I was very happy to welcome in @sportsyelling for the first time on the WFNY Podcast. She (yes, she) is a Tribe first sports fan, so we talked a lot about the Indians. We talked about Ubaldo Jimenez, the rotation, Chief Wahoo, and Ervin Santana. We also touched on the Browns and how the NFL has dominated the sports world to the point there’s really no “off-season.”
Jim Kanicki (Mike Burgermeister) joined me today to discuss all things Browns. We talked about the Browns decision to release D’Qwell Jackson, the shakeup of the front office, the free agencies of Alex Mack and T.J. Ward, Mike Pettine and lots about the combine. Is the combine meaningful? If so, how meaningful?
Once upon a time I thought that D’Qwell Jackson was going to be cut by Joe Banner for financial reasons. Now it appears that the financial reasons were good enough for Ray Farmer as well. Mary Kay Cabot reports that the Browns have said goodbye to the team’s long-tenured linebacker and leader after eight seasons with the team.
“We had positive discussion with D’Qwell and his agent over the last several days, and we came to the mutual agreement to go in different directions,” said Browns general manager Ray Farmer. “D’Qwell is the epitome of class, leadership and professionalism. Every day of his NFL career, D’Qwell has been a solid representative of the Browns and the City of Cleveland, both between the lines on Sundays and off the field in our area community. We want to thank him for his eight years of service and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”
Earlier in the off-season, Jackson said he’d be “shocked” if he wasn’t back. Shortly after Mike Pettine was hired, we discussed Jackson’s future and the linebacker position for the Browns in general.
D’Qwell Jackson, the team’s current middle linebacker and captain, is owed a lot of money this year. If they cut him, it will add about $4.2 million in dead money to the books, but if they keep him, it will cost them over $8 million.
So go ahead and add that $4.2 million in dead money to the more than $6.5 million that was accelerated onto the cap with the trade of Trent Richardson. Make no mistake though, beyond the cap ramifications, this will save the team cash. It saves them enough that they can pay a huge portion of the 2014 NFL draftees.
The lesson? Even on a team with financial flexibility for days as the Browns have with their cap situation, teams don’t like to spend inefficiently between what a guy’s contract pays him versus what his performance is worth on the field. That gap widened too much for the respected D’Qwell Jackson to keep his roster spot with the Cleveland Browns.
“To the people of Cleveland and Browns fans everywhere: Eight years ago I began a journey that blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of a wonderful organization and community,” said Jackson. “I want to take this time to thank each and every one of you for opening your arms and hearts to my family and me, and for making Cleveland an easy place to love and call home. It’s been an honor playing in front of you.
“I also would like to thank the Browns players, coaches and staff for their tireless work and commitment. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all and will always carry you with me.”
While painful, I think it’s a good move for the team. As much as I love D’Qwell Jackson as a human and as a player, he’s never risen to the level of stardom that dominant defenses need from their middle linebackers. Jackson is a solid player and a likable guy, but I’ve long felt having him as the field leader put something of a ceiling on how good the defense could become.
It’s a sad day for Browns fans in many ways, but it seemed inevitable.
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.
Without downs and drives, we’re forced to focus on broad jumps and the bench press? No thanks.
Maybe it’s because I spent a whole week out of state without access to NFL Network, and subsequently only followed the combine tangentially through the news and Twitter, but I feel as if we live in a new NFL world. The combine is important to figure out which guys are healthy and as one of many tools to help organize a draft board, but it also feels largely marginalized. As we watch players climb and fall, draft charts organized by analysts who largely get things wrong as real drafts unfold, I’m left less and less compelled by the variance in tenths of seconds by various NFL draft prospects.
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.
- Haslam obviously had his own fair share of distractions. It’s evident that the murky waters cleared up upon the second head coaching search. [↩]
Regardless of the conclusion one chooses to draw from the recent revelations regarding the Cleveland Browns’ attempted acquisition of 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, it’s a pretty big piece of news. The reverberations were obviously going to reach recently-hired Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine, but rather than being bowled over by the waves, Pettine has planted his feet and deflected them with relative ease.
When speaking of the phone call that Pettine received ahead of the news, the coach said, “I shot the messenger a little bit because I asked, ‘How does that affect my tenure as the head coach?” That’s a pretty healthy outlook if you ask me. Coach Pettine continued, “I think that’s noise. That’s something that has no bearing on my job moving forward and I think that’s a critical thing.”
Finally, to put it to rest, Pettine echoed a lot of my own sentiment regarding the Browns’ pursuit of a proven head coach. “I think that when you look at it, I think that it shows that the organization’s committed to getting it turned around, that it would investigate that option. I see that as a positive.”
The Jim Harbaugh news couldn’t have much less to do with Mike Pettine when it’s all said and done. Pettine is a first-time head coach without an NFL track record at that level. Pettine couldn’t be offended by the Browns’ pursuit of Jim Harbaugh anymore than they could be if the Browns had conversations with any other candidate with an NFL track record.
Pettine knows that it’s his job. He knows that he likely beat out some candidates. He also likely knows that he never would have been hired if a few other options had come together in the Browns’ favor. That’s not a knock against him. That’s just reality of his level of candidacy. The good thing is that it appears Pettine is the kind of guy who can accept who he is and where he is currently. He seems firmly focused on making the most of his own situation.
I really like this guy from what I know of him so far. It’s going to be a real shame (for him and for us) if it turns out he isn’t at least a decent NFL head coach.
Berea, Ohio: Where the fun never stops
Late Friday, the never-ending Cleveland Browns coaching search – which really did end on February 6 when the Browns hired Mike Pettine – got an extension in the news cycle. Pro Football Talk got wind of an apparent trade between the Browns and 49ers for their coach Jim Harbaugh and anonymous sources have been doing battle ever since. But what does all this mean for Browns fans as they get set for an immediate future with Mike Pettine?
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]
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.
Honestly, 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…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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...]
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.
The fun never stops in Berea. Just weeks after the Cleveland Browns hired Mike Pettine as their new head coach, and the media was chastised for painting the team in an ill light, the front office has beeen shaken up in drastic fashion.
On Tuesday, the team announced that they have promoted Ray Farmer to General Manager and with Joe Banner stepping down in the next two months as he transitions out of his role as CEO. Farmer, who has spearheaded scouting through the offseason, will immediately take the over the team’s football operations and lead the Browns during free agency and the draft. Additionally, the team announced that General Manager Michael Lombardi is departing the organization. President Alec Scheiner will continue in charge of the organization’s business operations. Owner Jimmy Haslam made the announcement.
“First of all, we wanted to capitalize on the knowledge, experience and character we’re fortunate to have in Ray Farmer. Ray has a tremendous football IQ, he’s compelling, and he understands the types of players we need to acquire and develop in order to win in Cleveland. He embraces his partnership with Mike Pettine, which is critical in helping build the right team. Ray will provide excellent leadership in our front office.
“We appreciate Joe’s contributions to the Cleveland Browns, especially in helping us as new owners. He was committed to creating a successful organization and bringing in talented individuals. We thank him for his work and dedication. We wish him and his family the best.
“Alec will continue in his role as President of this team. I think he’s one of the most intelligent and innovative young executives in the NFL.
“We’re also grateful for Mike Lombardi’s efforts and commitment since rejoining our organization. He is an experienced and creative NFL executive with a unique ability to see the big picture. He has tremendous instincts and I know he’ll be a valuable addition to any NFL organization. We simply wanted to give Ray this opportunity that he’s earned. We wanted to move forward under his leadership and capabilities.
“The purpose of these moves is to unify our team with one, unequivocal goal: Provide our fans with the winning organization they have long deserved.”
When the Browns fired Rob Chudzinski following his first year on the job, the front office, led by Banner, was asked whether or not the team was being run by the “Three Stooges.” Throughout the team’s search for a head coach, there was considerable grumbling surrounding consternation amongst decision makers and overall team vision. Just a week ago, it was Banner who spoke highly of the situation in Berea, calling it one of the most desireable locations in the NFL.
And Banner’s parting words?
“It is bittersweet leaving the Browns organization. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Jimmy Haslam and helping him set the infrastructure for this franchise. I am proud of the talented individuals we brought in to help lead this team and feel that the Cleveland Browns are in good hands moving forward.”
That this news was not broken by any plugged-in reporter throughout the league speaks volumes.
The really good news is that Ray Farmer is back with the Browns for at least one more season. I want to make sure I start with that, because it seems that worrying about a 4-12 football team and trying to realistically assess how desirable it is as a place to work is being confused as negative narrative-building. Jimmy Haslam has stated such, and Joe Banner said it again to Mary Kay Cabot. It seems the Browns are insistent that the world just has no good perspective or might even be out to get them. As Cabot’s article says, the Browns feel that the word “radioactive” was uttered anonymously and then was carried forward as shorthand for the Browns from that moment forward. Maybe the negativity did get out of hand as the Browns’ coaching search was executed, but the way Joe Banner is talking, he seems to think he can just tell everyone that everything is fine and have it be the truth.
It was all but assumed that Cleveland Browns assistant general manager Ray Farmer was going to be the next GM of the Miami Dolphins. After several weeks of discussion, Farmer decided to withdraw his name from consideration, sticking with the Browns’ ongoing quest for respectability. Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Mary Kay Cabot caught up with Farmer and team CEO Joe Banner this week to discuss the team’s ability to keep the 39-year-old up-and-coming executive.
In what was a very quote-heavy piece, Farmer and Banner both managed to provide some gems—each ranging from motivational and optimistic to outright head-scratching.
I think Cleveland is primed and I think we’re in a position to redefine the history books. I think change is on the horizon and I didn’t want to miss what’s going to happen in Cleveland.
Given that the definition of “history books” is, and will always be, the documentation of knowledge dealing with past events, it will be essentially impossible for an NFL franchise to redefine anything, let alone this very term. Rewriting history is a commonly used cliché, predominantly in sports, but even this would be difficult to do given the Internet and all. What the Browns can do is add on a few subsequent chapters that allow fans and media alike to focus on positive items—like wins, for example. So we’ll go with that.
The voice of one became the voice that got quoted in every story that was written. It had nothing to do with reality. Some of the most desirable people in all of sports have come to Cleveland since Jimmy and I took over, including Rob Chudzinski, Norv Turner, Ray Horton, Mike Pettine, Alec Scheiner and Sashi Brown. Players like Des Bryant and Paul Kruger chose us over others cities, not to mention all of the people that desperately wanted this head coaching job. The evidence — which nobody wanted to bother with — is that this is an extremely desirable place and all of the actions by so many people are proof of that.’
Talk about cranking the troll dial up to maximum output. I don’t even know where to start.
Let’s move on. Here, Joe discusses the team’s desire to keep Mike Lombardi (and Farmer) behind the scenes.
I’ve never seen a sports team have more than one voice other than the head coach that speaks for the organization. That’s what we do in Cleveland, but somehow that’s become controversial. Teams don’t put out multiple layers of people and usually the media doesn’t want to speak to anybody other than the kind of decision-makers and as high up in the organization as they can get — so no, Ray won’t be any more of a public face than he’s been. [...] They want to bash Mike. You’d like to think people would rise above that, but it just doesn’t happen. I never heard of the media that can speak to the higher level executive or to the lower level executive and they’re clamoring to speak to the lower level executive.
So if there are any key takeaways, keeping Farmer in Berea is absolutely a big deal. The guy is highly regarded throughout the NFL. The Browns promoted Lombardi with the sole goal of getting Farmer in Cleveland. He was the man who has led much of the scouting efforts for the team and was watching every snap of the Senior Bowl last month. When Farmer was interviewing with the Dolphins ownership team, there was some clamoring for the team to remove their current general manager and promote from within. Keeping Farmer may have been the biggest “move” of the team’s all-too-young offseason.
Also, the team was willing to fire some of the “most desirable” people in all of sports—one of which is still unemployed at this very moment.
Image: Jennifer Nawalaniec, Cleveland Browns
Talking Mike Pettine, Browns ticket prices and Davone Bess with Tom Reed – WFNY Podcast – 2014-02-04
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
Browns coaching search, Anthony Bennett and Super Bowl predictions with Dennis Manoloff – WFNY Podcast – 2014-01-29
It’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?”
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.
I 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.