Browns, WWW

The Browns are staying the course: While We’re Waiting

Jimmy Haslam Cleveland Browns
Scott Sargent/WFNY

While Black Monday has already taken a toll on several teams throughout the NFL, it appears the Cleveland Football Browns are on the safe side of the ledger.

As rumors have swirled regarding potential changes throughout much of the last two months, the Browns, despite finishing the season with a 1-15 record, are—you may want to sit down for this one—staying the course into the offseason. The Browns, a name synonymous with failure and upheaval, appear to be ready to head into the 2017 season with not only the same front office as this year, but the same coaching staff as well.

Here’s Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot:

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam really won’t be blowing anything up this year.

Despite the 1-15 season, he’s keeping his analytics-based personnel department intact and said he is overjoyed with Hue Jackson.

“It’s intuitive,” he said. “I’ll just say I feel very strongly we’ve got the right group together and I think they’re working exceptionally well together.”

These quotes from Haslam come on the heals of reports surrounding the coaching staff’s desire to add a football-minded individual to the front office in hopes of providing some traditional scouting to the process already in place with Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta, and Andrew Berry.

Echoing the team’s owner was Hue Jackson following the Browns’ Week 17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Let me say this and I don’t want to answer any more questions about it: Me and Sashi are in lockstep trying to get this football team to be the best it is,” he said. “We’re going to get there. That’s all I can tell you. We’re together. We know what we’re doing. We have work to do. We have to get better at what we’re doing and we all understand that. This is hurtful for the whole organization, not just me… Sashi and Jimmy Haslam and Dee Haslam and Paul DePodesta and Andrew Berry too, we’re all in this together. There’s no divide here. We just need to get better. We’ll do that. I’m going to speak to Mr. Haslam just because that’s what I do. We just need to continue to get better and stick to our plan of working through it and get to where we need to be.”

As we mentioned during last week’s Winners and Losers, Jackson’s tone is much more confident following the bye week where reports stated Haslam not only pledged continuity, but apologized for the state of the team as his persistent hiring and firing and poor draft day decisions had them sitting at 0-10 at the time. If Haslam needs to seek out any sort of validation for what he put in place last offseason, it should be 1) Andrew Berry continues to be held in high regard and could very well be the “football person” for whom many are clamoring, and 2) the San Francisco 49ers, who missed out on Hue Jackson last winter, have already parted ways with Chip Kelly—they‘re staring down the barrel of having four head coaches in four seasons. There are also rumors that the New Orleans Saints are considering a trade of head coach Sean Payton to the Los Angeles Rams, meaning that we’re looking at nearly one-third of the NFL having new coaching staffs next season and the Browns not being one of them.

With the way the Browns have been built—draft capital, cost-controlled players—the key players from the 2015 draft will combined with the 2016 and 2017 drafts to serve as a foundation for sustained success. While you can never have enough in the way of smart individuals in the draft room, the Browns’ 2016 season earned them the top selection (and four in the top 50) in what is the meat of this foundation-building sandwich. Haslam added that he believes the team’s path to success relies on three key levers: Re-signing key players, being “appropriately aggressive” in free agency and drafting exceptionally well.

To each:

  • It could be argued that the Browns blew the “re-signing” key players area of this plan last offseason, letting Mitchell Schwartz go to Kansas City. This offseason, key players would include wide receiver Terrelle Pryor and linebacker Jamie Collins. Jordan Poyer could conceivably make this list as well.
  • “Appropriate aggression” in free agency will be used to complement what the team plans to do in the NFL Draft. The Browns have a ton of cap space and could easily throw measured money at top end of the 20-something free agency list (which includes quarterback Kirk Cousins, cornerback Trumaine Johnson, free safety Eric Berry, and cornerback Prince Amukamara).
  • “Drafting exceptionally well” remains the X-Factor. The Browns are in dire need of a talent upgrade at nearly every position on the starting 22. Landing the No. 1 pick should be considered a hard-earned reward for such a putrid season. Trading down from this spot would bring on an immense amount of negative PR for a team that needs all the positive PR it can get. To this point, altering the approach midway through the three-year foundation period would make little sense, and would subsequently render any sort of attempt to grade the 2015 class as useless. Conversely, missing on this draft would be detrimental to any sort of sustained success, giving Browns fans flashbacks to the Eric Mangini draft of 2011.

If there is any takeaway for the fans looking for some bloodshed, Haslam qualified his run as team owner as “totally unacceptable.”

“We really view ourselves as stewards for our great fans, and we need to be a heck of a lot better stewards than we have been,” Haslam said of a team that is just 19-54 since he took over ownership. “The fans deserve better than what we’ve given them and we’re going to get it right.”

Winning the offseason is rarely something teams look to do, but it could be argued that the Browns have little in the way of a safety net when it comes to executing upon their plan. Brown and DePodesta are slated to join Hue Jackson on the dais on Monday afternoon. They’ll be asked a lot of questions which they’ll choose to not answer, but the tea leaves should start to take shape.

  • CBiscuit

    Interesting that Haslam’s decision to stay with team analytics was a “intuitive” gut decision and not based on any say, numbers, records, stats or other measurables.

    Ps. “…letting Mitchell Schwartz go to Kansas City…” Come on, this has been covered ad nasueum….you and all of us here are better than this!

  • kdog3

    If they “know what they’re doing”, why can’t they tell us how long it will take?

  • Sam Gold

    Very good article. Nice job.

  • woofersus

    The question was in the tone of why this group as opposed to a previous group, and Haslam didn’t want to speak about previous employees negatively. How could he possibly answer any other way? If the plan involved getting worse to get better, how can he say it’s because the team is better? Obviously we can’t possibly know the outcome of these decisions.

  • woofersus

    I would agree that letting Schwartz go (or at least not signing a RT of acceptable quality rather than relying on rookies) was a mistake. (and probably their biggest mistake so far) Let’s hope they learn from that one and fortify the line. Never drafting skill players wasn’t the best path, but neither is ignoring the offensive line. They drafted linemen – good. Now sign at least one with that cap money.

    I think Andrew Berry IS the football guy everybody is clamoring for. They brought him in right away and he’s been there all along. I don’t understand why it’s so difficult for people to get that having guys like Brown and Depodesta in top positions doesn’t mean they pick players with a spreadsheet and that scouts and football people still inform the process greatly. He and some of their other scouting additions didn’t come along until less than a year ago though, so the team hasn’t been together for a whole draft cycle. Both Andrew Berry and Hue Jackson are part of the process. There’s plenty of football knowledge. Leave it be!

    They should absolutely trade down if the offer is right. What did drafting for PR get them a couple of years ago? If they aren’t taking a QB #1 and there are multiple players with close grades (and obviously the list of needs is long, so we have flexibility on what to take) then why not get more picks? I wouldn’t want them to trade down past the list of “elites” but there may be 6-8 of those for a team with as many needs as us.

  • whosevelt

    Please don’t be pushing the Browns Reddit story about how they were going to resign Schwartz and pulled his offer after he listened to other teams. In the first place, it is unverified and disputed. Additionally, the Browns’ job is to get and keep good players, not to have excuses for the good ones who got away. Finally, if the story is true, it shows how stupid they are, letting one of their very few excellent players leave over an arbitrarily determined “matter of principle”.

  • Philip Cordes

    Great article and it’s about time we stay the course. One thing all great teams have in common is continuity. We need that more than anything. I do think see us needing a quarterback unless there is a can’t miss. We do need and offensive line and defense. I look at it this way. Put our relievers and backs behind the Cowboys line with RG3 or Kessler and they win games. Our defense is in desperate need though

  • Harv

    “Andrew Berry continues to be held in high regard and could very well be the “football person” for whom many are clamoring.” By whom, and with what justification? Like Ray Farmer, this is his first position of real authority. Did he assess Corey Coleman as the best receiver in the draft, a #1 level talent who would blow past defenders and take short passes to the house? So far looks closer to Massaquoi, or maybe Kevin Johnson, a guy undersized for the maulers in this division. Did Berry approve of passing on Bosa and others to get Coleman? Is he the architect of their trumpeted policy favoring college statistical production over physical abilities that might better translate up here?

    This is what the HBT told us: trading down and accumulating more picks would increase their chances of hitting on cornerstone players. We don’t yet know for sure but anyone who today confidently counts 3 from the enormous ’16 batch is an apologist or can’t yet face the idea that a structure devoid of an experienced, accomplished personnel guy picking players is unnecessarily risky and unlikely to work. Sashi decided to hire a 28 year old, either as his expert or his assistant as he teaches himself. Maybe Berry will get better. Maybe Sashi will. But their plan was not the Banner plan of simply trading away picks for next draft, it was to start brilliantly grabbing the undervalued guys now and getting more for later. Ogbah looks like he was drafted in about the right spot, but Coleman, Nassib, Shon Coleman, Kessler, Schobert, Louis … Quite the inauspicious start or an expert.

  • woofersus

    Which established “football guy” that has passed through the doors over the past 17 years has gotten it done? They have a scouting department just like they did before and a head coach who undoubtedly has some input, so the only real difference here is the lack of a figurehead with a name we recognize to make us feel better. I don’t want to recycle a has-been who had a brief run of success and then got exposed as just as much of a “guess & pray” guy as everybody else. There are plenty of football guys involved.

    It’s a bit tough to gauge draft 1 at this point, but a ton of what they did shortchanged draft 1 in the name of bolstering future drafts. Not to mention they haven’t even all been together for a full draft cycle yet. Andrew Berry was hired 90 days before the draft, so existing scouts did most of the assessing. I’m not saying blindly believe, I’m just saying stick to a plan for more than 5 minutes.

  • Harv

    wait, what? Policy hired a newbie player, Dwight Clark. Garcia was brand new to the NFL. Savage had never run a draft and was average to lousy. Mangini had zero personnel experience and was historically bad. I thought the guy who had some experience (although he had never been in charge of a draft before), Heckert, was mediocre, the best we’ve had here. Banner? A cap guy. So who are we talking about?

  • woofersus

    Savage was hailed as a talent guru by everybody and their brother. Mangini’s whole background was scouting before he became a coach. Holmgren was brought in to be a football guy. Policy was the decision maker and he had done it before. Hindsight is always 20/20, but we’ve had tons of guys who are the opposite of what we’re doing now. I agree with you on Heckert, and yes we all knew Lombardi was a hack. Still, I don’t see a ton of evidence that football guys are consistent pickers of talent. And the few with a fantastic track record employ similar volume tactics that our current guys are doing.

  • Harv

    ok, I disagree with about everything here, from the backgrounds as you portray them to “volume tactics” as the characteristic of great drafters. I’ll finish with this: consistency does nothing but evil if the wrong guys are in place. There’s not a guy here since ’99 (maybe other than Heckert) that I thought, in retrospect, needed more time, and that’s not something I’ve heard others say either. The prob has been those in charge having a clue when they put people in place and how the org should be structured. Go have the last word.

  • NankirPhelge

    Chip Kelly is available for the Football Genius Guy position.

    Remember when we were giddy because he had a three-hour dinner with Haslam, and then we were so disappointed when he chose to be Philly’s savior instead? Good times.

  • CBiscuit

    Disagree on a lot of points, but I don’t have the energy to go through the whole factual saga again, which has been debated on these pages many times. However, I’ll say a couple of general points:

    One, as a general and philosophical point, the accusation of “letting someone walk” is stupid. No one is “let” walk. Free men in a free world walk where they want to go, and that is what Mitchell did. And these FA players “walk” freely away from terrible Browns teams and have done so for years. And understandably so.

    Secondly, blaming Sashi and co for Mitchell is stupid for another reason. Whatever bad will had been built up over his years here of turnover and losing wasn’t going to change magically with a brand new GM (who by the way supposedly offered him more money which he rejected). We can lay into the current Browns FO for things—let’s just be intellectually honest about those things we’re laying on them.

  • paulbip

    great discussion in this thread. This team now needs impact players and not 20 bench warmers. Last years draft was a bust especially in the WR draft picks. Let Pryor go. His teammates hate him. Throw big money at Collins and build the D around him. I have no problem with Trubisky or Allen or Garrett as the first pick. I would have no problem with a trade down with Chicago because you would pick up one of those 3. I would love to pick up that WR from W. Mich with the Philly pick but I don’t think this admin. has the balls to confirm that the 4 from this draft were busts.

  • Harv

    I know I was awfully excited about it. Imagine the titanic battle of egos we missed: Kelly versus Banner

  • Hopwin

    Successful teams front offices don’t disband while they are successful?

  • Saggy

    Schwartz was overrated. I’m glad they let him walk, regardless of pulled/not-pulled offers.

    Mitchell Schwartz is so good he led KC to the 19th-ranked pass offense and 15th-rated run offense this season.

  • Saggy

    1-million upticks.

    I have been in the Massaquoi/Coleman camp all year. SO happy to hear someone else thinks the same thing. And I’m not talking about their financial advising skills.

    However, I could get onboard with a trade down to, say, #3 or #4 in this draft for some serious extra picks. They would have to tell their trade partner that they’re staying put unless they absolutely crush the deal – and I’d be ok with that.

  • Philip Cordes

    I think it’s as much one thing as the other. Winning teams lose coaching staff all the time but because the base is solid people coming in adapt to the system. If your constantly turning over your coaching staff and front office there is never a chance to actually build a winning system.

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  • Hopwin

    Are the Bengals successful?

  • BenRM

    RE: Sashi Brown

    I know people (Tony Grossi, MKC, Harv) will scream “FOOTBAWW GAIZ!” from every rooftop. Perhaps I am really wrong here, but I don’t view Sashi’s role as the typical Ozzi Newsome-esqu GM. I think he’s supposed to be more like Chris Traeger from Parks & Rec.

    He is actually a general manager, managing the team, generally. He is in charge of everyone, but let’s them do their thing until a conflict arises. Then he is the final arbitrator.

    The real problem is, and has always been, the Browns scouting. It just hasn’t been good. To my understanding, Berry is in charge of this. If he is not FOOTBAWW GUY enough, then maybe you look to replace him.

    But I don’t think Sashi and DePo are the problems (right now).

    Haslam can’t blow this up. He has to build something, even if it’s bad. If he blows it up again, he will only end up hiring less experienced people because those are the only people who would take this job.

  • Chris

    Speak for yourself… I am NOT better than this!

    Happy New Year 🙂

  • Harv

    Actually, didn’t mean Coleman actually = MoMass, just closer to him than Antonio Brown. Maybe Coleman has raw tools to be productive, but to me his ceiling is a good team’s secondary option, not the main scoring threat. Worse, he doesn’t have the body type to win fights for the frozen wobblers or survive the hits which defenses in our division dole out. So it made no sense that he would be the top player chosen after trading twice out of the overall #2 slot. When your team is short of high quality everywhere you end up with Coleman only because you think he’s someone of virtually equal impact. It looked like there was some regression by season’s end.

  • Harv

    [feel compelled to respond and clarify only when my name invoked]

    – God no, do not think it should be blown up. For the obvious reasons. But letting this crew ride doesn’t free them from criticism in real time.

    – I know Sashi as Only an Affable Conciliator is the popular narrative, but not fully buying it. Why is his football guy so young and inexperienced that he makes Kokinis circa ’09 look like a lifer? Why is Sashi personally scouting Trubisky unless he thinks he has player evaluation chops?

    – DePodesta doesn’t get involved with the Browns unless he’s working some serious levers here. He’s ain’t Jonah Hill no more. His well-known philosophy is that he upends what we thought we knew. To think he had no say in the “emphasize college production” philosophy that ruled the ’16 picks is to admit not having re-read “Moneyball lately.

    – Farmer blamed the old scouts for his first draft and changed them. Sashi was HERE and presumably knows the org through and through – which is how he talked his way into the top spot. Why does Sashi get both a learning curve and a presumption that he arrived breathless last year, with no time to get the lay of the land?

  • BenRM

    ” Why is his football guy so young and inexperienced that he makes Kokinis circa ’09 look like a lifer?”

    – honestly, maybe it’s because no one else will take the job. Be it because they’d be under sashi or because there is no job security in mudville.

    I’m actually not giving sashi a pass – but I don’t think the FOOTBAWW GUY critique a useful criticism, in particular because we haven’t defined who Footbaww Guy is. If it’s not Andrew Berry, how much further are we moving the goal posts?

    I don’t have much else to add. Those are good points.

  • tigersbrowns2

    good day , sir … i trust you had a good Holiday.

    Corey Coleman (5’11” 185 lbs.) Antonio Brown (5’10” 186 lbs.) : Brown doesn’t have “the body type to to win fights” either … he runs good routes , has a great QB throwing to him & an O-line that affords that great QB to get Brown the ball.

    and we all know the state of our receiving corps after last season … this was a need … still too early to judge Coleman , and Andrew Berry , for that matter.

  • whosevelt

    Mitchell Schwartz is so good, without him the Browns allowed 66 sacks (most in the league by 17, and more than double the Chiefs) were forced to play five quarterbacks ALL of whom got injured at least once, and gained nothing from it except a few extra dollars in Jimmy’s pocket.

  • Harv

    TIGER! welcome back. You know my answer: Brown is the exception throughout the division. It’s the precision. Coleman has (so far) shown no inclination toward the precision which would make his speed a weapon. Again, not writing him off but next year will tell. Whether he works at his craft, is coachable, whether his iffy hands are rookie jitters or just iffy hands. I expected him to give us one glimpse: grab a short slant or bubble screen and outrun everybody. Like Josh. You will now blame the QBs, the missed games, the pre-game twinkies he didn’t know better to avoid … I am a little concerned because I expected that to happen by accident once to the “top receiver in the draft,” the guy who “just scores touchdowns.” Say it with me, Tiger: in his rookie year, on a just-as-horrible team, KEVIN JOHNSON LOOKED BETTER.

  • whosevelt

    Free agent players walk for one reason 95% of the time, and that reason is money. Nobody talks about “intangibles” when a player is really good, and no one talks about “relationships” and “satisfaction” when the money is right. Sashi has one job – to get and keep good players. If he needs to sweet talk to compensate for prior mismanagement, by all means let him do it. If he needs to overpay due to prior mismanagement, by all means, let him do it. Excuses are not part of the job description, but unfortunately, that is how Browns management operates – two years of excuses, firing, new regime, two years of excuses, firing, etc.

  • CBiscuit
  • tigersbrowns2

    okay … “in his rookie year , on a just-as-horrible team , KEVIN JOHNSON LOOKED BETTER”.

    i do take a little comfort in the fact that the experts had Doctson & Treadwell ranked really high as well & they flopped worse than Coleman. the only 2 rookie WR’s that had outstanding years were Michael Thomas & Sterling Shepard.

  • Philip Cordes

    I would put then in the semi successful category. To me that is a team that doesn’t know how to tweak it’s coaching staff front office and players. I look at the steelers when they were losing games early in the year fans were saying fire Tomlin but I would almost guarantee that was never a thought. Ben is getting old so they will start grooming a replacement. Or the Packers when Favre was there they changed a coach here and there but essentially the front office stayed the coarse. They brought in a coach that continued to.pay their style of football.
    Here in Cleveland we’ve had no style or even a consistent member of the front office or coaching staff. I think you need 5 good years to start seeing what’s really going on. Just remember we ran Belechick out of town

  • Petefranklin

    Don’t forget the nonexistent QB evaluations this year because no one in their right mind could soundly evaluate a QB behind that garbage on the right of #73.We could had something with Griffin or Kessler, but won’t know for sure because of that garbage blocking for them.

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  • tigersbrowns2

    good post WHO … i totally agree on your take on Andrew Berry.

  • tigersbrowns2

    good post PC … welcome to the board.

  • Philip Cordes

    Thx although I’ve been here off and on for a while I was SDA but forgot all my login info so I used my facebook 😀