Browns mishandling media during coaching search

Banner and Haslam

The Browns aren’t having the best couple days in their coaching search, at least from the perspective of rumor and anonymous sources. The team camped out in Arizona presumably to talk to Chip Kelly primarily. They’ve talked to some other candidates too, of course, but Kelly was obviously the candidate that required the most immediacy and urgency. Friday night, it was thought the Browns were “close.” Saturday night the Eagles were reportedly “close.” This morning the only thing apparently close to Chip Kelly is Chip Kelly.

Bad pun alert, but those chips will fall as they may. There’s nothing any of our worrying or hoping can do to change it. More distressing to me is that the Browns seem unaware or unwilling to change the negative perception of how this coaching search is going.

None of us really knows whether Chip Kelly is going to be a good coach in the NFL. We don’t know if he has the right temperament and ego or even if he has the desire to leave Oregon. Unless you are sitting in those interviews and truly know the candidates  intimately, you’re left trying to extrapolate unknowable things from disconnected realities, and from a big distance to boot. Ultimately, whether you’re picking from a pool of former NFL head coaches, NFL coordinators or college coaches, the failure rate is significant no matter what. If there was a magic formula that fans could see with the naked eye, then we wouldn’t see so many coaching vacancies appear  every year.

So, yes I think the process has been a bit discouraging so far. The Browns seem to be missing out on their target, which is bad, generically speaking. Without an ability to know just how good a candidate is going to be, you are left rooting for your team to achieve whatever it is they’re looking to achieve. Their actions lead you to believe that Chip Kelly was the first on their list, so naturally it seems like a failure if they don’t get him. I understand that completely.

Also, the Browns are allowing themselves to be victims of the national rumors. The Browns appear to insist on being tight-lipped, so instead of talking, they find themselves being talked about. Many, including ProFootballTalk, think at this point that Chip Kelly’s agent is feeding most of the rumor and speculation in order to work the Eagles and Browns against each other. That’s both typical and predictable, but it just helps fuel a nervous fanbase into thinking that the new guys are failing at the same proportion as the old guys.

What’s missing in this equation are some well-placed tidbits in the local media’s hands to project the confidence that Banner and Haslam presumably are operating with even in the face of Chip Kelly uncertainty. Instead of the local media being blacked out and being left to report the whims of Kelly’s agent via national people with unnamed sources, the Browns could own the news cycle locally. I’m not saying they need to take a Comic Sans page out of Dan Gilbert’s book, but trust me when I tell you there are at least five local beat reporters who can be trusted to remain honest and objective while also providing a venue for the team to present its case.

That’s what was so great about “Road Tested.” The Browns had a pitiful record with a questionable head coach amidst massive organizational change, but out of that was a very compelling team going through a compelling process. The national media tells one story of the Browns and how bad they are, and the Browns via reality TV were able to tell their own story with their own tone through their own prism. Maybe it was like a cloudy camera filter that Barbara Walters would use, but so what? How can the same organization that understands that so well on the Travel Channel, not figure it out in the midst of their coaching search?

Many Browns fans rightly say that the only thing that truly matters is winning. That’s absolutely correct and ideally that’s the number one way to fix any kind of public relations issue. Fact is that there are no games to play right now, so truly elite organizations must answer the bell in other areas when on-field wins aren’t available to buy them their fans’ good graces. The Browns aren’t answering that bell right now and it leaves their biggest customers with the most consternation.

I’m done trying to talk Browns fans out of that consternation too. I honestly don’t think the sky is falling with regard to this coaching search. I’ve stated multiple times that my search would start with Bruce Arians, so what do I know? Regardles, I am also willing to admit that missing out on Chip Kelly might be the best thing ever for the team if they were ever granted a hindsight view of him going to another team. It is a distinct risk and possibility with a dynamic and volatile personality like I view Kelly to be. But that message of optimism in the face of “failure” is mine because of who I am as a person. It might actually be a personality flaw, but that’s neither here nor there. If the Browns want that same optimism from all Browns fans they have to earn it by not only making good decisions that yield better on-field results, but also bringing people along for the ride.

That’s what’s gone wrong in the Browns’ search for a coach so far. Just as the Browns might have been left on the sideline by Chip Kelly and his agent, Browns fans have assuredly and absolutely been left on the sideline by Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner in the coaching search thus far. I don’t think it has to be this way.


(Sunday morning soundtrack for writing this post was “World Waits” by Jeremy Enigk)


  • Scott @ WFNY

    I’ve said it a thousand times — this team refuses to control the controllable. No one is asking to have these interviews simulcasted online. The distrust is bad enough as it is. Why not speak out and calm the winds? Instead, the team lets perpetual consternation run wild. It’s mind-blowing.

  • TSR3000

    In what universe is it a good idea to give updates during an ongoing search!? I could not disagree more with this article. Are the eagles talking a lot about their process? This isn’t about calming the fans down. This is getting a business deal done.

  • dwhit110

    You’re right. Missing out on Kelly *could* be a victory based on how risky of a hire will be. That said the way they’re handing this in the media makes them look like they’ve missed out on *their* guy… a couple of times now with Saban, O’Brien, Kelly, and even Marrone all staying put or set to go elsewhere. They should be able leverage the media to look like less of a trainwreck, it’s really not that difficult.

  • Steve Jackman

    Can you please give a specific example of what the Browns could do from a PR perspective during this coaching search? The only thing I’ve noticed other teams do is announce who they have interviewed so far (usually after the interview has taken place). But, I could argue that’s not a smart strategy as it may allow other teams to jump in a hire your top candidate.

    Bruce Arians cannot be interviewed until next week. If that’s where your coaching search would start, you would spend this week sitting on your hands.

    Since we don’t have a live video/audio feed of these interviews, it’s tough to know exactly what’s going on in these meetings. We don’t know how each candidate is coming across as a human being. And, usually, that’s what determines who is offered a job and who isn’t. I don’t think it would be smart for any NFL team to provide a live stream of their interviews. Although it may really limit the candidate pool and lead to a faster hire.

  • NickinMenner

    Great article and even better song. Jeremy Enigk is genius love Sunny Day Real Estate

  • dwhit110

    It’s not about “giving updates” as much as it is controlling the story. When the story is that Saban and Kelly are priority 1A and 1B, once they turn you down that becomes a problem.

    When the story shifts to how O’Brien and Marrone are potential backups it’s so we don’t look so dumb when 1A and 1B fall through, when the backups fall through you start to look pretty dumb.

    The media is going to write about something, if you don’t find a way to leverage them (even with misinformation, think the NFL draft, in some cases) to tell a story that doesn’t make it look like you’ve missed on your first 5 options as coach, it just looks bad.

  • Steve Jackman

    Haslam explicitly stated in the press conference less than a week ago that there was no ranking of candidates at that time, just a list of those they would like to interview. He doesn’t seem like the type of person that enjoys repeating himself.

    Coming out now and talking about where candidates are/were ranked would be positively idiotic.

  • Eric

    Disgruntled that Haslam & Co. are letting the media run rampant without recourse, all the while you continue to stir the pot. Bravo.

  • dwhit110

    It won’t look like the Browns doing anything different to you or me, it’ll all be filtered through the media. Friday there was a story about how Chip Kelly was basically a done deal. Saturday there was a story about how the Browns were “deciding” between Marrone and Kelly. Now both are out of the picture. Not to mention the stories about Saban being a top target.

    If you’re feeding the media at least some tidbits of information, you don’t look so dumb when everything appears to fall through because Kelly and Marrone’s agents have been feeding them information for their stories.

  • dwhit110

    you’re misunderstanding me, I’m not saying that Haslam or Banner should be ranking candidates for the media.

  • dwhit110

    As soon as Kelly said he was going to meet with Philly and whoever else it would have been easy for them to feed some information to a trusted beat reporter or two that they love Kelly but he’s certainly not your traditional candidate, they want to get this hire right, and there are more people they wanted to talk to including Marrone again, some of the assistants coaching this weekend, etc. It’s about controlling the story and not letting Chip Kelly’s agent control it. That’s just one example.

  • DCdawg

    I don’t know what to make of all this. I have no idea where the new energy/aggressive coach lies, but I do like the idea of an experienced coordinator over a re-tread coach….give Horton another look…sleeper candidate. If Whisenhut didn’t realize how bad his QBs were after last year…clueless. Don’t think he brings anything new to the table we haven’t seen.

  • cmm13

    Hey did anyone hold on to Holmgrens number? He said he’d be willing to listen to teams.

    …….Thank you, good night and don’t forget to tip your waiters!

  • Craig Lyndall

    Should we sit quietly and wait?

  • Steve Jackman

    OK. Thank you for a specific example. Of course, this was in Chris Mortensen’s article yesterday when he said Haslam wasn’t ready to “rubber stamp” Kelly’s hire, according to a source, after the interview on Friday. People seem to ignore that information or even the possibility that Haslam wasn’t completely blown away by Kelly and down on his hands and knees begging him to come to CLE.

  • Coach Sam

    This is one of those stories where media members have an over inflated sense of worth. Browns front office owes nobody anything.

  • @TheDeePagel

    Imagine being India Smith today…

    She is 12 years old now…going on 13. She was never able to meet her dad.

    Two months before she was born, her dad was murdered by Ray Lewis and his friends.

    Imagine being India Smith today….listening to a crowd of 60,000+ cheer for your dad’s murderer like he is a king, and listening to an ignorant sports media praise him like a saint.

    I know it’s off topic….but that bothers me on so many levels….and I am sick of this Lewis mania going on.


    on Monday a day after the season ended the browns said they WILL announce the new coach in 7-10 days.By my count we are at day #6. Day 7 Alabama and Saban play a little game.Day 8 is the day after the national championship.So lets all relax and let chip go where he may,I don’t think he can win in the AFC north anyways.Saban has always been the man at the top of the list,heck they probably agreed when haslam took over.

  • Harv 21

    I think you and Scott below are suffering from temporary blogger’s insanity. There are “no well-placed tidbits” without a signed contract, nothing that would “calm the winds.” Quite to the contrary, since there is no news yet any non-substantive statement they could possibly make would be dissected and denounced (by you, and us) as the condescending cooing noise it is.

    Stop it. Just wait for what’s going to to happen to happen. You don’t have to blast them for not proactively holding our hands every moment while they’re right in the middle of an obviously intensive process. Be a big boy.

  • architrance

    Same team; same story.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Agreed Craig seems to be overreacting just a tad.

  • Eric

    That’s what Frowns is doing.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Noooooo but seeing as how Kelly’s Orgeon team just finished it’s bowl game and Saban’s hasn’t even played maybe a little more patience is warranted. Not only that but as of today I believe Kansas City is the only team to sign a new head coach in Andy Reid. Buffalo may have signed Marrone but even still that’s just two hirings out of many.

  • Harv 21

    Ray Lewis murdered no one. He went to trial on charges related to the incident and was acquitted. Unless you have info no one else has, including the jury, be fair.

  • Harv 21

    also, watching the Redskins and would like to make the brilliant and original observation that this gimpy Griffin kid is special. Like, surreal special.

    Bless the coach who knows how to exploit his particular specialness. Would like a coach who knows how to do that. Jimmy can you hear me?

  • @TheDeePagel

    Actually no. Harv, I like your posts, I agree with pretty much everything you say, but that just isn’t true. He was charged with murder – not just charges related to the incident. He plea bargained to obstruction of justice in exchange to testify against his friends. They went to trial and they were acquitted – not Lewis. Four years later he settled out of court agreeing to pay millions to the families of the victims when he was faced with a Civil Suit which was similar to what O.J. paid after he was found not guilty in his murder trial. So many unanswered questions – i.e. Lewis’ clothes that night never found….the limo driver telling the police one thing, than testifying in court to another….multiple witnesses on the scene….etc.

    Saying he is innocent of everything is just wrong, Harv….with all due respect.

  • @TheDeePagel

    Great article written this week by Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel. Check it out. It is worth your while.

  • Garry_Owen

    Agree. But I’ve also never been more convinced that he won’t last 5 years.

  • @TheDeePagel

    Ray Lewis is as guilty of murder as O.J.

    And O.J. beat his trial.

  • cmm13

    Mrs. Haslam is that you?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Bruce Banner – don’t make him angry!

  • cmm13

    Uh…pretty sure Jimmy said it may take a week, it may take a month.

    They are not on the clock.

  • Garry_Owen

    The idea that it matters to anyone is mind-blowing to me. Darn near mind bottling!

  • Garry_Owen

    Because the same fans continue to refuse to be transcendent.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Why because he gets hit so much from running the ball? I think you’ll see him run less and throw more as he ages but he’s way better then Vick ever was and look how long Vick has played.

  • Garry_Owen

    I hope you’re right. I like this kid. (Did I ever mention that I knew his dad really well?)

  • Steve Jackman

    What you’re referring to was Tony Grossi saying he heard they wanted it done in 7-10 days. Haslam said “If it takes a week, great. If it takes a month, that’s great also.”

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Harv! You took the bait..should have just let it go..c’mon your no rook!

  • tiredofclevelandsports media

    Sounds like someone wants an easy story, maybe everyone working for the Media.

  • Garry_Owen

    I can’t find the darn “+ 1,000,000” button.

  • Patrick Elder

    Seems to me the problem doesn’t lie with the Browns’ handling of the media, but with those consuming the media. Maybe we all shouldn’t go from “Welp, Chip Kelly’s the next Browns coach” after simply hearing that they met for 7 hours to “Who’s next, obviously Chip Kelly will never coach the Browns” when we hear that he met with the Eagles for 9 hours.

    Stop putting so much stock in unnamed sources from major news outlets. If everyone just calmed down, took a deep breath and waited until something actually happened, I think we wouldn’t be discussing problems at all.

  • Ritz

    Speak out and say what? What other team is holding press conferences updating the fans on their coaching search?

  • Rick the appraiser

    The only ones that mishandled the coaching search are the reporters that assumed it was a done deal because the interview lasted 9 hours

  • Garry_Owen

    I’m sorry, I’m breaking one of my hard and fast rules requiring me to read articles before commenting, but I just couldn’t read this one. This “failure to manage the media” thing could not be more irrelevant, in my arrogant opinion.

  • @TheDeePagel

    No bait. I’ve said my peace. Just was bothering me bad today. It’s dropped. Back to Browns

  • Steve Jackman
  • Harv 21

    so you’re posting here that everyone should acknowledge that he murdered someone, based upon the article you read?

  • Garry_Owen

    I bet he knew better than anybody, but how much control did he have over it? There was a LOT of money sunk in those QBs.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Well I’m not psychic but I hope he learns that eventually he won’t be able to do as much as he can now and survive. (RG2, not to my knowledge)

  • Garry_Owen

    I’m not sure which is better, a short-lived career of a superhuman or a long career of a mortal man. As a fan, I think I prefer the former.

    RG2? Well, let me tell you! (“Cool story bro repeat” warning). I found out about a month ago that I served in the Army with RG2 about 15 years ago. We new each other fairly well (though were not at all friends). I probably even played kickball or softball with an 8-year old RG3 at company picnics.

    I like that story.

    Somebody please give me a “cool story, bro.” I promise to never tell it again.