The really good news is that Ray Farmer is back with the Browns for at least one more season. I want to make sure I start with that, because it seems that worrying about a 4-12 football team and trying to realistically assess how desirable it is as a place to work is being confused as negative narrative-building. Jimmy Haslam has stated such, and Joe Banner said it again to Mary Kay Cabot. It seems the Browns are insistent that the world just has no good perspective or might even be out to get them. As Cabot’s article says, the Browns feel that the word “radioactive” was uttered anonymously and then was carried forward as shorthand for the Browns from that moment forward. Maybe the negativity did get out of hand as the Browns’ coaching search was executed, but the way Joe Banner is talking, he seems to think he can just tell everyone that everything is fine and have it be the truth.
In Banner’s favor, obviously things are looking up right this moment—this compared to even just a few weeks ago. Fans and media seem to buy the Mike Pettine hiring. Whether he was the best candidate available or among the last candidates available, his résumé fit the bill and he was believable in his press conference. The Browns are even going to great lengths to sell his message, using a billboard in Columbus that features his picture and the quote, “We’re going to be the toughest team on the field.” I really do like that and I like what I know of Pettine thus far.
Same with Farmer. At the height of the wave of negativity, there’s no telling exactly how much extra consternation was due to the fact that Farmer was thought to be gone to the Dolphins. The fact that Farmer is back is a great sign for the Browns and what Joe Banner is saying about overblown negativity, but we also have to consider the Dolphins job.
In Miami, we’re talking about a void left by Jeff Ireland who leaves a pretty big mess behind, including but certainly not limited to the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin “bullying” situation and potentially the recent revelations of the Davone Bess deal done after he was involuntarily committed for mental health issues related to a breakdown. We’re talking about the same Dolphins organization that was protested by its own fans in March of 2012. It’s also a job that reports directly to an owner who reportedly referred to Ray Farmer as “Roy” during the interview process. Again, it’s great news that Farmer is back for the Browns, but please don’t tell me it’s solely because the Browns are one of the best teams to work for in the country and that all the negativity surrounding this team was some media creation.
As Scott Raab has said on the WFNY Podcast over the past year, “the media” yearns to tell good stories too. ESPN and other giant media personalities and organizations don’t have it out for Cleveland just because they report the negative things. The nebulous “media” at large is known for a pile-on and re-reporting to the degree that the negativity can get overblown, but that’s not to say there was no negative catalyst.
While it’s not totally fair to pick apart a quote, there was one in Mary Kay Cabot’s report that left me wanting to argue. Joe Banner was speaking of the negativity.
It had nothing to do with reality. Some of the most desirable people in all of sports have come to Cleveland since Jimmy and I took over, including Rob Chudzinski, Norv Turner, Ray Horton, Mike Pettine, Alec Scheiner and Sashi Brown. Players like Des Bryant and Paul Kruger chose us over others cities, not to mention all of the people that desperately wanted this head coaching job. The evidence — which nobody wanted to bother with — is that this is an extremely desirable place and all of the actions by so many people are proof of that.
This seems pretty disingenuous. Of the people that Banner listed, all except Mike Pettine came on board before the Browns went 4-12 in their first full year and subsequently dismissed the head coach after one season. All of the listed executives started with the Browns prior to the raid on Pilot Flying J last April. The players were good acquisitions that I have applauded, but I don’t think either guy left money on the table to come to Cleveland. Plus, the coaches they came to play for are now gone after being fired.
This isn’t to re-litigate all the negativity of the past year and specifically the time period since the Browns really raised a lot of eyebrows by firing their first-year head coach. It’s simply to try and balance out the fact that even if the Browns are on the right track – the hiring of Pettine and retention of Farmer really do help – they don’t get to just say all the negativity was unjustified.
The fact remains that the Browns finished fourth worst in the entire NFL in 2013. They did so by winning one less game than they did with a lame duck coaching staff. They fired a first-time head coach with very experienced, professional coordinators after one season. They did so after a season that left many wondering how much effort the front office put into winning. They have a CEO who has a reputation for arrogance who, for a second straight season, chose not to confirm any interviews during the coaching search, which allows negativity (warranted or not) to fester. All of this and they have an owner whose company is embroiled in a federal investigation.
I know it seems like I’m just piling on, but tell me what I’m pumping up. I don’t need to use that quote from NFL network that called the Browns job “radioactive” to come to a conclusion that maybe, just maybe, the Browns job openings are somewhere in the bottom of all jobs in the NFL. It’s reasonable to assume that while all NFL jobs are desirable based on scarcity, that the Browns’ openings this year were not in the top 20 or maybe even 25 of jobs in the league. Maybe they were some of the best of the available jobs, but even that is (at least) debatable as all were filled before the Browns.
Joe Banner’s right that the last two pieces of news have pushed back against the tide of negativity. I think the upcoming draft can help to push even further for the Browns as they have a wealth of picks to improve their team. If that comes to pass, it will be the result of actions and not just words. It seems to me that Joe Banner is trying to erase the negative perception with just words. He should know by now that isn’t possible.