So what can be done to fix the Browns?
Every fan has an answer but most fans are unsure if anything will ever work. Media and experts believe that there is a fix out there but that the Browns "culture" is such that they will struggle to find it.
Many are blaming owner Jimmy Haslam for all of the problems that the team has. There is a belief that nothing will get better with him in charge.
Others are unwilling to give up hope and have instead pointed their arrows at GM Ray Farmer and HC Mike Pettine.
The biggest problem is very few, if any, have given realistic solutions to the problem. In this three part series I am going to attempt to provide a map to solving the misery that is the Browns.
It will not be easy but it will be simple. May not have all the details worked out but it will make sense.
Part 1 will look at the top of the organization.
Part 2 will look at the head coach.
Part 3 will look at the players on the field.
The Cleveland Browns have taken a half measured approach to leadership. Mike Holmgren had a title but spent time in Seattle and wasn't all in. Eric Mangini took control of the organization as a coach but was over his head, and hasn't had a position of power since. Butch Davis did okay but couldn't stay committed. Rob Chudzinski, the hometown boy, made it one year.
Then we have Farmer and Pettine. Farmer was the benefactor of Haslam's decision to let go of Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi. He was highly thought of around the league when he came to Cleveland. A nose to the ground scout who made it to the big chair.
Farmer didn't hire Pettine but he was involved in the process and the two seemed to be a match in terms of philosophy. Pettine, the defensive minded coach from the Rex Ryan tree, seemed like the perfect blue collar man for Cleveland. He talked the talk. He helped mold great defenses. He even looked like a hard-nosed football coach.
So far that pairing has not worked. Instead the Browns are 2 - 10 this year after a surprising 7 - 9 record last year. A weak schedule buoyed Farmer and Pettine's record last year but expectations are not high that they will win again this season.
So, time to assume that Farmer and Pettine are unlikely to make it to next year. While that goes against what Haslam said in the offseason, that record wouldn't decide anything, it seems clear that there is firing coming soon.
With Farmer and Pettine gone, here is my very simple plan:
1. Hire a President of Football Operations
The Browns need to find someone who can oversee the Franchise and set the direction for the long term. Names like Peyton Manning, Bernie Kosar and others have been thrown around.
First, Haslam must define the position. This person will only answer to the owner. The President of Football Operations will alone pick the General Manager. Those two will pick the coach.
This person will set the tone for the organization but will allow his people to do their jobs. Think John Elway in Denver, who is involved in a bit of everything but allows his people to do their work. This person would be the equal to but separate from CEO Alec Scheiner.
2. Define Roles
To get this person to accept the job, roles must be clearly defined. Haslam's football decision making will basically end with this hire. He may put his 2 cents in to discussions, he may break ties and he can be heavily involved in the business end of the company. By hiring this person, Haslam will be putting his stamp on the team.
While doing this might be tough for Haslam, it does seem to fit how he has handled things in his other business. The Pilot/Flying J scandal has seemed to blow over without Haslam having many consequences. Part of the reason Haslam got off is handing off decisions to his people and letting them do their jobs.
While it didn't work out so well there, doing that here for the Browns is the best thing for this business.
3. Contract Details
You will see something similar to this in Part 2 but how the contract is written will be huge for getting the right guy for this position.
The contract must: A) Pay a lot of money, B) Clearly state the defined role for this position and C) Have very unique and specific language.
Here is what I mean by C. The contract must give the President of Football Operations a reason to take the job. The Browns have to put clear expectations language in the contract, so Butch/Holmgren experience doesn't repeat, while offering (ready for it?) some sort of escalator if the Browns fire him before the 3rd or 4th season have been complete.
Imagine a big name football guy taking the job. Imagine one of the football lifers that Cleveland fans are always pining for. That guy, if the Browns can get them to take the job, isn't going to sail softly into the midnight air on a big pile of money. However, they are not going to come to the Browns without some security that they will get at least 3 or 4 years to make the changes needed.
I know that this is a crazy, out of the box idea, but giving a big name person total control of the Browns may not be enough to lure them in. However, along with an already large salary, an escalator if the Browns fire them prematurely could give them enough security to take on this humongous challenge.
4. Hire _____________
If the first three things happen, filling in this blank is not as important. Obviously everyone will have their favorites but offering this type of position to Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy, Bernie Kosar and others would be ideal.
The Browns should be quietly working through this list as we speak, figuring out who might be interested and who would not be.
This person must be a football guy. A lifer who just loves the game. Maybe one of the former coaches would be excited for the challenge to lead an organization, much like Phil Jackson in the NBA. Maybe a former player, no need for it to "have" to be a Brown, could take over like Elway.
If I had it my way Dungy or Cowher would be the hire. Obviously those are huge names but they are also perfect names. Neither likely ever wants to get back into coaching but can run the organization without a huge change to their lifestyle.
It doesn't have to be one of these big name guys. Points 1 thru 3 are far more important in this process than who it is. The person must be a high quality hire but does not have to be someone the fans would cheer. A solid leader at the top of the football heap in Cleveland is required.
How would I fix the Cleveland Browns?
Part 1: Hire a President of Football Operationsnull