OPINION: Worried about this Franchise?

Barry McBride discusses fans reactions to the off-season and Randy Lerner's franchise re-boot.

Is it time to be concerned?

The Orange and Brown Report started years ago because I loved the Cleveland Browns and what they meant to this town, and I hated what a sneaky and dishonest man did to us. As protest site turned into hobby, it devoured my weekends. As hobby turned into business, it devoured my life.

Like all Browns fans, I want this team to return to its glory days, and eagerly await The Plan that Works, the one which revives the greatness of the franchise. I don't claim to have the answers, and if I did, I'd send Randy Lerner my resume.

But I'm worried, and perhaps less about the capabilities of the team on the field than what the franchise is becoming.

Over the last month, we've seen the franchise take several bold steps forward into weirdness.

On one hand, the Browns claim poverty and lay off over a dozen employees, including some people I have a very high regard for. On the other, they have gotten themselves stuck with massive contracts owed to men who no longer do any productive work for the team.

But it goes further than that. The new-look franchise is conducting its business in a manner seemingly constructed to make its operations as secret, boring, and bland as humanly possible. We have an owner who won't step in front of the cameras, a coach who thinks that information reaching the media is a Red Menace that threatens his team's possible success.

Granted, I've only been in this business for ten years or so, including the hobby years, but I can't recall an off-season with this much change that has created such an uninvolved reaction from fans. There is zero enthusiasm.

Randy's Re-boot is generating a tsunami of disinterest. Short of a starry-eyed Terry Pluto, few positive reviews have come from the media. Fans on our forums are being as upbeat as they can be, which largely means "watch and wait".

Browns Nation has gone to sleep. And any business laying off good employees should be concerned if interest in their product has vanished. Sleeping fans don't spend money.

But maybe those of us who follow the team closely have lost our perspective again, and are worried about nothing.

There are some things I suggest you read, and feel free to let me know if you share my concerns.

The first is a column by the Akron Beacon-Journal's Pat McManamon about the team's recent layoffs.

McManamon has provided the most fair, objective, and insightful analysis of Lerner's reasoning this off-season. Given Pat's background, he has a unique insight into the team's daily operations.

To put it in a more direct way, if Pat is worried, I'm worried.

It's not a surprise that some fans commenting following his article turn on Pat for being "negative", which is  something often said because football is a recreational thing. Some fans will get upset when they read news that paints the team in a bad light. But journalists and columnists are beholden to the truth.

It's the little things Pat describes that get to me. How existing coaches are handled (their own confusion matched by some of the things that Sobo heard in Mobile). Worrying about painted murals while there is more important work to be done.

The other things I would suggest you read are located in Rumor Central. Granted, the material in Rumor Central does not represent "hard stories" confirmed by multiple sources and worthy of the OBR front page. But the picture painted there is the one that I see, and it bothers me a lot when I consider the future of the Cleveland Browns.

Here are some of the recent stories. Please feel free to register and comment on the stories, letting me know what you think. Sorry for the need to register again for these blogs, since we had to build them off-site:

The Front Office End Game

The Days of Wine and Whine and Roses

Is Eric Mangini the "Accidental Coach"?

Mysterious Forces Slap at RAC

Why is Kokinis Wavering?

Is Angry Ozzie Behind the Heckert Interview?


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