Browns Rumors: Power struggles and changes afoot?

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When you have an NFL team made up of the number of employees it takes to run an NFL franchise, you undoubtedly have some changes from year to year. It’s hard to remember things like that in Cleveland where the changes are so wholesale they’re usually more like the pallets that sit atop the shelves at a Costco. This is not expected to be one of those seasons for the Browns with massive changes, but it’s understandable that the fans get a little itchy when the rumors start flying upon the completion of a one or two-win season. It’s likely the same rumor floating between Ian Rapoport and Jason La Canfora, but both veteran NFL reporters say there’s at least some change potentially in the air in Berea.

Per Jason La Canfora

While coach Hue Jackson is not planning to request the removal of top football man Sashi Brown, or the influential analytics department he has built, the sources said there will be a strong push to ownership to reconsider the flow chart. The coaches would like a proven, old-school talent evaluator involved in player selection to provide checks and balances with the current setup.

Ian Rapoport reports something kind of similar, but as usual it feels less negative than La Canfora.

The Browns still believe in coach Hue Jackson, even if it turns out to be a one-win season. Owner Jimmy Haslam still believes in the analytical-based approach of their higher-ups. But the Browns are said to be searching for a little more scouting muscle. The expectation is for Cleveland to hire a top scout, likely right below GM Sashi Brown, to serve as the main football voice and be charged with finding the kind of players Jackson covets.

Let’s try and unpack this a little bit.

I would be shocked if Hue Jackson didn’t want a little bit more control considering the rookie-heavy roster that Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta put together. I would also be shocked if Hue Jackson didn’t look around at the free agency decisions that Sashi Brown and company made regarding Mitchell Schwartz, Tashaun Gipson, Travis Benjamin, and others and consider that maybe he could do better advocating for himself. The nature of the NFL is having an ego and thinking you can do better. I’m not saying Hue Jackson will commit a power-play suicide mission like we’ve seen in Cleveland before where there has to be a winner and a loser, but I think some of these feelings that are leaking out via reports make a lot of sense. It’s only human when you put up a one or two-win season and that’s the ultimate judge of your coaching ability.

It’s not up to Jimmy Haslam to deal with this off-season and the forthcoming changes in the most rational way possible. There will probably be some changes, as I said, because these are large organizations and people come and go all the time. However, if Jimmy Haslam wants to be seen as a serious leader at any point in his tenure as owner of the Browns, he’ll have to avoid anything resembling a major change in this upcoming off-season. The Browns can hire another heavy hitter in scouting or personnel, but to change the flow chart would look bad. Whether you like Sashi Brown or not, he was never meant to be the final say on a player because he was the most knowledgable traditional scout. Sashi Brown was intended to be the adult in the room who could weigh all the various information, including the lobbying from traditional football guys and coaches.

Jimmy Haslam said it when Sashi Brown was promoted.

“Sashi, I believe is the right person to do this for the Cleveland Browns,” Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said at a Sunday news conference. “He’s been in the NFL for 10 plus years, has been involved in the cap, has been heavily involved in our football administration and operations for the last year or two. He’s very smart, very organized, good at systems and processes and an outstanding team player. He’s also very strategic, so we will use those skills and working for him will be a GM whose primary job will be talent acquisition.”

That was presumed to be Andrew Berry who was hired away from Indianapolis. With the way the Browns structured their front office, he was hired and not given the title of General Manager, presumably because the roster control lies with Sashi Brown. Presuming that will remain the case for at least another year, it will be nearly impossible for the Browns to find a general manager candidate to insert below Sashi Brown and above Andrew Berry because candidates of that experience and qualification are likely looking for GM jobs that have roster control.

So, we’ll obviously see what happens, but I hope it’s not much at all. I can’t co-sign with the Cleveland Browns front office and what they’ve done in their first season, but it’s too early. The Browns need more time to see if this plan can improve from year one to year two. Yes, this draft has humongous implications, but there’s no savior on the horizon that can come in and take over and do better than the people who are here. That’s not because the Browns have the best front office in the league, but simply a logical conclusion regarding planning and execution in a sports business organization. The Browns biggest problems since 1999 have been too many wholesale changes and a serious savior complex. With Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta and Hue Jackson, the Browns tried to put in a system designed for continuous improvement, but it remains to be seen if Jimmy Haslam will be patient enough to find out.

  • whosevelt


  • Geez

    Completely agree. They’ll make changes but none that change the basic course.

  • bossman09

    The problem is that we need a more better bigger scout than the scouts we have. Because our scouts are not football people and only a real football person can truly appreciate scouts.

    Of course, the people preaching this type of stuff are not actually football people, they are reporters.

  • Natedawg86

    Mike Holmgren?

  • RGB

    Hue just needs to lock the draft room door.

  • Harv

    Think you may be leaving something out of your presumed issues on Hue’s mind. The FAs who walked and the rookie-heavy roster would be easier to take if Sashi had parlayed the overall #2 into at least one player who has made an immediate and significant impact. Fourteen picks and not won able to significantly impact a game. If the GM empties the cupboard and promises the chef a delivery of gourmet ingredients, chef knows that the customers are going to blame the chef first.

    This is Hue’s second and possibly last shot. He needs a guy who already knows how to thump a cantaloupe. Not the guy from payroll who thinks it would be pretty awesome to learn.

  • Hopwin

    The problem is that we are using the same scouts that Tom Heckert hired 6 years ago.

  • whosevelt

    This is why Hue should never have taken the job. 2016 was inevitable and this upcoming 2017 “one last shot” is inevitable. The odds he would go from highly coveted assistant to untouchable Browns-infected pariah were high to begin with and we are seeing why.

  • maxfnmloans

    It could be worse. We could have Jed York.

    I wonder if they could get an Accorsi type in an emeritus role who doesnt need the ego stroke od the “roster authority” Pay him an ungodly sum of money to work 5 months a year and let others take credit while he serves as a player personnel consilegere of sorts. Kind of what they wanted Ron Wolf to do if Butch wouldve listened.

    It would require some humble pie for Sashi and Berry privately, but publicly they could have all the titles and credit. The Emeritus GM could

  • Harv

    sounds great, except not sure there’s such a thing as an “analytics emeritus.” It could work if Sashi really believes what he keeps saying: that analytics is only one tool among many. I’m guessing it weighs the heaviest by far, because otherwise his hidden wizard wouldn’t be a leader in baseball analytics, and the “personnel evaluation expert” wouldn’t be a 20-something with his first major responsibility in a FO. I long for the day when our “smartest guy in the room” is, for once, the smartest guy in the room.

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  • Hopwin
  • Hopwin
  • Hopwin
  • woofersus

    Carmen Policy!

  • woofersus

    This perspective = Jimmy Haslam’s first 3 years of ownership. Judge success and failure on short term returns, assume there is a structural problem causing it, and blow it up to find that personnel wizard who will always make good picks. All it gets you is more losses and scapegoats.

  • woofersus

    “Yes, this draft has humongous implications, but there’s no savior on the horizon that can come in and take over and do better than the people who are here. That’s not because the Browns have the best front office in the league, but simply a logical conclusion regarding planning and execution in a sports business organization. The Browns biggest problems since 1999 have been too many wholesale changes and a serious savior complex.”

    So much this. If there’s a scout who makes bad calls much of the time, fire that scout. If there is a scout on the market who seems smart, hire that scout. But we’ve had enough saviors here. There is no substitute for consistency and learning from mistakes and growing a process.

  • Harv

    so, if the problem is his impetuousness and not the incompetents below him, which should he have kept? Maybe here’s a clue: the ones that other orgs have scooped up to do the jobs Haslam thought they could not. Let’s see … gimme a minute …

  • woofersus

    You can find the NFL wasteland littered with guys who were incredibly successful in one organization before failing horribly in another. I’m not saying nobody is incompetent, mind you. Farmer needed to go. But Haslam shouldn’t have blown it up in the first place. A lot of those guys haven’t taken a shot at the same job since, because the Browns ruin people. Heckert shouldn’t have been fired, and he’s done alright in Denver it would seem. I don’t even know what George Kokinis did here, but he went back to assisting Ozzie Newsome and that organization won another Super Bowl 3 years later. Chud was an assistant and then associate head coach during some fairly successful seasons in Indy. (not this year, but he’s offensive coordinator now, and their offense is top 10) I don’t know why Norv Turner left Minnesota, but their offense looked pretty good prior.

    Sometimes you need to change things because obvious incompetence is obvious. (Shurmer, Farmer) But constant change prevents us from ever seeing if anybody is competent or not, including the players we draft.

  • Harv

    so we agree on Heckert and on Chud, too, who I thought might have been a competent head coach. We also agree on Haslam’s destructive impetuousness, but I see it in a different form: I see a guy who listens too quickly to the who last guy who whispers in his ear. He axed Chud when Banner painted him as an incompetent. He listened to Sashi and decided he could veer way out of his professional lane. Which is another form of Lerner’s failure: throwing the keys with little oversight at unqualified people. Where we disagree, Woof, is besides those two mentioned above there’s not another one who “got away”; the NFL meritocracy would have gobbled up a talented guy who needed another chance, much like happened to Belichik and Marty.

  • woofersus

    I guess I just don’t believe in the meritocracy. I think mediocre to bad coaches and executives get multiple chances while talented people languish in low level positions. Why? Because once you’ve got a name you get the benefit of the doubt and the NFL (and other sports sometimes too) is so impatient that a bunch of the same names trade places every year. It’s nearly as hard to evaluate coaching and front office talent as player talent, because there are so many variables in organizational success. Every time an organization blows things up, they jettison both the talented and the incompetent, and they bring back more of the same in different assorted positions because it’s hard to tell which is which if you don’t have any continuity.

    So I don’t know if Sashi Brown is qualified for his job, or if Andrew Berry is a good evaluator of talent. But I also don’t believe we’re going to just go get a guy who has been around and has a name we recognize (who isn’t already at the top of a successful organization) who is going have a significantly higher degree of certainty than somebody who is younger and whose name we don’t recognize. You have to evaluate them individually on the actual work they do and the actual decisions they make, which is tough to see from the outside sometimes. Was there one who “got away?” Who knows? We only focus on GM, HC, and Coordinators. A lot of people have come and gone, and we don’t know who voted which way on what decisions or picks. Is there a guy we all think walks on water who is 100% a product of talented subordinates? Don’t know that either. I’d rather have a structured process than more gambling.

  • BenRM

    “But I also don’t believe we’re going to just go get a guy who has been
    around and has a name we recognize…who is going have a significantly higher degree
    of certainty than somebody who is younger and whose name we don’t

    This. Those guys aren’t coming here. The cupboard is bare, and what remains is the cupboard is spoiled. There needs to be a few years of cleaning up and showing signs of being a real NFL team.

  • RGB

    Nobody is going to come here who thinks their experience, eye, and wisdom are going to take a back seat to Sashi’s calculator.

  • BenRM

    No one with experience, eye, or wisdom is going to come here anyway because this organization is garbage. They especially aren’t going to come here when they see that Haslam has fired 4 GMs in as many years.

  • RGB

    You’d have fired Holmgren, Lombanner, and Farmer, also.
    Just sayin.

  • BenRM

    Holmgren and Farmer for sure. I would have liked to see what happened if Lombardi was never hired.

  • RGB

    That was an egregious mistake, but I read somewhere that the NFL “encouraged” Jimmuh to hire him.
    But, if we take him at his word, we’re stuck with the Sashimetric Computalator for the foreseeable future.
    Yeay stability.

  • BenRM

    We are stuck. But at least it’s not farmer!