Rich's Rant: Layoffs Not Sitting Well

Rich Passan argues that common sense may have just taken the last plane out of Berea, Ohio.

This week's rant originally was going to be about the two men new Browns coach Eric Mangini hired to coordinate his offense and defense. That can wait until next week, however, because of some distressing news out of Berea.

The economic problems of the nation have struck the Browns in a way that many people never expected.

The club announced last week that 18 employees have been laid off, including Director of Media Information Ken Mather and clevelandbrowns.com staff writer Steve King.

In the interest of full disclosure, I know these two men and am saddened to see them and their colleagues victimized by the callousness of a team owner whose personal worth is at least $1.5 billion. That's billion. Repeating: Billion.

He is the owner of a team that rakes in at least $100 million a year in television revenue, gate revenue and product revenue.

He is the owner of a team that pays its players handsomely. Players who, in many cases, make much more money than they deserve.

He is the owner of a team making a profit. No team in the National Football League is losing money.

One would get the impression that these moves are due to the Browns hemorrhaging money. Far from it. The bottom line is always black.

"It was a very challenging day for the Browns organization and it's important to acknowledge the contributions of those who are currently with the Browns, as well as those who are leaving," Browns President Mike Keenan e-mailed the media.

"We are not immune to the current economic climate and in order to ensure that our business operates in an honest, efficient manner, we were faced with extremely difficult decisions."

Honest? Efficient? They weren't honest and efficient before this?

Will the club operate more efficiently with these penny-wise, pound-foolish layoffs? Probably not. It just makes it harder for everyone else in the organization to be efficient.

In the process of trimming 18 people, the club is saving roughly $1.5 million a year, maybe less. A spit in the ocean for the owner.

This is the same owner who will shell out roughly $13 million to Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel to stay away from Berea and have nothing to do with the Cleveland Browns for the next several years.

Where's the common sense? It seems to be absent in Berea, just like the owner.

Call the latest moves a case of curious timing. The economy has been in the commode for the better part of a year now and the Browns have held the line. Now that the season is over, the sharks emerge.

At the risk of telling someone how to run his company, this stinks. It is nothing more than excuse to reduce the payroll even though it is not necessary. Once again, this team is not losing money.

It's not as though the Browns employ thousands of people and need to trim the fat. According to last season's media guide (edited by Mather), the Browns employed approximately 155 people, including a 21-man coaching staff and 16-man scouting department.

There is no fat in Berea, except perhaps around the midriffs of the offensive and defensive linemen.

The league reportedly is eliminating 150 jobs at various levels of the monolith. "These are difficult and painful steps," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a memo to those 150 people. "But they are necessary in the current economic environment." Same church, different pew.

The people paying the steepest of prices for this latest excuse to downsize are those behind the scenes who labored a lot harder than the players for whom they made their living. The little people who brought much more dedication to their livelihood than a vast majority of the players.

The owner's pocket change could help pay for the annual salaries of those he has just cashiered. Or as a cleveland.com reader suggested, why not take 1% of the salary of every player on the 53-man roster and give that money to those being jettisoned. That's roughly $1.15 million. Makes sense.

Would the players object to have a tiny fraction of their salaries help save the jobs of others? Now what do you think?

These are Cleveland people we're talking about, for crying out loud, not journeyman players stumbling through a pro football career. These are people who live in Cleveland and love the town in which they chose to live. In most cases, working for the Browns was an honor, a dream, something of which to be proud.

How many of the current players make that same statement? I don't know how many of the current Browns live in the Greater Cleveland area, but the guess would be very few. It's not like the old days when it seemed as though half the roster took up year-around residence in Cleveland.

The Browns ought to be ashamed of the latest moves. But they won't, choosing instead to hide behind the woes of the country's economy.

Sends the wrong message to the fans.


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