For now, belief in Joe Banner overshadows Browns wins and losses

Joe Banner

Joe BannerOne of the most interesting aspects of the 2013 Cleveland Browns is that despite the losses on the field, I’m still very satisfied with the organizational structure that’s been built in Berea. The organizational structure they’ve put in place is by far the most comprehensive of any I can remember since 1999, and that starts at the top with CEO Joe Banner. I’ve said on a number of occasions that Joe Banner is likely the most qualified executive to ever be hired in Berea. After polling fans last week, it seems that my fellow fans are of the same opinion. Joe Banner had 47% of fans above the “No opinion” line and 84% were at least neutral or better overall. That really says a lot about the belief in an executive who has given Browns fans some very good sound bites and an on-field product with only four wins so far. And despite my continued criticisms of the won-loss record, I voted “Like him” at this point as well.

Despite the current optimism, the challenges awaiting Joe Banner this off-season are numerous. There are plenty of draft picks, including Indianapolis’ first rounder, that need to be chosen. Many fans will have a watchful eye on how the Browns handle their own free agents, namely T.J. Ward and Alex Mack. It’s very difficult to say just how good Mack and Ward are compared to what they’ll garner in their next contract, but it’s also very difficult to envision improving the Browns year-over-year while also allowing those two positions to become holes that need filling.

There are decisions to make with regard to the Browns’ more high-priced players. The Browns will likely think about Ahtyba Rubin for one because they could save $6.8 million by cutting him loose. If they keep him, his cap number will be a hefty $8.175 million. I’m a Rubin fan and there’s no reason to think Joe Banner and his staff don’t like him too, but we also know these Browns are very conscious of value. With a young Phil Taylor, John Hughes,  Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, and Billy Winn to go along with their hand-picked guy, Desmond Bryant, it remains to be seen if they’ll budget for Rubin’s large, inherited contract going forward.

D’Qwell Jackson is another guy I’ve been talking a lot about because next year is the first year where it starts to make financial sense to do something about his contract. This year, his cap number is $6.4 million, but if they cut him, they would have had “dead money” of $9.2 million. Next year is when the Browns could save money on his contract. D’Qwell’s contract calls for him to have a cap number of $8.1 million, but if they cut him, his “dead money” would be $4.2 million representing a cost savings of $3.9 million.

None of this is to say that D’Qwell Jackson or Ahtyba Rubin are bad players or unimportant as leaders. There’s just little doubt that Joe Banner’s keen sense of roster building based on value won’t have at least a strong opinion on the topic of these two high priced players’ continued employment.

And therein lies the rub. Joe Banner made a bold move when he traded Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts and I don’t think even he could have planned for it to look any better than it does right now for the Browns. Similarly, after having Josh Gordon’s name bandied about league-wide in trade rumors, they kept the receiver and he started breaking records. Maybe they are that brilliant in the Browns’ front office starting with Joe Banner at the top, but I don’t think even he would tell you that keeping 100% success rate with regard to NFL personnel is realistic. Of course, if they keep their hit rate higher than their miss rate, they’ll be fine, but we’ve yet to see him really miss as the head of the Browns.

Also, while the opinion of Joe Banner is pretty positive right now, I do think the team really will have to start winning in order for him to keep the opinion polls running so high. We saw how quickly that same ship – the S.S. Holmgren – turned from talking about the old coach to cracks about umbrella drinks and Seattle radio appearances. It happens quickly. That’s why this off-season, like so many others, is such a potential minefield. The Browns have to ask some tough questions that might have equally tough answers. If it somehow results in the Browns trying to improve on the field while also creating new holes to be filled by free agents and rookies, it’s hard to imagine it going really well.

But so far, so good. Joe Banner continues to welcome accountability. He shows no signs of fear when it comes to making tough, bold decisions. As a result of his current hit rate, Browns fans are enjoying the honeymoon with Joe Banner. Despite the mounting losses, most fans seem to see good potential for a brighter future, or at least no cause for alarm. Now for the tough part though. Winning. That’s something that’s been pretty elusive in Cleveland and we’ve been around long enough to see what many thought was the light at the end of the tunnel become just another collection of torches that accompany pitchforks.

  • Toddyus

    I generally agree. Couple things to add to the conversation: They may have whiffed on Bobby Rainey. Time will tell. I also think if he can get and stay healthy next year, they may have found something good in Dion Lewis that will make the Richardson trade stand out even more.

    For the most part, their success will hinge on getting and developing a franchise QB. It’s very unlikely we turn into a consistent winner without one. If Hoyer’s that guy, great, but all the cap management and line depth in the world won’t matter if Banner doesn’t meet his stated objective of building a sustainable winner and he needs a QB to do that.

    For how long have we been saying a great QB couldn’t make an impact in Cleveland because there were no competent receivers? That’s not the case anymore. In this day and age, I also believe (unless you have Adrian Peterson on your team) that a good passing game can just as equally open up the run game and not the other way around as is traditional wisdom.

  • ohio state fan

    The only measure of success in Pro Football is success on the field as measured by wins. Until the Browns turn losses into victories its jus the latest of 14 straight sucky seasons by the Browns. Interestingly enough this team has regressed under the new management team based upon the result on the field. Compare last years stats to this year for verification. The bottom line is simply that hope springs eternal and for Browns fan that mantra is wearing a bit thin. Based upon performance and results on the field the future does not bode well for the Browns for few more years. The draft is not a cure all since there are way to many problems and holes to fill. Perhaps its time for the owner to fairly assess his decisions to date – from a fan perspective nothing has improved

  • ohio state fan

    The Browns have nothing as a unit that comes close to being the best in the NFL. The defense has yet to play a full game full out either because of poor conditioning or because they must think they are paid for something less than a complete game. The offensive line is offensive – based upon stats the Browns running game is ranked 32nd in rushing TD’s, 9th in sacks and 25th in yards gained per rush. We have a very very few individual players that are at the top of their profession but after that the quality plunges to bottom tier NFL quality.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    In this day and age, a good running back means almost nothing. How close does anyone realistically believe the Vikings are to contending in their own division, let alone for a playoff spot (and by virtue the Superbowl.)

    AP is a premier talent. Their lack of a QB…makes it all irrelevant. AP has basically been relegated to a great fantasy back just because him running well does not necessarily put numbers in the right column in the W/L area.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Salary Cap 101 – Any spending that cuts into that $12M+ this year, means you have less cash for future years…and that effects which rookie contracts (Mack, Haden, Ward, Gordon) that you can resign in the future.

    These are things that I have read Banner is conscience of when he was spending this offseason.
    It was also mentioned that he didn’t want to do a complete roster overhaul this season while also doing a complete coaching overhaul. It’s a good idea to know what guys will fit into their respective systems…and in that, it was a great move. We came into the season thinking we had a massive hole at CB2. We’ve been pleasantly surprised with the growth on that side of the field. Good call not spending big money over there. It’s far less of a hole than we realized. ILB (particularly the guy next to Jackson) is still a pretty big hole though.
    Now, he’s got a lot more money next year, knows which of the rookie contract guys he wants to resign and probably has a good idea of their $Value to this team and it’s current system.
    A guy like Haden…should be worth a whole lot more than a guy like Ward. His plethora of draft picks can now be used to plug further holes (RG, ILB, FS, HB, WR, QB). There’s plenty more opportunities to get that right and build this team right. That’s not to say that he’s going to get them all fixed, but this team has been broken for so long that NOBODY could have come in here and fixed it in one offseason.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    the browns have $14+M already rolled from last year. cap money is not like cellphone rollover minutes and the $14M from last year must be consumed or it is gone forever.

    why is banner not spending last year’s cap this is going to evaporate?

    or is that covered in Salary Cap 201?

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Have you seen our running backs though? It’s not like we’ve got world beaters in the backfield.

    Also, while the sacks is bad…there are different types of sacks if you want to look beyond the numbers. Weeden was known for holding on to the ball too long…and asking any OL to block for too much more than 4 seconds is not a reasonable request IMO.

    That’s not to say that we have one of the best OL in the league, but maybe it’s just not as bad as the “blanket numbers” would suggest.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    So did 31 other teams. Let’s not act like anyone could have possible known how good the basketball player was going to turn out.

    And that’s why you earn downticks.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    How many players worth having on your roster are going to sign 1 year deals? That’s what you seem to be missing here. If they spend that money this year, then it is going to eat into next years cap money because it will be a multi-year contract.
    If it’s just a one year contract, who is around worth having.
    Again, Salary Cap 101.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    the one year contract constraint is yours not mine. last year’s rollover monies couldve been part of a frontloaded contract or signing bonus for a FA or for mack/ward THIS YEAR. not next year. next year it’s gone.

    maybe they’re planning to use it on jimmy graham or jay cutler but i doubt it.

    im not missing anything, i dont think, and ive written about whom i thought they shouldve signed. (i would link to the articles but some folks get fiesty and think i’m pimping my blog so not worth the effort.)

    here’s the takeaway: banner is putting $14M of personnel budget back into mr. haslam’s wallet and most fans are thanking him for it, no reporters are asking him about it.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    the one year contract constraint is yours not mine. last year’s rollover monies couldve been part of a frontloaded contract or signing bonus for a FA or for mack/ward THIS YEAR. not next year. next year it’s gone.

    maybe they’re planning to use it on jimmy graham or jay cutler but i doubt it.

    im not missing anything, i dont think, and ive written about whom i thought they shouldve signed. (i would link to the articles but some folks get fiesty and think i’m pimping my blog so not worth the effort.)

    here’s the takeaway: banner is putting $14M of personnel budget back into mr. haslam’s wallet and most fans are thanking him for it, no reporters are asking him about it.

  • Danny

    Dude, what have you been smoking?

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Putting it into his pocket? Hardly. And it doesn’t make sense (long term) to lock guys up when you aren’t sure how they will fit in with the total makeover that is our coaching staff.

  • jd

    jd907

  • stop ur whining part deux

    The guy that wrote this article is a moron. Banner is a power hungry a$$ that had Napoleon complex. He is rude, brash and a narcissist. He was ran out of Philly and FORCED down Haslam’s throat. He came to Cleveland power hungry trying to make everyone believe that he built the Eagles powerhouse. In fact, he did not. The GM and Reid evaluated talent, made the choices of who to draft, what free agents to bring in. They would make those decisions and let banner figure out the numbers side.

    Banner is a joke, im glad he is gone.