We were so close, weren’t we? It seemed like it had been forever since a story broke about the seemingly always toxic atmosphere within the front office of the Cleveland Browns.
Unfortunately, the streak came to a close yesterday.
Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland reported the departure of the Browns’ director of player engagement, Jamil Northcutt. It seems Northcutt was the guilty party when it came to delivering GM Ray Farmer‘s illegal text messages to the coaching staff during game days last year. Northcutt – again, someone who has no business in anything regarding coaching – reportedly also confronted coaches during games regarding strategy.
Northcutt being ousted sure sounds like a win. However, the move also seems like one which indicates a still-ongoing power struggle between Farmer and coach Mike Pettine.
Memo to both of these guys: you better start fixing the rift between the two of you, and do it fast. Your jobs are on the line.
We all know about the famous trigger finger of owner Jimmy Haslam. He’s been in Cleveland since 2012, and has already fired two coaches, a CEO and a GM. Many seemed to be amazed both Pettine and Farmer survived their first year in charge, especially after the Browns lost their final five games despite being first in the AFC North midway through the year.
Though the team is getting to enjoy seeing the same coach and GM in back-to-back years for the first time since back when Haslam first showed up, it’s not exactly a feeling anyone in Cleveland is used to. Unless the Browns show any sort of year-over-year progress, expect to see another housecleaning.
So, when you hear there still might be notable friction between Farmer and Pettine, well, you don’t really like their odds of sticking around next year. Said feeling gets worse when you realize what’s facing the team this season.
Once again, there is no solution at quarterback. Josh McCown, serviceable as he may be, is a stopgap at best. Johnny Manziel has yet to prove he can even play in the NFL. The defense looks like it should be the team’s strongest unit, but they’re likely going to be tasked with holding opponents to three points or less if they want to win.
Winning in general will be tough when you consider the fact that, after a soft three weeks in the beginning of Cleveland’s season, the schedule looks brutal.
Knowing this, the Browns are going to need a whole lot to break their way in order for this season to be remotely deemed a success. If there are significant problems between coach and GM, it’s only going to make such a scenario that much more unlikely.
I like Pettine. I think he’s one of the best coaches the team has had since they returned in ’99 (not a ton of talent in that pool, sure). Farmer, after a questionable 2014 draft and ridiculously dumb texting habits, appears to have bounced back with a solid draft this season.
On the surface, it would be a shame for either to be bounced at the end of this upcoming year. More importantly, though, is the fact the Browns just cannot afford another rebuilding session.
All Cleveland has done since returning in 1999 was clean house every second or third year. Based on initial reports about how the current GM and coach are getting along, odds certainly favor another housecleaning in the near future.
Pettine and Farmer need to get this power struggle figured out. If they continue to have conflict, if this tug-o-war keeps getting more and more attention, they’ll both be canned soon enough.
The Browns have always been seen as a laughingstock in the NFL. Primarily, it’s because the only thing they’re consistent at is starting over, and losing because of it.
If this chaos between the front office and coaching staff persists, it’s highly likely Cleveland ends this season by starting over for what seems like the billionth time. Unfortunately for the fans, this would merely be business as usual.