Browns Continue Chaotic Offseason By Firing GM, CEO

The Browns have lost at least 11 games every season since finishing 10-6 in 2007.(Photo: Flickr)
The Browns have lost at least 11 games every season since finishing 10-6 in 2007.(Photo: Flickr)

Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has again shaken up the team’s leadership, this time at the very top. Joe Banner is out as CEO. General Manager Michael Lombardi will also leave the team, to be replaced by Ray Farmer, who’s moving up from Asst. GM.

This comes just two months after the Browns fired the head coach after only a season on the job.

Joe Banner joined the Browns in 2012, not long after Jimmy Haslam bought the team. At the press conference Tuesday announcing his decision, Haslam cast the shakeup as a choice he and Banner made together – to streamline team top brass.

“Alec Sheiner, as I mentioned earlier, will run our business side and remain as president,” Haslam said. “Mike Pettine will obviously be the head coach. And Ray Farmer will be our GM. We will not have a CEO, and those three people will report directly to me.”

This apparently completes a housecleaning that began with last December’s firing of head coach Rob Chudzinski, who had just completed a dismal 4-12 season. Mike Pettine, defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, was hired in January to replace him.

Haslam admitted his team had fallen far short of expectations since he took ownership in 2012, and that he bears some responsibility.

I will tell you, I underestimated this,” he said. “It’s a learning curve to be an NFL owner. And if you want to look at me as a work in progress, that’s fair to say to do. And I will tell you this, these are the last of the major changes we’re going to make in the organization.

But he said he’ll continue, in his words, to tinker.

Reporters pressed Haslam to account for what the shakeup may have done to the team’s image. These big staffing changes come just after the team asks for $30 million from the city of Cleveland to help pay for major stadium upgrades—and as the team looks to Cuyahoga County taxpayers to extend a sin tax for more repairs.

Haslam declined to answer questions about the FBI probe of his company Pilot Flying J, which is accused of defrauding customers through a rebate scheme. Several employees have pleaded guilty in the case.

And Haslam said the idea that the team appears dysfunctional is a creation of the media, and that he’s got a promising team with dedicated fans.

Akron Beacon Journal sports writer Marla Ridenour says the team was dysfunctional. She says she was stunned that the announcement came so soon, but that Haslam did the right thing.

“I would argue that this is fixing the dysfunction,” Ridenour said.

They had an organizational structure with three guys, essentially, Banner, Lombardi and Farmer supposedly having input on personnel along with the new coach. This is in my mind going to clean that up.

New GM Ray Farmer said swift changes in staff are something you’ve got to expect in pro football. And he promised to take the Browns back to the days when they were winners.

“Cleveland has a rich and proud tradition,” Farmer said. “Cleveland was very successful when it first took flight as a football organization….so moving forward, the idea in my mind is to get back to who Cleveland was originally slated to be, which is a championship-level football team.”

Fans eating lunch in downtown Cleveland tried to make sense of the news of another big change for the Browns. For Jim Graham, it sounded like more of the same.

“As a Browns fan my whole life, I’m tired of hearing of shakeups that are supposedly going to make the team better and not investing as much time, energy or emotion into it anymore,” Graham said. “I have no confidence that anyone they hire is going to do anything dramatically differently.”

But Crystal Hall said change is what the Browns have got to do.

“Anything can help. So maybe this might be a positive for the Browns for right now,” Hall said.

GM Ray Farmer offered perhaps the most straightforward take on how the Browns can improve. He said they need to get better at winning.