Dear Jimmy Haslam: Pick a Leader

The Cleveland Browns continue to struggle on the field, fans have turned against the organization once again. Some are calling for GM Ray Farmer to be fired. Some believe HC Mike Pettine is in above his head and needs to go. Others think Owner Jimmy Haslam is the problem.

I'm here with a little bit of a different take. While this letter is directed at Jimmy Haslam, it is not an assumption that he is the ONE to blame. Nor does it take Farmer or Pettine off the hook for their responsibilities. In today's society, there is the unfortunate belief that blame must be assigned. I tend to believe that turning around a losing team is very difficult.

The ever present possibility of change, a difficult schedule, injuries, young player development and many other factors can lead to what we have seen from the Browns this year. This is not to excuse the failures on the field but to help understand them.

The record of the teams the Browns have lost to is combined 27 - 17. The two teams they have beat are a combined 3 - 12. With only 6 teams in the AFC with winning records, the Browns have played and lost to 3 of them, it's been a tough year for the conference. The Browns are currently tied for the 3rd worst record in the entire league.

This is my letter to Haslam:

Dear Cleveland Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam,

I know that you have heard from fans and media alike about your team. The Browns have been the foundation of the sports fabric of Cleveland, even when the team was moved. You know this. You have seen, heard and felt the power of this fan base.

This letter, however, is not a passionate, angry response to the struggles of the team on the field. Instead, the hope is that this rational letter is an encouragement for direction.

This team needs one leader. One voice. One direction. I ask you to decide on a leader of the Cleveland Browns and stick with him or her.

Most NFL teams are setup in one of two ways:

1) Most have a CEO/President of the football side of the team. This person may also be the GM but this is not always true. The GM falls in line with the CEO/President if they are different people. Then the Front Office brings in a Head Coach to put the plan into motion.

2) The Head Coach is the be all, end all. This is the Bill Belichick model that Chip Kelly and others also have used. Few, if any, have been successful this way. It seems that the New England Patriots may be the only team that has been in any sustained fashion. Bill Parcells, Mike Holmgren and others have had spurts of success running the whole show but never sustained.

There is a third way, we will call it the Jerry Jones way, that the Browns are closest to resembling. Jones is involved in everything, sets the direction and makes most/all of the important decisions. While the Cowboys have started to push into contender status, after years of mediocrity, this system hasn't been a consistent success either. Dan Snyder has tried something similar in Washington.

The Table of Organization that you have setup for the Browns is a little different than anything standard in the NFL. While all reports are that you stay out of decisions far more than Jones, you are still the only "be all, end all" in the company. Pettine reports to you. Farmer reports to you. CEO Alec Scheiner reports to you. 

None of them report to each other. There is no plan/system in place that is trickled down from one office to another. Instead, it is up to you, someone who has a myriad of other responsibilities in his life, to bring things together. You are the only accountability.

No offense but you do not have the time or experience to be the leader of this franchise.

You need to pick a leader of the football side of the Browns.

Alec Scheiner is not the guy. He is a great business guy, and very friendly the times I have met him in person or interacted on Social Media, but he is not a football guy. Let him continue to run the business and report to you from that side.

You may decide that Ray Farmer is that guy. If so, the whole football operations should report to him. He decides the plan, he decides Pettine's future and he makes the football decisions going forward. The coach answers to him. He hires and fires the coach. He is the head of football operations.

Maybe Farmer isn't the guy but you want to bring in another GM to take over that role or maybe a President of Football Operations type that also answers to you but leads the football side of things. That is fine. Even though losing and change are the only two constants for the Browns (besides Berea and the team name this is factually pretty true), bring someone new in to run the whole show.

Or maybe you see a little Belichick ability from HC Mike Pettine. Fine! Let him decide Farmer's future or bring in his own talent evaluator to head up that department while having final say so. Let Pettine "shop for the groceries and cook the meal." 

Right now the Browns football operations has no one leading the charge. You are not. You can't have that role. The GM does his thing. The head coach does his thing. They both answer to you and the lack of structure is problematic.

On the field, the team needs a leader. No matter what, that should be the head coach. The football side of the organization needs one leader as well.

Please pick one Mr. Haslam and then ride that person for the next 5 years at least, no matter what the record.


Jared K. Mueller

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