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The Cleveland Browns Are a Mess, But Heading in the Right Direction

Long have the Cleveland Browns been the butt of many jokes from football fans. Since coming back to the NFL as an expansion team in 1999, the Browns have only mustered two winning seasons (2002, 2007) and have only made the playoffs once (2002). Firings at the coaching level have been a regular occurrence, but even these have increased of late, as in the last two years Cleveland has hired three head coaches (recently firing head coach Rob Chudzinski and hiring Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine) and fired two general managers.

The Cleveland Browns Are a Mess, But Heading in the Right Direction

The latest firings of Mike Lombardi and Joe Banner are no exception. But this time, things look a little different. In a good way.

It’s no secret that Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi were not fan favorites in Cleveland (even after the team traded Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts with very successful results), and Banner’s reputation was very low in Philadelphia with the Eagles as well, where he was involved with botching several drafts in 2010 and 2011 as team president (though he was at a more productive level in his earlier years with the Eagles).

With disastrous searches for coaching candidates in the last two years, it was clear Banner was not the right guy for Cleveland.

As for Mike Lombardi, he was never exactly a well-liked guy in Cleveland either, and as GM was rarely seen in the public eye as often as owner Jimmy Haslam and Banner were. The Browns draft in 2013 wasn’t all smiles, and along with Banner was part of the atrocious interviewing processes in 2013 and 2014.

And according to Browns blog Dawg Pound Nation, Jimmy Haslam wasn’t a fan of Banner and Lombardi in the first place.  It’s also reported in the same article that both were forced upon Haslam by the league, and he said in the Browns press conference that he wanted Mike Pettine the whole time during the search, confirming that Haslam, Banner and Lombardi were never on the same page.

In terms of GM, the Browns hired Ray Farmer (the assistant general manager for the team), who is highly respected among NFL scouts, and certainly made a terrific first impression with his honest, direct approach in his press conference shortly after being hired. The Browns also hired former Kansas City Chiefs Vice President of Player Personnel Bill Kuharich as assistant GM.

This move is perfect because Farmer and Kuharich worked together at Kansas City, so the chemistry is there. In addition, Kuharich was also regarded as an excellent evaluator of talent, being involved in the drafting of players such as Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles.

We also see that with any hire comes inaccurate claims and today’s hire is no different. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Ray Farmer was not involved with the Browns coaching search in 2014. In his press conference, Farmer addressed this by confirming he was “part of the coaching process from a different venue”, communicating with Banner and Lombardi about the coaching search, and did his brand of research on newly hired Browns coach Mike Pettine, with whom he built a strong relationship.

Finally, Farmer was being interviewed by the Miami Dolphins at the time of the coaching search, and was also the only Browns rep to be at the Senior Bowl to evaluate NFL draftees, which even further makes his GM promotion great for the Browns.

The Cleveland Browns biggest mistakes over the last few years have come from drafting what many consider to be poor players, experiencing terrible QB situations, and the organization failing to directly communicate with Haslam on trades, drafts, and changes in the starting roster. Haslam addressed that he would make sure the new staff would directly approach him on all things concerning the team.

While you might consider the Browns being a dysfunctional mess, the team has hired new faces including OC Kyle Shanahan from the Washington Redskins and DC Jim O’Neil from the Buffalo Bills.  Each has received a significant amount of respect from many involved with the NFL, and the Farmer/Kuharich hires are excellent for the program. The important thing for the franchise to do in the future is keep their QB’s consistent somehow, and make a focus on team chemistry and feedback mandatory.

This team hasn’t seen the playoffs in over a decade, but there is hope for this franchise. Getting rid of Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi was the best move the organization made in a long time, as players were clearly unsatisfied with how both managed the team.

The Rock N’ Roll Capital Of The World isn’t known for having an era of successful championship teams, but anything can happen from here on out. The team is a mess, and we’ve heard all this talk of progress before, but it looks like the Cleveland Browns are onto something for a change. And judging by the recent hires, they’re one step closer to their goal of a winning culture.


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