Rumors of Browns organizational unrest lie at Jimmy Haslam’s feet

It’s Sunday morning, so that means it’s time for Jason La Canfora to report the latest round of bad things he’s heard involving the Cleveland Browns. This time, because the Browns are bad and because they’re owned by an owner with a hideous track record, a team conference call meant to allay fears is considered proof of “unrest” by Mr. La Canfora. When asked about whether the Browns were built to win right now, Hue Jackson told the media this week that was a question for Sashi Brown. That comment is apparently what sparked Jimmy Haslam to hold a conference call, as reported by La Canfora.

Haslam held a conference call with his football operations staff in the aftermath of those comments, sources said, and while his remarks intended to instill confidence in them and allay fears, team sources noted that the fact he felt compelled to make such a call so soon in the season, at a time when there is no denying some of the rifts that exist, did not go unnoticed. Given the history of churn in Cleveland, some viewed the situation more as a “kiss of death,” team sources said.

If you’re an optimist and the Browns aren’t a team with a history book of dysfunction longer than Atlas Shrugged, maybe this would be a positive sign for the Browns. “This is a team that wants to get everyone on the same page! At the first sign of unrest, the owner took the bull by the horns, got everyone on the phone and allayed fears!” With Jimmy Haslam’s track record, that story isn’t possible until he makes it possible.

Jason La Canfora might exaggerate, but I don’t think he makes things up.1 I think he draws conclusions liberally, but I also think he’s reporting with knowledge. I’m sure as the Browns sit with zero wins and are coming off a week where they were actually favored for once, there’s plenty of finger-pointing, even if it is hushed. I think that’s only natural for a group of people who are all trying to figure out how to turn this thing around and understand the owner they’re working for. The front office tries its best to put a team that makes sense together and then they hope the coaching staff can translate that into wins, or at least progress. Of course, progress is most easily measured by the statistic of “win,” so it’s a vicious cycle.

At issue is the question Hue Jackson was asked by the media this week. Are these Browns set up to win and achieve right now in 2017? The answer is obviously not “yes” because every move the Browns have made has pointed at future seasons, whether we’re talking about Joe Haden, Demario Davis, or especially Brock Osweiler. Knowing that, understanding that and surviving it with your job under the thumb of Jimmy Haslam are all harrowing thoughts for coaches and executives in Berea, I would imagine.

I don’t know if Hue Jackson can be the long-term coach for the Browns. I don’t know if Sashi Brown can be the long-term executive in charge of making the Browns successful. All I know is that Jimmy Haslam’s track record of firing people and not giving them a chance to learn from their own mistakes or enact a plan that improves incrementally over time is at the root of all this. The ghost of Rob Chudzinski, Joe Banner, Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer are haunting Berea every single week and Jason La Canfora has his EMF meter turned up high to detect any signs of paranormal activity.

Jimmy Haslam can make incremental changes from here on out, but the organization as it exists today probably has to stay for four years so that he can face the candidates the next time he has to do a coaching or executive search. Certainly, this is the likely outcome for an owner that signed on for such a complete and utter teardown and rebuild as what Haslam agreed to sponsor under Sashi Brown and Hue Jackson thus far.

So maybe the conference call this week was actually a good thing for the Browns and a positive sign that Jimmy Haslam is trying to keep his people on the same page. He just can’t be surprised if nobody believes it right this moment. Much like the Browns rebuild, Jimmy Haslam’s track record is going to take some time.

  1. I have to say this every time we write about La Canfora’s reporting because there are some out there on Twitter that think he just fabricates everything out of thin air. []