figure things out, then is that a terrible idea?

    Everyone needs to be accountable to someone. That someone appears to be Banner (who will be accountable to Haslam). Making sure that the football decisions match the business decisions is not a bad thing. The Patriots are well-known for doing it in this manner (setup by Kraft, not Belichick though he obviously has a ton of input there).

  • bossman09

    I think it’s safe to say if it’s Lombardi, he has no track record of success and no other team in the NFL wants him. That’s been very clearly documeted. As for Banner, he has a record of success so I guess we will have to wait and see. The problem with the NFL is that past success is no indication of future success, but past failure is a near perfect indicator of future failure.

  • mgbode

    I will try to put my thoughts on it when I have more time, but a much more interesting conversation/question to me would be:

    What should the organizational structure of a successful NFL franchise be?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    LoL nothing anyone can do unfortunately but wouldn’t it be this town’s luck that going from Lerner to Haslam might be worse? I’m trying hard to fight that thought.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    “We’re just so beaten down that we now assume whatever little competence we’ve had is lost forever and none will replace it,” is absolutely dead on point and something I’ve mentioned for awhile. Not only this but whoever comes to Cleveland whether it’s management or player related is so much better then counterparts elsewhere. The player thing drives me crazy but I stopped fighting this fight long ago instead I just sit back and watch and yes, chuckle and even laugh at times over many of the discussions.

  • Harv 21

    not sure past failure is so accurate an indicator. Belichik here? Shanahan in Oakland? Chuck Noll his first 3 years? I’m sure there arelots if we dig a little.

  • Rocko

    Regime change is just another way to keep us interested.


    The fans are the only people who care about winning.

    Haslam just cashes the checks…

  • dwhit110

    +1 Take messiah Lawrence Vickers for instance.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I don’t mind if Lombardi or whoever else gets put in place as GM is actually more like a vp of player personnel… that can work as long as Lombardi is good at that. So I’m anticipating that GM’s ability to do the job they are given will be more of a deciding factor than the structure of the org. Do I think Lombardi can be effective at that job? I don’t know… my gut says no, but my gut is also very hungry.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Uhhhh, no. Have you seen Haslam watch a game? He’s more into the game than 90% of the fans in Browns stadium. He cares and he wants to win.

  • FearTheRoo

    Like I’ve been saying, be careful what you wish for Browns fans. Everyone wanted Lerner gone, everyone wants Surmur gone. Haslam may be a better owner, but Banner? We are going to end up with Lombardi and McDaniels or Saban. This can go very bad, very quick.

  • Kildawg

    How could it get worse? The biggest issue since 2003 has been Randy Lerner, but that has been resolved. Hopefully we can get much more positive direction from the top (Haslam, Banner, that means you). Keep the 4-3 (more man, less zone), but utilize more shotgun and ‘trick’ plays to keep the offense creative. Also, make sure TRich gets 20 carries a game minimum and keep the backwards plays like screens and drags to a minimum.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    You are correct, Harv. As others have stated, this idea that any new person brought in must be worse than any person that has shown the smallest bit of competance is an old trope in Cleveland sports fandom. It extends to front office, coaches, players, stadium food choices, etc.

    It’s nice to feel like you’re seeing progress, but how mad can you be when someone is let go from a 5-11 football team.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Funny you mention Vickers because I was upset by the decision to let him go and then use a draft pick the very next draft on his replaccement. That was compounded when the replacement drafted was Owen Marecic. And now you have Alex Smith, a TE, playing FB. This was a check in the negative column for Heckert IMO.

  • Wow

    Banner should stay away from the football side of things and let someone who knows what they’r doing have say over the roster.

  • I’m as skeptical as they come but I for one am an advocate of getting Mike Lombardi. You can’t take his years at Oakland under the Al Davis at face value, Al absolutely had final say and maddening restrictions on what anyone underneath him was able to do.. IE you were not allowed to trade players to anyone in your division, and if they were outside your division they could not be part of your upcoming schedule for the next 2 years. Listen to Lombardi talk about today’s game, the dude knows his stuff, and has called out little known players (Branden Bolden) well before anyone knew about them.

  • saggy

    the only good thing that came out if that is Alex Smith playing fullback. Dude can’t catch a cold.

  • dwhit110

    My point was more of a “look at Vickers now, he’s not nearly the player that everyone here made him out to be” one.