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.