Browns, WWW

The Good ol’ network and the Green Bay-Cleveland Swap: While We’re Waiting

Joshua Gunter,

The network of coaches and executives in the NFL is a topic that will never cease to amaze me. Craig has talked about it often, but the way coaches and executives perpetually find jobs based on who they worked with in the past is something around which I will never be able to wrap my hands.

It’s a Good ol’ Boy network of epic proportions. There are coaching trees and executive teams, all of whom feel they can be the next (or improved) version of those who came before them. They all have their guys. They all draft their guys. And when a new regime takes over, they inherit their guys while looking to find places for their guys. It’s a vortex of glad-handing bullshit that fails more often than it works, yet every year, teams partake in the same activities hoping to unearth the next great executive or coach.

In Cleveland, Sashi Brown is out. John Dorsey is in. Dorsey’s first hire? A man by the name of Alonzo Highsmith who comes to Cleveland in high regard (read: “a football guy”) from the Green Bay Packers. Dorsey is coming from Kansas City, but he cut his teeth as the director of college scouting for…you guessed it—the Green Bay Packers. Highsmith, as you may have read, has a claim to fame for his time in Green Bay as he was personally linked to the team drafting Donald Driver in 1999. Eleven years later, he was also linked to Sam Shields, who the Packers signed in 2010.

Now, with the Packers having promoted Brian Gutekunst to GM, fellow executive Eliot Wolf (son of longtime GM Ron Wolf) is now interviewing with the Browns as well, with the 35-year-old potentially joining Dorsey and Highsmith to form a Voltron of executives who were passed over, potentially taking their collective talents to Cleveland.

Where does this all leave Paul DePodesta and Andrew Berry? Who knows? But what is known is that Berry, just two years ago, was brought in as the next great football mind, a future general manager. What is also known is Berry was never a part of that group of up-and-coming executives in Green Bay who are suddenly parachuting into Berea with their eyes on a boat load of draft capital.

But if Wolf doesn’t come to Cleveland, it will be because he’s also on the radar of the Oakland Raiders. Why? Well, their GM, Reggie McKenzie, spent eight years in…you guessed it—Green Bay.

On the flip side of the coin is Mike Pettine. While names like Pat Shurmer (who has made Case Keenum a playoff quarterback) and Dowell Loggains (reuniting with Adam Gase) start to bubble up in the world of potential coaching moves, it’s Pettine who is getting the crack on the defensive side of the ball, being hired by…you guessed it—the Green Bay Packers. The former coach of the Cleveland Browns (who had the team in the playoff hunt during the middle of the 2014 season) is going to once again be tasked with improving what was one of the league’s worst defenses a season ago.

Will he fill out his staff with friends? When he came to Cleveland, his DC was his linebackers coach in Buffalo, Jim O’Neil. O’Neil is a free agent after being canned by the San Francsico 49ers after the 2016 season. Kyle Shanahan wasn’t playing any games. It also helped that he had friends from his days in Houston by the name of Jeff Zgonina, tasked with coaching the defensive line, and Robert Saleh who, at the time was assistant linebackers coach.

Will any of this work? Will the Browns finally get things right? Will Pettine turn things around? Will the Niners defense be any better? Once again: who knows? But what we do know is that if you want to be promoted in the NFL, you likely need a friend who was promoted ahead of you who can convince their new owner to also roll the dice on you.

This Week in #ActualSportswriting:

This Week in #ActualNonsportswriting:

This Week in Bleacher Report:

This one was fun to write. I’ve been doing a ton of personal development reading as of late, and one of the quotes that has stuck with me the most comes from Terry Crews (yes—this Terry Crews). I’m paraphrasing, but one thing he said is “creativity renders the competition obsolete.” His point: There are always uncontrollable forces that help steer success, but creativity is a controllable differentiator. Hard work is great and all, but in a space where everyone is working hard—they wouldn’t be there if they weren’t—creativity is the variable. Thus, when I’m assigned a story on Isaiah Thomas, on deadline, the very day the rest of the NBA world is covering his return, I had to take a different path if I was going to produce anything that added value. In turn, I didn’t make the story about his return at all—the focus, instead, was what led to the return. It didn’t reinvent the wheel by any means, but it was the only story of its type. If you didn’t get a chance to read it last week, please do this week. I hope you enjoy it—almost as much as you enjoy your Wednesday.


  1. Jaylen Brown is very, very impressive. []
  2. This profile is terrific. []
  3. “Educational disparities and economic malaise and lack of opportunity are making people like those in the Bootheel sick. And maybe even killing them.” []
  4. This one hits home. I don’t think we’re prepared for what’s to come here. []

  • tigersbrowns2

    any front-office or coaching personnel the Browns can get from the Packers , Steelers or Patriots organization can only help the Browns … and some might say “but , Romeo Crennel” , “but , Mike Holmgren” … that’s okay , bring ’em in.

    and if Wolf decides to join Dorsey & Highsmith here , they are either gonna really have things covered , or Berry is gone … not sure about DePo , because he is the analytics guy.

  • BenRM

    I was talking to a friend at work about all of this yesterday. But for A-A-ron, Green Bay is not a good team.

    They are better than the Browns, surely. But it’s not like the Browns are swapping in the entire front office of the Patriots or something.

    As a multiple-time burned Browns fan, I am suspect.

  • I am as well. Phil Savage was supposed to bring all the secrets from Baltimore. Heckert from Philly. Etc.

  • tigersbrowns2

    Cleveland Cheesehounds ?

  • tigersbrowns2

    Cleveland Brackers ?


    Pettine runs a decent defense and should bring the Packs unit up to snuff. He got in trouble here trying to involve himself in the offense and well….the Farmer/Haslam monster. Dudes earned another crack as a coordinator.

    I’m REALLY not into taking in all these former Packers execs though. They (as a group) got exposed when Aaron went down but who knows how each individual rated different guys outside bits of rumor. It’s nice to have experienced hands at the helm but are those hands capable?

  • RGB
  • tigersbrowns2

    hi SCOTT … but Dorsey learned under Ron Wolf … how many GM’s are in the HOF & went 92-52 ?? I like the pedigree.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi BEN … don’t blame ya , but this isn’t the same Packers organization that it was when Ron Wolf was running things. after 1-31 , we have nothing to lose.

  • If they’ve done the job before and are available, then they likely failed before. If they are currently doing the job and are available, then they likely aren’t doing it well. So the hope is that they learn from their mistakes, or we are unlikely to see a positive outcome just because they have changed addresses. The alternative is giving unknowns a try. Which is the better approach?

  • tigersbrowns2

    … and to be fair to your point , as successful as Dorsey was in KC , he still got fired … so , something may not be jiving.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi NOPER … bring ’em on in & let’s see what they can do.

  • MartyDaVille

    I don’t find anything at all unusual about the good ol’ boy network. You want to work with people you know and trust. Nothing wrong with that. I’ve been hired on that basis, and I’ve hired people on that basis, and it’s generally worked out okay.

    This is certainly not to say that you hire no one other than friends, because that wouldn’t be smart. But having a few people around with whom you have a good history is fine.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi B-BO … i would say Browns fans will be much more skeptical of unknowns … doesn’t mean that unknowns can’t come in & do a great job , but after years of failing & losing , we gotta go with some guys that have been there before.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi MARTY … good post.

  • And as long as those involved can keep business and personal separate when necessary, that is fine. The problem often arises when one of the ol’ boys is no longer pulling their own weight but loyalty wins out over making a needed change.



  • We absolutely do not HAVE to go with guys that have been there before, as that approach has failed us every single time we have relied on it since 1999. But given that the most recent failure involved trying something different with guys who largely hadn’t been there before, this is the natural and expected reaction. If/when this round fails spectacularly, the next one might involve some fresh names.

  • tigersbrowns2

    especially with the BIGGEST off-season coming up in Browns history (have we said that before ?) , I prefer experience.


    From what I understand about what’s going on in GB there’s a fair amount of office politics playing out. It is a messy situation that only adds to the confusion on our end.

  • We have said that before. Repeatedly. It’s no more true now than it was each of those times, and each of those times failed miserably. I will expect no different until I see different, whether this new group is experienced or not. I prefer competence, and we won’t know if we have that until after the fact. Damn track records, damn pedigrees.

  • Whole lot less room for office politics and confusion if the people in control are doing their jobs well. Being ineffective opens the door for all that cloak-and-dagger nonsense.

  • BenRM

    No offense, but Ron Wolf isn’t either of these guys.

  • CBiscuit

    You called the Wolf?! Well, why didn’t you say so? I’m going to go back in there, chill them ****s out and wait for the cavalry, which should be coming directly.


    I know it was going around for a while McCarthy was in serious danger (well deserved) but I guess he politicked his way out.


    Relevant as this just popped up on my twitter feed.

    Good I guess? Indy did just cast off a ton of incompetents in recent years

  • tigersbrowns2

    i understand … but Dorsey learned from the master. I’ll take that right now.

  • BenRM

    Here’s hoping they aren’t just another in a long line of Scott’s aforementioned.

  • tigersbrowns2

    I nominate Matt Miller as President of #TeamSunnyside …. Indianapolis ???

  • BenRM

    Ain’t it the truth.

  • BenRM

    At least it’s not an endorsement from Matt Millen.


    Grigson (their former GM) let Luck get crushed by horrid offensive line play and they hired Dorsey’s protege Ballard to take over. We hired Grigson as a scout under Sashi/Berry. Pagano getting run out should help as well.

  • tigersbrowns2

    it’s funny , all the coaches & FO folks that have been here must’ve had the competence sucked right out of them as soon as they get here … then when they leave , they get it back … it’s like a bad dream , or a curse …

  • tigersbrowns2

    got it … but you guys know me , I’m going to support whoever is in there … how many folks on this board have supported Ray Farmer or Sashi ? … me , myself & I.

  • pnikhilrao

    Wasn’t Jimmy Haslam “from the Steelers organization”?

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi PNIK … yes , he was. you would think he would’ve learned something there … I’m hoping he’s starting to “get it” now.

  • JM85

    I’d much rather have the Green Bay gang who has proven success over the nerds that made history in all the wrong ways.

  • 7ryder

    The Good ol’ Network is not unique to sports, it happens all of the time with organizations – both public and private.

    Case in point, the CEO of the company where I used to work stepped down after many years in the position in 2011 and was replaced by a guy from Pepsi. He then brought in all of his own people from his Pepsi days and put them in key leadership positions even though they knew nothing about the businesses they were now responsible for (contract food service & facilities services). Then those guys brought in all of their own Pepsi people because, suddenly, none of us from the prior regime knew how to run our business (the company was very profitable BTW).

    So this goes on all of the time and, frankly, it isn’t a bad thing provided there are folks brought in who have diverse backgrounds and strengths and who aren’t just “yes” men or women.

    I think the difference with the Good ol’ Network in sports versus other businesses is that (1) it is much more public, so we know who is being hired and where they come from and (2) this network is much more forgiving of failures/retreads than in the business world.

    Where else, but the NFL for example, will you see sub .500 head coaches get fired just to get hired by one of the other 31 teams as their HC because they think he is their savior?

    Same goes for HCs that get fired, but then get hired by one of their previous co-workers on another team in a lesser role (Pettine for example) – is this retread really better than promoting some young talent that might bring with them a new way of thinking? My experience tells me not necessarily, but it is easier to put someone in with this experience because the HC doesn’t have to spend as much time mentoring/coaching/developing the experienced guy and the HC doesn’t have to deal with a “new way of thinking”.

    It’s true that people may not be cut out to lead as a HC and are better in a coordinator role or similar, but my gut tells me that with so much of this going on in the NFL, it just breeds mediocrity which, by the NFL’s own goal of parity, is exactly they’re shooting for and will get.

  • The_Matt_of_Akron

    At this point, if you could successfully choose the coach that would get the Browns to mediocrity, the town would build you a statue.

  • scripty

    I work in banking strategies. People are hired consistently from within the industry by each other, at new banks, getting promotions, etc. It’s never referred to as a good ol’ boys network although the same thing happens in the NFL. Unlike players, administration is fueled by job knowledge, vision and personal skills. These rarely regress, so it’s not unreasonable for same names to bound about. It’d be odd for them not too, IMO.

  • scripty

    If Andrew Berry is some great mind, then he will get promoted elsewhere, if he’s not – he won’t. Occam’s razor.

  • scripty

    From the Browns to the Bleu Cheeses

  • scripty

    Thompson was allergic to low level free agents and too devoted to relying on his own player development. The best teams win in all phases of player acquisition – draft, UDFA, trades, free agency, etc. I feel GB did do a decent job in drafting and development but got tunnel vision and paid the price.

    Also, GB fell into a trap other teams (not NE) do, they struggle with the right retention once they have a tier 1 QB on max contract. I felt SEA did the great job of this but they (pooped the bed on the goalline) didn’t cash in their 2nd chances and then had injuries. They paid for the superstars and said goodbye to 2nd class (quality) players.

  • scripty

    Ryan Grigson was probably a worse GM than Sashi Brown. He was Millen bad.

  • scripty

    Grigson getting canned today was great news.


    oh god yes he was and it’s a great day Grigson is gone. Now if only we can dump Berry (one of Grigsons scouts at Indy), Depodesta, Hue and Jimmy.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi 7 … good post.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi SCRIPTY … good post.

  • Chris

    Not Anymore!!!!