April 19, 2014

Your move, Browns – Alex Mack signs Jacksonville offer sheet

Who else would report it, but Adam Schefter? Alex Mack’s deal has reportedly been signed and it’s all pretty straight-forward.

So the Browns are on the clock even before the NFL draft. I have no idea how long they’ll take, but I think this is probably a pretty palatable deal if they were true to their word they wanted him back. It gives Mack a good amount of guaranteed money and also the right level of flexibility for a guy who was drafted by Mangini under Randy Lerner before coming up for renewal under Jimmy Haslam and Ray Farmer. Think of it this way, to keep it in perspective. Alex Mack was in the building at the same (very short) time as George Kokinis.

This is certainly far from as bad a deal as what many Browns expected. It also continues to show how silly Mack’s agent was when he said he thought he could create a deal that the Browns would have difficulty signing. The Browns aren’t guaranteed to sign this deal, of course, but it’s not the team killer anyone would have imagined in light of the agent’s posturing.

Hopefully shortly, we can just put this to bed.

Also see TD’s excellent work on new Cleveland Browns receiver Nate Burleson.

Jimmy Haslam discusses relationship with Bill Parcells, role in NFL Draft

Haslam presser 1

What a difference a year makes. About this time in 2013, Jimmy Haslam was reassuming his role as chairman of Pilot Flying J, placing the Cleveland Browns in the hands of Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi, and speaking only through press releases and legal filters. There was a point where the team he had just purchased was merely a line item within a world in disarray. Today, though still under the microscope of legal scrutiny, the team’s majority owner has reassumed his role of a hands-on owner, sitting down with Browns beat writer Tony Grossi to discuss the lay of the land in Berea.

Grossi and Haslam discussed the team’s relationship with Alex Mack (Jimmy believes Alex wants to play in Cleveland), Bill Parcells (he’s not coming to Cleveland), and Brian Hoyer (he’s a “gamer.”). But the biggest takeaway, in what was another offseason of front office turmoil and severed solid and dotted lines, is the fact that Haslam says that the NFL Draft will be entirely in the hands of general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine.

“We will agree strategically that these are the positions we’ll concentrate on, but Ray and Mike and the football guys will make those football decisions,” said Haslam. “Zero chance [I tell Ray to draft a certain player or position]. We will have so many conversations between now and the draft about who we’re picking, this position or that one, who are the top three or four. We will be all planned out. That’s what getting ready’s all about. We’ll all participate.”

Given the current organizational structure, with Farmer, Pettine and team president Alec Scheiner reporting directly through Haslam, it appears, at least in quote, that things are headed in the right direction—a far cry from this mess, anyway.

Browns have “no comment” on Lombardi’s Browns documents


Is it a big deal that recently ousted Browns employee Michael Lombardi was seen at the NFL combine with documents emblazoned with Cleveland Browns logos? The answer is that none of us have any clue. It certainly seems less than ideal for the Browns, but whether or not it is an actual impropriety or not is impossible to know without finding out from the Cleveland Browns. The team, however has issued two separate “no comment” statements to ProFootballTalk and Mary Kay Cabot.

This could mean a couple things.

1. Maybe the Browns really aren’t sweating it. The team obviously didn’t feel the need to keep Lombardi out of work through the end of the draft, which you would think they could have done by simply paying him to stay home. Maybe they reserved no such rights in Lombardi’s contract, but it seems unlikely that Lombardi would have had leverage to exclude non-compete and non-piracy language from his contract negotiations with the Browns.

2. Maybe the Browns are embarrassed and just hoping this goes away. Who would let a year’s worth of scouting information go straight into the hands of another NFL team? The Browns seemingly just did.

3. Maybe the Browns are pursuing this issue with the league. We have no evidence of this and it is pure speculation, but maybe the Browns didn’t enjoy seeing their logo in the Pats loge at the combine and are seeking to have the situation addressed through channels that require them to not comment at the current time.

Mary Kay Cabot’s report also indicates that Ray Farmer isn’t concerned because the club “followed proper procedures” with Lombardi’s departure. Again, I’m unsure what this means. Does it mean that Lombardi’s exit was handled in such a way that he’s doing something wrong by having documents with Browns logos? Does it mean that it was handled in such a way that it’s cool that Lombardi have those documents?

We’ll find out eventually. Probably. Maybe.

For now, the Browns, unsurprisingly, have no comment.

Joe Banner wanted everyone to report to him on everything all the time

Joe Banner

It was only a matter of time before additional news surrounding the recently departed Joe Banner became public, but that’s not to say much of it would be considered a surprise.

CBS Sports’ Will Brinson penned a recent piece (via CBS’ Pat Kirwan) which painted Banner, ousted after one-plus season as the Cleveland Browns CEO, as a “control freak” who had ultimate plans of his would-be new coordinators reporting directly to him rather than the head coach or even the team’s general manager.

Ousted Cleveland CEO Joe Banner — who is transitioning out of his role in Cleveland after being fired along with GM Mike Lombardi — had the new offensive and defensive coordinators reporting directly to him, CBS Sports NFL Insider Pat Kirwan reports.

Kirwan spoke to a league source at the NFL combine in Indianapolis that told him Banner was a bit of a control freak and structured the coaching staff so that the new coordinators would answer directly to him.

That’s atypical of an NFL team to say the least. Generally speaking coordinators answer directly to the head coach, in this case recently hired Mike Pettine.

“To say that the power structure in Cleveland was different would be an understatement,” writes Brinson. It’s a shame that it took Jimmy Haslam, the team’s majority owner, over a year to realize that Banner was doing more harm in his role than good1 Certainly, Joe Banner spearheaded several moves that benefitted the team in the long-run (i.e. additional draft picks for 2014), but it would be his inability to manage human beings—as had been a reported weakness of his from Day 1—served as his apparent downfall.

Recall, it was Norv Turner, the team’s offensive coordinator, who reportedly blew up upon the firing of Rob Chudzinski. This also corroborates similar reports regarding Chip Kelly and Ken Whisenhunt, both men taking issue with Banner and the way he depicted the team being run on a going-forward basis, both men taking jobs elsewhere—and being incredibly more successful than the 4-12 Browns of 2013.

Under the Browns’ new, more acceptable structure, general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine will report directly to Haslam, with the coordinators funneling through their own, more-typical chain of command. Novel concept, we know.



  1. Haslam obviously had his own fair share of distractions. It’s evident that the murky waters cleared up upon the second head coaching search. []

NFL News: Browns might look to void Davone Bess’ 2014 salary

Bess in happier times for the Browns...

Bess in happier times for the Browns…

The Cleveland Browns have been saying compassionate things about Davone Bess, but it appears that business practicality might be entering the equation as well. Pro Football Talk reports that the Browns are looking to void the second guaranteed year of salary owed Davone Bess via his recently-signed contract extension. If the Browns are successful in doing so, it will save the team just over $3 million of Jimmy Haslam’s money.

The Cleveland Browns are still nursing the black eyes they received over the whole Davone Bess trade situation. Even if the Dolphins were underhanded for their own part in the deal, the Browns looked negligent in their due diligence after revelations that Bess had been involuntarily committed in Florida shortly before the Dolphins sent him to Cleveland in a draft-day deal. While not considered the reason that Jimmy Haslam ousted Michael Lombardi, we’d heard rumblings that Haslam was far less than enthused with his personnel team as the Bess breakdown in Florida came to light.

For their part, the Browns have been pretty compassionate (if a bit quiet) with regard to Davone Bess and his apparent instability as he posted pictures that appeared to indicate he could be using marijuana and then his airport arrest.

The questions abound. Can the Browns be compassionate while also looking to void Bess’ salary for 2014? Can they void “guaranteed” money if a player’s own intentional actions leave him unable to perform his duties as an NFL player? Is there anything forthcoming from the NFL with regard to disciplinary action over either Bess’ arrest or his apparent use of banned substances?

One thing’s for sure. The strange tale of Davone Bess isn’t over just yet.

[Related: The Decomposition of Davone Bess]

Sports Illustrated ranks Browns last in NFL in offseason outlook

photo2While the majority of folks on the shores of Lake Erie seem encouraged by the Browns’ recent shakeup in the front office, nationally, the franchise is still regarded as a joke.

Sports Illustrated released an offseason outlook ranking for the NFL, with the Cleveland Browns checking in dead last at No. 32. The off-beat rankings were calculated based off grading on a scale of 1-5 across four categories: pending free agents, cap space, amount of draft picks, track record of GM/management. They were not necessarily related to success on the field in 2013.

Although the Browns have lost at least 11 games over the last six years, there is still a sense of optimism locally heading into this offseason because of over $45 million in cap space and 10 picks in the upcoming draft, including three in the top 35. In fact, Jacksonville, the No. 1 ranked team, is similar with their $50 million in cap space and 10 picks, although the bulk of those picks are later in the draft.

While one would think those factors would surely have the Browns checking into these offseason outlook rankings somewhere besides the very bottom, the perception of the team’s front office plummet them to No. 32.

In a set of rankings where categories were graded 1-5, the Browns’ front office situation received a grade of -5, thus shooting the Orange and Brown to the bottom of the list.

Here’s what SI had to say about the team’s offseason odds.

32. Cleveland Browns

Breakdown: FAs: 2 | Cap: 4 | Draft: 4 | GM: -5 | TOTAL: 5

The Browns have $45.5 million in cap to spend in the new league year, and two first-round picks after fleecing the Colts in the Trent Richardson trade. There’s a lot of talent on defense, and a few real playmakers on the offensive side of things. In other words, everything needed to build a real NFL powerhouse. Unfortunately, a front office that deserves a far lower rating than the one we were able to give it (heck with it; we’re throwing the lowest grade possible at this mess) will almost unquestionably squander these great gifts. Because when your team owner is under federal investigation, and your organization has changed team presidents, general managers and head coaches at a dizzying rate, it’s hard to take anything you do seriously.

The fact that Sports Illustrated writers went off the scale to bring down the Browns may have Clevelanders discouraged, but the positioning of the rival Steelers may provide a silver lining for Browns fans.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers

Breakdown: FAs: 2 | Cap: 1.5 | Draft: 2 | GM: 2.5 | TOTAL: 8

It’s a known fact that the Steelers would have liked a better yield in their recent drafts. And general manager Kevin Colbert is a man very much in the firing line now as the Steelers try to re-fuel for a new generation of success with the need to pare down nearly $13 million in cap space just to get to zero. The formerly great defense slipped to the middle in 2013, and though protection improved for Ben Roethlisberger in the second half of the season, this was a team out of balance. And with more than a third of the roster lined up for free agency, it may be a while before this most stable of franchises is on top again. — DF

The only reason Pittsburgh comes in ahead of Cleveland on this list is the perception of the general manager’s office. In fact, if the Browns’ front office would have received the minimum grade outlined by the authors of 1, Cleveland shoots up the list to a tie for No. 16, ahead of five 2013 playoff teams.

Everyone in the Browns front office hated each other

Can’t you just feel the comfort oozing out of this picture?

On Tuesday morning when the Cleveland Browns disseminated the changes that were taking place in Berea, it appeared to be wrath wrought in the wake of impulsive decisions made by an impatient billionaire. Turns out that Browns majority owner Jimmy Haslam III, rather than choosing sides, decided that he had had enough of the drama unfolding behind closed doors.

Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Mary Kay Cabot reports that in addition to Haslam growing tired of the negative perception surrounding the other two Stooges, CEO in Joe Banner and general manager in Mike Lombardi, the two men he fired were not exactly seeing eye-to-eye.

Browns CEO Joe Banner and his top lieutenant Mike Lombardi ended on bad terms with each other, and their discord led to Jimmy Haslam firing both, league sources told cleveland.com. Banner and Lombardi clashed over a number of things, but the disconnect came to a head during the tumultuous 25-day coaching search. [...]

Banner wanted to fire his embattled GM, and Lombardi knew it. If he didn’t know, he missed the writing on the wall. But what Banner didn’t know — and should have — was that Haslam had also grown weary of him during the search — portrayed as dysfunctional in the local and national media — and was gearing up to fire him. The owner and the CEO didn’t see eye-to-eye over a number of candidates, and Haslam came to feel that Banner was the reason some didn’t want to interview for — or accept — his coaching job.

Earlier this week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Haslam’s discontent with Banner dated back 13 months when Chip Kelly, Haslam’s No. 1 target to take over for Pat Shurmur, opted to stay in Oregon. This decision, as has been reported, stemmed from a disagreement over Kelly’s control over his roster as well as his selections for assistant coaches. As it was, the assistant coaching non-starter also reportedly impacted the interview of Ken Whisenhunt as Joe Banner, ever the football man, felt that Wisenhunt’s selection for coordinators was not up to par.

In addition to notes on Josh McDaniels, Mike Pettine and others, sources also reportedly told Cabot that former Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, who was the top candidate of many vacancies this off-season, wasn’t interested in interviewing with the Browns this year because of the management team in place. At the end of it all, despite all of his proclamations to the contrary, the common denominator in all of these reports appears to be the bespectacled former CEO, the man who attempted to wield a bit too much power—giving his head coach in-season ultimatums, firing said head coach, attempting to oust his general manager—only to be left with a pink slip of his own, all while the “lazy media” “created” a “narrative” of dysfunction. The nerve.

Browns clean house again! – Scott Raab discusses – WFNY Podcast – 2014-02-12

WFNY Podcast LogoHonestly, Scott Raab has been trying to get away a bit from the Cleveland sports thing. I’ve left this platform completely open to him for whenever there’s something worth talking about, and a mere days after Chris Grant was fired and we fired up the podcast, Jimmy Haslam drops the hammer in Berea. So, we loaded it up again.

There’s no mystery about the things we talked about. The Browns, Joe Banner, Michael Lombardi, Jimmy Haslam, Ray Farmer, Alec Scheiner, Mike Pettine and more…

Check out this episode!

While We’re Waiting… Mostly positive reactions to latest Berea upheaval

While We’re Waiting is a space on the WaitingForNextYear website where we share links every day. We’ve been doing it for about four years or so. Denny Mayo used to be much more amusing with his intros, if you recall. You know the drill: Email us with suggestions at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

WFNYBanner www

Harsh words about Joe Banner and his departed regime from this former Browns.com writer: “There’s a pattern here. The Browns have long had trouble figuring things out, and if it makes any sense, Haslam might be starting to figure that out. Now, if the Browns can just nail their two first-round picks, Haslam can be cleared of wrongdoing in the FBI investigation of his Pilot/Flying J companies and Farmer and Pettine can be on the same page in March, May, August and November, the Browns might just be able to eventually rejoin the ranks of the NFL living and competing again. Deep breath, Browns fans. With Farmer in charge, all of that (or at least some of that) has a better chance of happening.” [Zac Jackson/Fox Sports Ohio] [Read more...]

Get ready Browns fans: For better or worse, this is Jimmy Haslam’s team

Haslam presser 1

Ray Farmer was introduced on Tuesday afternoon as the new general manager of the Cleveland Browns. Out immediately is Michael Lombardi, with CEO Joe Banner phasing out in the coming months.

Owner Jimmy Haslam said that the decision was made to streamline the organization. Candidly, what Haslam did was remove the top two blocks from the organizational chart and have the football operation report directly to him as well as the business side.

[Read more...]

Mark Shapiro and Jimmy Haslam react to Michael Sam’s announcement

In the wake of Michael Sam’s announcement to the world that he is gay, the issue of gay individuals in sports has taken over the discussion landscape, even larger than it was when Jason Collins came out on the tail end of his NBA career back in May. As a result of the sheer size of the story, it’s found its way to Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Indians President Mark Shapiro for comment, both of whom say that they would have no issue employing a player who was openly gay.

“Sexual orientation has not and never would be an area of consideration,” said Mark Shapiro. “And it certainly would not prevent us from acquiring a player we felt could help the team be in a better position to win a championship.”

And of course, in the NFL where teams are directly impacted by Sam’s decision to come out before the draft, owners have been going on record. Said Haslam, “Absolutely we would welcome Michael Sam to the Cleveland Browns organization if he can help us win games and he’s the right football player for this team. We are intent on creating an environment that is supportive, accepting and respectful of individual rights and differences.”

One consistency between both Haslam and Shapiro is first and foremost establishing if a player can contribute on the field. In the end, that’s supposed to be the only characteristic that should bias a professional sports franchise when it comes to player acquisition. Can they play at a level to help us achieve our goals? As these archaic barriers continue to fall, we move closer and closer to that truly being the only thing that matters.

Why Banner and Lombardi’s exits could be a good thing for the Browns


As I’ve stated time and again when it comes to the hiring decisions for coaches and front office members, we really must accept what we don’t know. We haven’t interviewed these people for jobs the way those making the hiring decisions have, so it’s reasonable to assume the value of our outsider opinions. That being said, today’s shakeup that has pushed Michael Lombardi and Joe Banner out in Berea leaves me feeling positive about the Browns for the first time in a long time.

[Read more...]

Talking Mike Pettine, Browns ticket prices and Davone Bess with Tom Reed – WFNY Podcast – 2014-02-04

WFNY Podcast LogoTom Reed from Northeast Ohio Media Group joined me to talk about the Browns. It’s always fun to talk to Tom. Here are some of the things we discussed.

Kyle Shanahan’s apparent hiring, Dan Quinn and whether the Browns should have waited, Browns ticket prices and where they’re going, Davone Bess and why the Browns haven’t done anything with him yet, and finally, we discussed Ray Farmer’s return to the Browns after turning down the possibility of a promtion in Miami.

Last, but not least, I forced Tom to recommend something, whether it’s a movie, album or TV show, and he chose a book.

Tom Reed recommends a history book on prohibition. Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

Check out this episode

What should the Browns do with Greg Little?

Greg Little FilteredAs we make our way through the off-season and think about various positions on the roster, nobody’s position might be stranger than Greg Little’s. Little is a good guy with very good physical attributes. He’s a receiver who “flashes” on occasion, but then disappears for long stretches when he isn’t dropping passes. Despite some mostly meaningless traffic incidents that served to bring him a bit of negative attention, he largely does and says all the right things. He works as hard as he can whether it’s extra time catching passes or learning hand-fighting techniques of defensive linemen in the pre-season. Greg Little is, in many ways, exactly what you want a young player to be and yet, he was rumored to be a guy that Browns brass wanted Rob Chudzinski to cut to send a message. Chud is gone of course, but for now Greg Little is still here.

If you were to poll Browns fans and ask them if Greg Little should be cut from the team, I bet the vote would be 50/50. I can’t even tell you what I would say, personally. After his third year, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s not a number two wide receiver, let alone a number one. I know for a fact that he’s not a guy I want returning kickoffs either. By the way, despite that infuriating chapter of the 2013 Browns season, Little averaged 21.57 yards per return in seven attempts. I would have bet it was nowhere near that good an average. And that’s kind of instructive for Greg Little’s entire career. [Read more...]

Browns coaching search, Anthony Bennett and Super Bowl predictions with Dennis Manoloff – WFNY Podcast – 2014-01-29

WFNY Podcast LogoIt’s always great to catch up with Dennis Manoloff (follow D-Man on Twitter) and it has been too long since I have done so. D-Man talked to me about a variety of topics today from the Browns hiring Mike Pettine, philisophically how he treats the Pilot Flying J case as a Browns story, and Anthony Bennett.

Does Anthony Bennett still belongs in the d-league after his breakout night?

What are the chances that Ubaldo Jimenez is back with the Tribe?

Will T.J. Ward or Alex Mack be back with the Browns?

How much blame should Mike Brown take for the Cavs’ woes?

What does D-Man think of the cold-weather Super Bowl?

What are his predictions for “The Big Game?”

Check out this episode

Making the case for the Cleveland Browns and Johnny Manziel

This may now require a trade

This may now require a trade

It’s a divisive topic. Every time anything hits the WFNY Facebook page regarding Johnny Manziel, there’s an immediate split among fans who love the idea of Johnny Manziel becoming a Cleveland Brown and those who are as opposed to it as if Johnny Manziel is a fierce combination of Ryan Leaf, Mark Sanchez, Michael Vick and Matt Leinart. The truth is that nobody knows for sure how Johnny Manziel will do as an NFL quarterback, but I’m ready to make the case that he can be a good one, worthy of Browns fans’ hopes and dreams for a franchise quarterback.

[Read more...]

Talking Browns, Cavs, Chief Wahoo, and poetry with CBthePoet – WFNY Podcast – 2014-01-26

WFNY Podcast LogoI don’t go to the “friend” card on the podcast very often but when you have a friend who works in the business of the spoken word, it seems like a good place to go. My friend Chris grew up in Cleveland and relocated to Charlotte about 15 years ago. He keeps up with all the CLE sports just like the rest of us and sometimes uses them in his art, namely his poetry. CB has a poem he recently did about his revelations about Chief Wahoo and we talked about that… you know after we got the Browns and Anthony Bennett talk out of the way.

You can follow Chris on Twitter and you can check out the movie he referenced about slam poetry. Asphalt Revolution.

Check out this episode

Scott Raab discusses the Browns hiring of Mike Pettine – WFNY Podcast – 2014-01-25

WFNY Podcast LogoWe don’t do a regular Monday morning podcast with Scott Raab anymore, but whenever there’s something that needs to be discussed, he’s there for us. With the Browns’ hiring of Mike Pettine and ending the lengthy coaching search, it was a good time to catch up.

We discussed the Browns’ search. We discussed Mike Pettine as a candidate. We discussed the challenges facing the Browns going forward and we even fit in a bit of Cavs talk with Chris Grant and Anthony Bennett.


Check out this episode

Browns hit reset again with Mike Pettine

Pettine HC

It isn’t fair to Mike Pettine. Then again, life isn’t fair.

Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam introduced Pettine to the Cleveland media late Thursday afternoon. It was the culmination of a twelve year NFL career that began as a Baltimore Ravens video assistant. Seven seasons in Baltimore earned him a job with Rob Ryan as a defensive coordinator for the Jets. From there he took over the Bills defense last season. All those steps prepared him for a job as a head coach in the NFL. His dream job.

Then he came to Cleveland. [Read more...]

Mike Pettine is qualified, but what can he achieve?

Rap Sheet Pettine“I’m going to try and cobble together an opinion of Mike Pettine now.” That’s what I said in the daily WFNY email chain in anticipation of writing this post about the soon-to-be defensive coordinator from the Buffalo Bills. The problem is obvious. There’s no way for most fans to know much more than superficial things about head coaching candidates in the NFL. We scour their résumés with hopes of proving our pre-conceived notions of whether these guys are good or bad as if those résumés aren’t tied to so many other variables as to look largely meaningless. With that in mind, I will still try to tell you my thoughts on Mike Pettine.

How about we start with some bullet points?

  • Mike Pettine is qualified for the job. So were Rob Chudzinski and Pat Shurmur, but still this is important. It might have been tougher to say the same thing about Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Mike Pettine was Rex Ryan’s key assistant with the Ravens and then the New York Jets. He left the comfort of Ryan’s shadow to coach the Bills in the last season and the Bills defense played well. [Read more...]