Jimmy Haslam has been, if nothing else, a hands on owner since he took over the Browns in 2012. Since that date, the Browns have flown through a pair of regimes. The team is now working with its third head coach and third general manager under Haslam, but that’s not all bad news.
The knee jerk reaction to Tuesday’s news that CEO Joe Banner and GM Michael Lombardi were out in Cleveland was to laugh it off as the latest catastrophe out of the factory of sadness, but the move to promote Ray Famer to GM and remove the CEO as a personnel influencing position brings the Browns back to a reasonable chain of command.
Until Tuesday, Mike Pettine’s status as the team’s head coach was a bit of a joke. After all, former head coach Rob Chudzinski lasted just one year despite working with a group of players with little talent. His firing led to a firestorm of criticism directed at Haslam, Banner and Lombardi, and the three stooges looked to continue running the team into the ground.
In place of the three-headed monster that by all appearances stole any remaining hope from Browns fans is a normal chain of command. Haslam will likely, at least hopefully, take a step back from decisions on the football side of the Browns, leaving those choices to Farmer and Pettine. As with most teams, the GM will have the final say in personnel decisions, but Pettine will have a voice in the shaping of the roster he’ll be coaching, something that wasn’t likely under Haslam/Banner/Lombardi.
It’s strange that Haslam didn’t relieve Banner and Lombardi of their positions after also firing Chudzinski, but by doing so now, the Browns can actually focus on their fresh start. From the top down, there’s a new regime in town, and the rebuilding process can begin without the “win now” attitude that the former decision makers would have been shooting for. Cleveland won’t be competing for a playoff position in 2014. Like other teams beginning a rebuilding project, they’re just trying to get better.
Simply put, the Browns have finally cleaned up the messiest decision making process in football. There’s a reason most teams have one man that makes the final decisions on personnel (usually known as the GM). When a team is built through a committee that doesn’t include the head coach, mistakes are consistently made and the vision of how the team should function is not always shared by all parties involved. By pairing the head coach and general manager together, the Browns are giving themselves a reasonable chance at turning their franchise around.
Sure, the move to ditch Banner and Lombardi at this late hour has all the telltale signs of an ill-functioning machine, but the move was necessary, and it puts the Browns back on a path they can actually follow to success. The move may turn out to simultaneously be the last clownish act of a doomed system and the first action that puts the Browns back in contention.