CLEVELAND— There is no patented, tried-and-true way to structure a successful NFL front office, or so says Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.
Haslam said he’s been studying organizations around the NFL over the past couple of years and he's found that even those that are the most succeesful — the Seahawks, Packers and Patriots, namely— have different front office setups.
For that reason, after firing Browns general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine on Sunday, Haslam indicated that Cleveland’s front office will look quite different next season, both in terms of structure and personnel.
First, Haslam announced that Sashi Brown, who has served as the team’s executive vice president-general counsel since 2013, will be the new executive vice president of football operations.
In said role, Brown will have control over Cleveland’s 53-man roster and will make the final call on all of the Browns’ NFL Draft selections.
“Sashi, I believe, is the right person to do this for the Cleveland Browns,” Haslam said. “He’s been in the NFL for 10 plus years, has been involved in the cap and has been heavily involved in our football administration and operations for the last year or two.”
With Brown in place as the point man for big, roster-based decisions, he, along with Haslam, his wife, Dee, and Jed Hughers of international search firm, Korn Ferry, will work on hiring a head coach.
That head coach will be in charge of on-field and coaching staff decisions, but will report directly to Haslam, as opposed to Brown or the new general manager.
In said structure, Haslam indicated that the indicated group will be looking for a head coach with specific qualities— one of which will need to be a desire to give up ownership of personnel decisions.
“There are several key criteria we’re looking for in our head coach. The first is intelligence. We need somebody that’s smart. Obviously, we need somebody who’s a strong leader, somebody who is collaborative and can work well with others,” Haslam said. “An individual that can put together a good staff, that’s incredibly important in today’s NFL as a complex as the game is, and somebody who has an intense desire to win and improve every day.”
With the roster-man and the field-man in place, the final piece to the Browns new puzzle will be the general manager, who will be hired after the head coach.
Whoever the new GM may be, said individual will be in charge of acquiring talent and will head up the team’s scouting department, but will also report directly to Brown, as opposed to Haslam.
The GM may not have final say in the NFL Draft selections, but he or she will have an integral role in the process.
“The GM’s job will be this: he will be in charge of our entire scouting group. He will be in charge of putting the draft board together. The ultimate say will be Sashi’s,” Haslam said. “In reality, I would expect several people to work really close together – the GM, Sashi and our head coach.”
The Browns still need to find the personnel to fill these two positions, but Haslam believes that the structure in place will be the perfect way in which to blend both the on-field and off-field aspects of organizational football.
“We think this setup with somebody with a background in systems, processes, analytics and very strategic married up with a football person, if you will, who is very good at talent evaluation will hopefully put us in a position to win a lot more games than we have in the past,” Haslam said. “We think by doing it in that manner we’ll hopefully have very good alignment moving forward because that alignment is hugely important.”
Again, while alignment may be important to Haslam, what isn’t important is a specific, level-by-level structure to the front office.
Rather, Haslam would like for everyone in the team’s front office to work seamlessly together as a singular unit, with the common goal of bringing winning football back to Cleveland.
“There’s an opportunity for us to work much closer together going forward than we have in the past,” Haslam said. “I don’t think structure is quite as important as right people in the right place and everybody understanding their roles and working well together.”
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