Less than 11 hours after they fired Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown, the Cleveland Browns had already found their (new) guy. Thursday night, the team announced that they have hired former Kansas City Chiefs general manager John Dorsey to fill the same role with the Browns. He signed a four-year deal to come to Cleveland.
One of the biggest names on the market when it comes to experienced candidates, Dorsey is liked and respected throughout the league and will bring credibility to a winless team that has won just one of its last 28 games.
First and foremost, is Dorsey excited for the new gig and the chance to possibly turn around the Browns?
To say he is excited would probably be an understatement. Here’s Dorsey’s statement following the announcement that he is the new general manager of the Browns.
“Football is what I know, it is what I love, it is what I have worked my whole career at and I thrive on every element that goes into building a winning football team,” Dorsey said of his past experiences. “I have spent a majority of my football life with two franchises that also have storied history and I think I have a feel for the mentality of the fans in Cleveland and what it would mean to recreate the success this franchise once had. I also have quickly realized how passionate Jimmy and Dee are about bringing a winning team to the city and would have not taken the job if I didn’t think the right ownership was in place. I am eager to work with Hue, his staff, and our personnel department and help bring us the success these fans so deserve.”
I know he’s the general manager, but will he have final say in terms of the roster?
As an experienced football executive, Dorsey will have final say over the roster and salary cap. Given the amount of draft picks (13) and cap space that the Browns will have this offseason, he will have the opportunity to prove just how good of a decision maker he is right off the bat.
Dorsey and head coach Hue Jackson will work hand-in-hand, but the general manager will have final say.
Does he have a lot of experience in the NFL?
Absolutely. The 57-year-old has been in and around the league ever since he was a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers from 1984-1988. Following his retirement, Dorsey decided to remain with the Packers, taking a job as a college scout in May, 1991. He was then promoted to Director of College Scouting in February, 1997.
After Mike Holmgren decided to go to the Seattle Seahawks, Dorsey followed him to Seattle, taking the role of the team’s Director of Player Personal in January, 1999 before resigning from the position in 2000.
Following his resignation, Dorsey returned to Green Bay, where he was once again the Director of College Scouting, like he was previously before deciding to head to Seattle. While winning a Super Bowl ring, he was then named Director of Football Operations in 2012.
He held that position for less than a year, when he was named the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs, where he was reunited with head coach Andy Reid. Dorsey spent four years with in Kansas City before the Chiefs fired him on June 22, 2017. He has been out of the NFL the last six months since.
Jimmy and Dee Haslam recognize the fact that Dorsey has been in the NFL for 26 years, which is one of his greatest attributes.
“We are thrilled to have John Dorsey lead our football operations,” said Dee and Jimmy Haslam. “John has been immersed in the NFL for 26 years, won two Super Bowls, built sustainable winning football teams and is highly respected for his football acumen. We know we have a critical and very positive opportunity ahead of us to profoundly impact the foundation of this football team. Bringing in someone of John Dorsey’s caliber, his track record of success and his experience, significantly strengthens our opportunities to build a winning football team and that has been, and continues to be, what we want for our fans.”
Why was he let go in Kansas City this past June?
In a surprising decision, Dorsey’s contract was not renewed by the Chiefs, a decision that sent plenty of shock waves throughout the NFL. But why was he let go, you ask? According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, it was mainly about the reputation he built of being impulsive and disorganized.
Given the power each then wielded, the stock criticism of Dorsey—that while he’s incredibly respected as an evaluator, he’s more scout than manager—was validated with a level of disorganization that was noticeable before the hyper-organized Ballard departed, and obvious after he left for Indy.
As one source explained it, “It wasn’t dysfunction so much as it was decisions were being made that seemed to come out of nowhere. So that existed, but the people here weren’t aware that ownership was aware of it. … You look back now, how it worked out, and ownership was more aware that it didn’t need to be run that way.”
There were three moves in particular over the last 18 months that left plenty of people in Kansas City questioning Dorsey’s decision making:
The selection of Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. That move stunned scouts and coaches, based on the evaluation and meetings leading up to the draft. Hogan didn’t wind up making the team four months later, and started last season on the Browns’ practice squad.
• The four-year, $48 million extension with left tackle Eric Fisher in August 2016. At the time of signing, Fisher had failed to entrench himself at the left tackle spot he was drafted to play. In fact, Fisher lost the job to Donald Stephenson during the 2015 season, and Fisher was flipped to the right side. The Chiefs still did the big contract, despite having a year left on Fisher’s rookie deal, and an option year after that.
• The five-year, $41.25 million deal for guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif in February. This deal came, like Fisher’s, in Duvernay-Tardif’s first offseason eligible for a second contract. Meanwhile, the Justin Houston and Eric Berry contract talks simmered—cap guru Trip MacCracken was let go last month—and the team has spent the past couple years perilously close to the salary cap.
According to The Kansas City Star’s Terez Paylor, behind the scenes, the Chiefs’ front office did not always run as smoothly as it may have looked from an outsider’s perspective. The internal communication and management style of Dorsey were most alarming at times.
“John does stuff and doesn’t tell people why,” and it “could wear on people.”
Was there unrest between Dorsey and the rest of the front office and coaching staff in Kansas City?
At times, yes. While the Chiefs were continuing to have success, the general manager seemed to be making decisions on his own rather than having it be collaborative. He was re-signing some of his own draft picks, such as Fisher and Duvernay-Tardif, rather than focusing on the true talent that needed to be secured. Also, the way the release of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin happened this past offseason drew plenty of questions as well. The issues were more in-house than anything, unlike the Browns regime that included Brown.
Then again, it wasn’t always just Dorsey making the decisions. The Chiefs trading up to draft quarterback Patrick Mahomes was a collaborative decision.
With that said, did he have success during his time in Kansas City?
Yes. He and Reid, who both served on the Packers staff together from 1992-1997, had plenty of success both on the field and in the draft. In terms of record, which matters the most, the Chiefs compiled a 43-21 record1 and made the playoffs three times during the four years that Dorsey was their general manager.
What are his best attributes that he will bring to the Browns?
Scouting and evaluating talent. Dorsey not only has plenty of experience with each, but he has had plenty of success as well. Whether it be in Green Bay or Kansas City, the new general manager is credited with being the main reason why the Packers and Chiefs drafted some of the talent that they did, including some future Hall of Famers. He struggled at times managing the salary cap, but he was tremendous in talent evaluation and player acquisition and it showed.
Out of the NFL for the past few months, has Dorsey been preparing for another job in the league, like the one he just took with Cleveland?
Yes. With the Browns accumulating so many picks in the 2017 draft2, the next few months leading up to April are very important and will decide the fate of the team for the foreseeable future.
He talked about what he has been doing during his time off, including doing his homework on the 2018 draft class, during a podcast with ESPN’s Adam Schefter in November.
Being able to find talent in the draft is important. Who are some of the top players Dorsey drafted throughout his time in the NFL?
With plenty of experience as a scout, he has had his fair share of being apart of plenty of drafts. Dorsey has made the most of them, too.
He worked closely with general managers Mike Sherman and Ted Thompson as the Director of College Scouting with the Packers for almost 12 years. Dorsey is credited with helping draft quarterback Aaron Rodgers (first round, 2005), linebacker A.J. Hawk (first round, 2006), wide receiver Greg Jennings (second round, 2006), linebacker Clay Matthews (first round, 2009), and defensive tackle B.J. Raji (first round, 2009), all of which were Pro Bowlers. Although he wasn’t the general manager, many seem to believe that Dorsey had a major role in drafting those three players listed above.
In Kansas City, he is credited for drafting talents such as tight end Travis Kelce (third round, 2013), cornerback Marcus Peters (first round, 2015), and wide receiver Tyreek Hill (fifth round, 2016). Although they are just rookies, he should also be credited with drafting quarterback Patrick Mahomes (first round), who will be the successor to Alex Smith, and running back Kareem Hunt (third round) last April.
Does Dorsey understand the importance of the quarterback position?
Absolutely. While Alex Smith may not be among the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Dorsey and the Chiefs acquired Smith from the San Francisco 49ers in 2013 in exchange for a 2013 second-round pick and 2014 conditional pick.
Kansas City also traded up this past April to select highly-regarded quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who will likely take over for Smith sooner rather than later.
Has he ever won any awards for his accomplishments throughout his career?
Following his first season as the Chiefs’ general manager, Dorsey was named the 2013 Executive of the Year by Pro Football Writers of America. Kansas City was 2-14 in 2012 and went 11-5 in his first year leading the charge.
Some may question why Dorsey is still jobless 14 weeks into the NFL season, but considering his experience and the things he has done in his career in the front office, Dorsey seems like a great hire for the Browns. Now, he must prove it, and it all starts with the upcoming offseason.