As we have throughout the last several years, WFNY will use the last two weeks of December to discuss the most important stories of the last twelve months. Stay with us as we count down the biggest and most discussed topics of 2016. Our “Best of 2016” rolls on as we start to count down the top 10 stories of the year.
On November 7, 2017, Sashi Brown sat before Cleveland media to discuss his failed trade for A.J. McCarron of the Cincinnati Bengals. It was one of the more surreal Cleveland Browns moments of the past 20 years, and as we all know, that’s saying quite a bit.
In a town where Mike Holmgren once publicly lectured about playoff tickets in the midst of winning 14 games over three seasons, the competition is stiff. Sashi Brown facing the media after failing to land an inter-division quarterback trade for a career backup, drafted in the fifth-round, by trading away multiple picks from the second round and down is the new benchmark for surrealism. When half the fan base thanks their favorite deity that the acting head personnel man for their team failed to complete a trade by proving organizational incompetence, you’re lost as a team. The Browns front office was so incompetent in its team-building plans that fans were grateful for administrative incompetence because it saved them from a separate kind of perceived incompetence. This, and other reasons is why Sashi Brown’s firing is one of the most important stories of 2017 in Cleveland sports.
There’s a new movie out called “The Disaster Artist.” This is a film recounting the making of one of the most infamous movies in the history of cinema called “The Room.” “The Room” has become a cult classic because it’s one of the worst movies ever committed to film. It’s so cringe-worthy that it’s been wondered by many viewers if this wasn’t some elaborate piece of performance art a la Andy Kaufman. It’s so bad that these people can’t believe it could be the result of anyone trying to make an independent drama and arriving here without some ulterior motive. That’s the kind of theory we saw thrown around the internet with the Brown trade failure for McCarron. Browns fans wanted to believe so much in “the plan,” that they had to convince themselves rather than being simply incompetent, Sashi was a mad genius who had to fall on a sword and “fail” to complete the trade so that the Browns wouldn’t fail even worse by completing it. Expanded to the team at-large, the Browns couldn’t be as bad as their record with a plan this smart to accumulate assets and build through the draft. It appears many Browns fans aren’t familiar with Occam’s razor.
On November 7, 2017, after the trade debacle, Brown sat on that podium and felt like he was secure in his job. At least that’s what he said, and it was reported later that he knew the Browns were looking to add someone to the front office. He just didn’t think it would be his replacement. One month later on December 7, 2017, Sashi Brown was fired, and the Browns quickly hired John Dorsey a day later.
The problem for the team was having confidence in the guy who specialized in trading down and accumulating promises rather than players.
They’re both wrong and right. Myles Garrett is good, but the team that has been put together is so bad as a whole that it’s impossible to tell. The Browns are at rock bottom, but they are looking up because they have more assets coming this off-season than probably any team has ever had in the history of professional sports. The team should be trending upward because they have pushed off so much opportunity to the future and it’s finally coming the investments are ready to mature this draft when the Browns have nearly ALL THE PICKS. The problem for the team was having confidence in the guy who specialized in trading down and accumulating promises rather than players.
While it’s undeniable that Sashi Brown put some talent on this team, it’s also undeniable that he failed to build a team that can compete in the NFL and win games. There are thousands of moving parts and complexities within the scope of the Cleveland Browns, but if you zoom way out on the Google map, it’s really simple. When you look at the Cleveland Browns from any distance, all you see is the dark, black clouds without any hint of the shades of grey that lie beneath. The Browns are bad. The Browns are historically bad. The Browns have been historically bad for a long time, and this period that was constructed by Sashi Brown is by far, without any shadow of a doubt, the worst.
Channing Frye and Allie Clifton recently had Joe Thomas on the Road Trippin’ podcast. Frye remarked about how the Cavaliers “do pretty well for” themselves, and yet it feels like they’re the third or fourth favorite team in town after the Browns, Buckeyes and maybe the Indians too. I don’t think that’s true, necessarily, except when it comes to the Browns. The Browns continue to be the most valuable institution in the city of Cleveland. We can write 25 stories about the Cavaliers with LeBron James and it won’t get as much traffic, comments or other reaction as a Browns story. That’s a testament to the fans who long for the tradition of professional football in Cleveland.
Sashi Brown was trying to build the best possible football team he could build. He wasn’t lazy or evil. Think of it like a guy reconstructing a house. Sashi Brown was supposed to rebuild this house and went too far in the demo. After realizing he went too far in the demo, he got to work to make up for it, but he didn’t make enough progress. Jimmy Haslam isn’t a great homeowner, but he was only going to watch so many deadlines get missed before he was going to find a new contractor to rebuild the house. John Dorsey might not get the Browns to the Super Bowl, but he’s at least had experience doing the job he was hired to do. The only reason any Browns fans had faith in Sashi Brown to rebuild the Browns is that Jimmy Haslam hired him to do the job. We’ve all heard of the blind leading the blind, but this is the blind leading the willfully blind. That’s an indictment of the owner, not the fans, mind you, but this year’s story is about Sashi Brown; not Jimmy Haslam.
Jimmy was last year. And maybe next year too if the Browns don’t do any better in 2018.