Passan: It's Time to Lead

You know Rich Passan as a "show me" type of guy who isn't happy with half-steps, particularly with a ballclub that has had the on-field trauma of the Browns. Today, Rich calls for team owner Randy Lerner to make a new hire, and soon...

When Dean Spanos fired his head coach recently, the San Diego Chargers owner mentioned how dysfunctional his front office had become.

His coach and general manager hadn't utilized the lines of direct communications for nearly two seasons, communicating through intermediaries.

The front office was plunged into a state of total disarray when the coach, over the objections of the general manager, allowed his assistants to seek jobs that improved their professional careers. And when the attrition rate of the coaching staff reached alarming levels, the owner finally acted.

Not the way to run a successful business even though that business put up a 14-2 record this past season.

Now what, you ask, does that have to do with the Cleveland Browns?

The key word here is dysfunction. The Chargers had enough talent to fight through it and produce a spectacular regular-season record. The Browns, with just a sliver of talent, wallow in it even though the head coach and GM get along famously.

This team still does not have a president. More than a year has gone by since John Collins, a businessman more than a football man, was fired as the team's president following a power struggle with the general manager.

It still does not have a man, a football man, who can step up and say, "This is the way we're going to do things around here."

Instead, the Browns have an owner who does not live in the Cleveland area. Nothing wrong with that except that the next highest-ranking executive is a general manager who would much rather scout than administer.

And the owner and general manager have given a pass to a head coach who has no business being a head coach.

Right now, the Browns need leadership in a most sincere way. They need someone at the top who can take charge.

As it stands, the owner sits on his hands, assumes that those under him are doing a good job and then goes about his merry way. That's a prescription for another disastrous season.

Why is it taking so long for Randy Lerner to pull the trigger on a club president? It's hard to believe there are no viable candidates on the National Football League landscape.

Is it because he believes the situation is not as desperate as some think? Perhaps he should look around him and see that this club has no direction.

Where are the Browns going? Good question. They wander aimlessly along. And what will it take to get them there? Better question.

It appears as though Lerner has the answer to neither.

Steps must be taken to get this team off the schneid and headed toward respectability. It must learn to walk before it can jog. And so far, it has shown no signs of coming even close to doing either.

It is time for Lerner to show some cajones. It is time for him to get off the pot and point his team in a direction it hasn't been pushed toward for too long a time.

For crying out loud, man, don't just sit there. Do something. Not just anything. Do something constructive that will get the fans excited. This fan base has suffered long enough.

Don't be sanguine about selling out every home game. Be concerned that some day, sooner rather than later, the fans are going to develop a strong case of apathy toward your team. Patience and loyalty can be stretched just so far. Already, there are cracks of erosion in the fan base.

As it stands now, a growing number of fans question how strongly you feel about the team. You say you are committed to turning this into a winning franchise. But the bottom line shows you're not even close to accomplishing that.

You've been at this now for four years. Your aggregate record in that period is a sorry 19-45. That's not what the fans paid their hard-earned money to see.

To put that in perspective, only one team in the NFL has had a worse record in the last four seasons. The even sorrier Oakland Raiders are 15-49 during that period. The Browns and Detroit Lions are tied for second place in that dubious category. Lowly Arizona, San Francisco and (expansion) Houston are at 20-44.

The Lions' excuse for being that pathetic is General Manager Matt Millen. What's yours?

It is time to go out and hire a strong president, a get-out-of-my-way guy who knows how to put together a winning organization. Because as it stands right now, your front office is spinning its wheels and headed nowhere fast.

You say you care. Prove it.

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