If things weren’t already chaotic in Berea, Ohio, they just became, well, a bit more stable. In an offseason that started with a bang, the firing of Cleveland Browns president Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi could be the boom. With Rob Chudzinski getting fired during the last game of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, that now makes the first regime under owner Jimmy Haslam a complete failure.
For almost two months the Browns went on a coaching search that nationally got negative attention every day. Josh McDaniels, who is the current offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, was said to be the main coach that the Browns targeted. He turned the job down. Ken Whisenhunt, James Franklin, Gary Anderson, Adam Gase and Todd Bowles were some of the other potential candidates who turned the opportunity to coach the Browns down as well.
Dan Quinn, the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks who had arguably one of the best defensive performances in Super Bowl history, was another top choice for the Browns. He was quoted postgame after the Super Bowl as saying, “I certainly would of been interested [ in the Browns job]. I mean it’s a big time place; it’s the Cleveland Browns.” However, with the perception and national attention, the Browns did not want to wait until after the Super Bowl for a second interview and settled for Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
The hiring of Pettine shocked the NFL world. A lot of executives thought there were better choices than Pettine, but he was who Haslam wanted thus making him the seventh head coach since coming back in 1999. Now enter in Ray Farmer. Farmer previously was the Director of Pro Personnel for the Kansas City Chiefs and started out as a scout with the Atlanta Falcons in 2002.
He was the assistant GM with the Browns. Farmer was offered the GM job for the Miami Dolphins, but he turned it down and came back to the Browns. When asked why he turned down Miami to come back to the Browns, Farmer said: “That situation was that situation. I spoke to the people in Miami about it; I made my decision and rested it on that.” He also mentioned how he wanted to make the Browns a respectable organization again and that winning is all that matters.
Unlike Lombardi, Farmer seems to be more qualified and respected amongst peers in the NFL than his predecessor. Lombardi was recently with the Browns in the mid 1980s and early 1990s, and his drafts were comical to say the least. Farmer was never a GM with the Falcons, but he scouted a lot of the talent they chose. In his four years in Atlanta, they amassed three Pro Bowlers in DeAngelo Hall, Roddy White and Justin Griffith. All of the other players were serviceable and contributed in a big way over the years for them.
Farmer will also be the second African American GM in the NFL with the first being Ozzie Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens. This is a move that has been viewed positively by Browns fans but still as a knee jerk reaction by the national media. There was obvious turmoil in the Browns’ front office, and this was the right move to make. There is even speculation that Lombardi had planned on backstabbing Banner in the upcoming weeks.
However, nothing was more revealing then what was written by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King. King wrote a piece on what was said during the interview between Banner and Whisenhunt. Whisenhunt: ” Why didn’t you guys hire me last year?” Banner: “I don’t believe you were putting together a championship staff.” Whisenhunt: ” Who are you to tell me what makes up a championship staff?”! And that is where the interview ended.
Banner has only been associated with the business side of the NFL. What is even more of a catastrophe is that he was appointed by the NFL to be the GM in the first place.
Farmer has a tough task ahead of him, but he could finally be the man to right the ship that has sunken the past 14 years.