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Jimmy Haslam’s Cleveland Browns get it all wrong

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Banner (TONY DEJAK — AP Photo)

Banner (TONY DEJAK — AP Photo)

Hostages.

Cleveland Browns fans are all just hostages to a brand name that can do no wrong in Cleveland. Okay,that’s not quite right.  What I meant was, by doing no wrong in Cleveland, I really meant they do no right in Cleveland, which has just demolished the brand name of the Cleveland Browns.

But somehow, none of that matters.

Confused yet? Fortunately for all of us, confusion is the name of the game with the Browns since 1995. We aren’t all witnesses, we are all walking callouses.

Cleveland Browns fans are passionate about their team, and that may be the understatement of all understatements. It’s been a strange road that has only been enhanced by the team leaving back in 1995 when Art Modell owned the team. It was enhanced further when they came back, played badly, and drafted badly…over and over and over again.

Thoughts of Tim Couch still ring in my ears, and he may have been one of the better quarterbacks the Browns have drafted.

Seriously.

The Cleveland Browns brand-name is virtually untouchable, and the owner and the president and the GM know it. I have visions of these three sitting together during planning meetings just laughing, knowing that they could retire Brandon Weeden‘s number tomorrow, and still likely sell out the opening game of the season next year if they announced it as “Brandon Weeden day.”

It’s not just in Cleveland, but the market on the North Coast is so uniquely tied to this team, that there’s something special about this hostage mentality. Perhaps we all have some form of Stockholm syndrome, in which we’ve bonded with these idiotic front offices that we’ve grown to despise so much over the years.

Cleveland teams don’t win titles, but Cleveland fans want a title so badly, that these ownership groups really can do anything they want, and fans will keep coming back. In many ways, there’s been an embracing of the “what’s next” mentality, so that when weekends like this come up, fans actually say, “Meh, it’s just Cleveland.”

When rumors of Head Coach Rob Chudzinski getting fired started creeping out of the media on Friday night, I didn’t buy it.

I was fooled once again.

I thought, “Surely the Browns aren’t going to can a coach less than a year after he was hired.” Think about that. Chudzinski was hired on January 10, 2013. He didn’t even make it to December 31. That would have been the one-year anniversary of the firing of Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur.

Right or wrong, that’s really hard to deal with. You can look at organizations that have fallen apart because of shoddy coaching, and I don’t know that you can point to the Browns and say that. Did the team struggle down the stretch? Yeah, it did, but you can point to a bunch of different things that caused that to happen.

You can point straight at the front office. Just look at the personnel of this team. Look what happened when Chip Kelly was courted. He could see the writing on the wall. He wanted a say, and he wasn’t going to get one.

Halsam (TONY DEJAK — AP Photo)

Halsam (TONY DEJAK — AP Photo)

Sure, you can point to the coach as well. Greg Little is still on the team.

My point is, this was organizational, not just the coach. To think that getting rid of the coach, but keeping the rest of the jokers in power that helped make the decisions is just ridiculous. This is a front office that is trying like hell to run away from the “Same ole’ Browns” mentality, by doing the same thing that the “ole’ Browns” did.

There isn’t a quality coach that will want this job, but perhaps that’s what they want…a passive coach without any thought or say or gumption to make a team great.

What a mess.

Let’s start with Rob Chudzinski. He really wasn’t a very good head coach this season. The Browns went 4-12, and I have to believe that the goal this season wasn’t to be horrid. I’m not 100% sure of that, because Brandon Weeden has been involved with the team for much of the season, but I still think this was a front office that thought in their rather sizable egos, that they could win at least eight games, if not more.

This team went 1-10 over their past 11 games, and they’ve been really bad. Hell, take Brian Hoyer off this team, and you wonder how many games they win all year.

It’s true that Chudzinsky wasn’t able to maximize what he had.

Is it because he’s never been a head coach before? Obviously, that likely played a big part of it. That’s one of the reasons why Norv Turner was brought in…to help foster him along.

Is it because he’s not a good coach? That’s possible as well. Look, Bill Belicheck came here and wasn’t all that great during his tenure.

Now, I’m not trying to compare the two, I’m just trying to point out that your first experience can often not be fantastic, especially when you are surrounded by a front office that’s run like a circus.

What would Pat Shurmur have done with this team this year? I honestly believe that Shurmur would have won more football games. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have fired Shurmur and hired Chudzinsky, and that doesn’t mean that Chud should have taken giant steps forward.

But you probably shouldn’t be worse.

This team had issues, and you absolutely can point to the coach.

Now, does that mean you should fire that coach? I surely don’t think so. When you hire a young coach, you have to give him some time to develop, and I just don’t think that one season is a good enough picture, unless you have a clear picture of where the team is going in the future.

Is there a clear option for the Browns? Is that option going to sit passively by for the owner and the president and the GM? Is that EVER going to be successful in any capacity?

No, I don’t think so.

So why was Chudzinsky fired? I honestly believe that Chud worked his team the way he wanted, and ignored some moves that Joe Banner wanted the coach to make. In other words, there was likely a bit of a power struggle that we weren’t quite aware of.

Banner went through that in Philadelphia, and he doesn’t want to go through it in Cleveland, and combined with an owner that probably couldn’t stand watching the Browns play terribly all year long.

Yeah, it’s a cluster of garbage.

Jimmy Haslam is just not a good owner. You can start with all his federal indictment issues with Pilot/Flying J, and you can end with what’s gone on with the Browns during his first 18 months connected with the team. He’s just not a good owner.

He’s already fired two coaches.

Please don’t kid yourself to think that Joe Banner is the guy at the front of the Chudzinsky firing. When Haslam came on board officially, he wasn’t afraid of saying how he would handle things as owner of the Browns. He immediately said he would be heavily involved in the decision-making, from the combine, to the draft, to signing free agents.

“I’ll be there after the combine when we analyze it, and finalize our free agent plans,” Haslam said. “and when we bring in key free agents, I’ve got the dates blocked out that I need to be up there and when to zero in on who our key draft picks are going to be, especially our first round pick. We’ll be heavily involved in meeting those individuals to make sure we not only get a great player, but the kind of person we want to represent the Cleveland Browns,” Haslam said.

Imagine that. The guy that’s Federally indicted for fraud is going to appraise the character of the Browns’ draft picks.

It’s joyous.

As far as Haslam and his involvement in all this business with the Chudzinsky firing, I have no doubt that he was unhappy with the product on the field, and wanted changes. We haven’t seen a whole lot of Haslam as far as visibility, simply because he’s shrewd enough a business owner to know that when you are Federally indicted, you probably should be the face of the franchise, but he’s pulling all the strings.

Trust me.

That’s who he is.

Jimmy Haslam is an NFL owner with absolutely no connection to the City of Cleveland. Normally, I wouldn’t think that was a huge deal, but in this case he is. He is a user and abuser. That’s the way he runs his other business, and that’s the way he’s currently running this business.

If you build a winner, it’s great. If you continue losing, it’s not.

It’s embarrassing.

I’m not going to get into comparing Haslam to past owners, but I really, really hope that THIS owner has to sell this team in the near future. I had high hopes for Haslam because he had the capital and perhaps the competitive background to make this team successful.

When you combine all of his garbage though, and realize what trash this guy has brought to the city of Cleveland in his first season, then put all this coaching stuff on top like icing…well…it just smells.

I simply can’t stand Joe Banner. I didn’t like him when they hired him, and I certainly don’t like him now. Joe Banner is that everything that’s wrong in the world. He’s got this disease in which whatever goes on in his own little mind, and his own little office is right, regardless of what happens outside of both.

It’s called ego.

I’m fine with ego. I love having an ego. We all have an ego. The problem with Joe Banner is that his ego is such that EVERYONE IS AWARE OF IT ALL THE TIME, and he just KNOWS that his way is the right way, even though it isn’t.

His ego was huge in Philadelphia and they had a winning team. He went head-to-head with his very vocal and demanding coach, Andy Reid, and lost, then left. He’s surely not going to jump into that fire again. Now, I’m not trying to compare Chudzinski to Reid here, but he showed signs of having opinions.

I’m convinced that Chud may have wanted to dump Bess, but the front office wouldn’t let him because they brought him in. In retaliation, I think that Chud kept Greg Little.

Now, that wasn’t probably a smart move to make, and maybe it wasn’t overt, but the message was clear. Banner didn’t want any part of that.

Think of Andrew Bynum for a moment. The people of Philadelphia despised him because he was an idiot there. Maybe he could play, and maybe he couldn’t, but he handled himself like a buffoon.

The people of Philadelphia couldn’t stand Banner either. They considered him an outsider, that had zero credibility or football experience, who never looked at personnel and their performance on the field, but instead worried about a “gold standard” of efficiency with cap management to run the club.

There’s nothing wrong with cap management, but you can balance that with understanding how a team relates to its fans, especially in Philadelphia.

The fans and the media in Philly thought of Banner as the “Bad Guy,” and according to everything that I’ve read, he more or less fed into that mentality. You know, it’s an ego thing. He did earn Philly money, but he did it at the expense of the fan base.

Of course, what did he care, it’s not like the fans in Philly weren’t going to come to the football games regardless.

Sound familiar?

Banner’s style was confrontational and he was untouchable as a good friend of team owner Jeff Lurie, and nearly every member of the media talked about that EGO. The Eagles were winners, and he was the first one to point that out when anyone mentioned that they couldn’t win a Super Bowl.

Of course, they were winners, and I’d take that. Unfortunately for the Browns, he’ll never allow a coach with Andy Reid‘s clout to coach the Browns…ever.

The bottom line with Banner is that he knows better than you, just ask him. He’s a perfect fit for Haslam.

Mike Lombardi is such a stooge. Lombardi was a piece of garbage when he worked here with Modell. Lombardi is a piece of garbage working with Banner. The minute that Banner and Haslam knew they were going to fire Chudzinski, I’ll bet you money that they sent their little minion, Lombardi, to leak the news to the media.

People in Cleveland didn’t like Lombardi when he was here before. The fact that Banner and Haslam hired him anyways should have spoken volumes back then. It did, but there’s that hostage thing I mentioned.

In a football sense, Lombardi didn’t draft well in Cleveland or Oakland, and when the Browns hired him, he hadn’t been a part of an NFL franchise for a half-a-decade.

Lombardi reminds me a lot of Banner, and I’m sure that’s why they connect so well together. Yes, Lombardi is an opinionated guy, but he’s got the same opinions as Banner.

He’s that guy.

Of course, his cruddy evaluation of football players will be masked by an owner and a president that won’t allow anyone to have any thoughts of their own on that matter, so he’ll have that cover for awhile. If the Browns stink next year though, it’ll be fun watching him take the blame.

I suppose I can take some solace in that.

I have no idea who the next coach will be, but I do think that Haslam and Banner already know who that coach is going to be. They can’t announce it yet because of the Rooney Rule, so look for the Browns to interview Ray Horton in the next day or so, then fake interview two more guys, one of which is the guy they’ll hire.

I expect it will be Josh McDaniels from the Patriots, who was just bad in Denver. I know most of Cleveland hate that idea, but I’m not quite on board with all the hate. I’m a firm believe that you can learn from being bad at another place. It’s clear that he can coach football, and Tom Brady thinks highly of him. That alone is endorsement enough for me. If you bring in the right QB with McDaniels, I think there can be some synergy there, but am equally wary of an offensive coordinator with a QB as good as Brady.

There could also have been the same synergy with Chudzinski, you know, the guy they hired last year, but for whatever reason, they are moving into another direction.

McDaniels seems to be the type of coach at this point that will allow the Haslam/Banner/Lombardi freight train to run over him and just focus on the field stuff. I’m not a fan of that, but it is what it is, and it is what we have.

There are other rumors out there, such as Dan Quinn being mentioned, the Defensive Coordinator in Seattle, as well as Denver Broncos Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase. I don’t hate either, although Gase sure does look good because of that QB he has. I’m a bit wary of that, as I mentioned before. Are any of these guys a step above Chud? Maybe? Maybe not.

…and at the end of the day, that’s the problem with this move.

There are many that don’t want to evaluate this front office, because they’ve only been here a year, and are still trying to get their bearings straight. They didn’t like the coach they hired, because they felt that they didn’t improve. Of course, Chudzinski can say the same thing. He’s only been here a year, and was still trying to get HIS bearings straight. He likely didn’t like some of the personnel he was given from this very front office, and the one prior. He made the move to Hoyer, and it paid off.

Then he got hurt, and he was left with Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden. What could Bill Belichick do with both of those at QB? Not much. Of course, he’d have never brought those guys in to begin with, but that’s because he has a say, and always had one. Bob Kraft is a respected owner, who has built a successful front office. It’s stable, and has grown over the years, from Bill Parcells, to Pete Carroll, to Belichick.

Stable.

At the end of all of this, I realize that I’m just venting about a front office that is what it is. Will they bring a title to Cleveland? They may. I mean, they’ve only been here a year…just like the coach they hired. Fortunate for the three stooges, they’ll have more time to settle in and accomplish their goals, whether we want them to, or not.

We are just hostages.

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One thought on “Jimmy Haslam’s Cleveland Browns get it all wrong

  1. (groan…) Agree…sadly.

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