The Cleveland Browns have been the laughing-stock of the NFL pretty much since their return to the league in 1999. Try as they might, they’ve never managed to pull themselves from the cellar of the NFL and shake off the title of leagues worst franchise.
I thought I’d have a little look at some of the most recent things to have happened within the Cleveland Browns franchise that could, hopefully, finally see them claw their way from out of the NFL cellar.
So, what has owner Jimmy Haslam done recently to his front office to turn the fortunes of his appallingly bad franchise around?
Well, he, first of all, brought in Sashi Brown as Vice President of Football Operations before firing him a couple of seasons later. The move of employing him in the role he was given with the power he had didn’t turn out great as he seemed to be making the final decisions with regards to who the team took in the drafts and from free agency. This part of Sashi Brown’s game wasn’t awful but it also wasn’t brilliant. He did, however, do a fantastic job of setting the team up to be in the position we find them in today. By that, I mean that they are primed with resources to add some top quality pieces to their already young roster. This is a good thing as they only need to add a few more young pieces to the roster of the highest quality as opposed to lots of medium-lower end quality youth.
Many people criticise Jimmy Haslam for his move of employing Sashi Brown, a “non-football guy”, but I liked the move and think it could turn out to have been the catalyst for the team’s revival. We have to remember just how bad the roster and coaching staff have been due to previous incompetent regimes and Sashi was brought it to start the complete dismantling of it and rebuild.
I, personally, liked his tough approach to negotiating and was always happy with what he got in return for his assets when it came to trades. He did, however, seem to put too much faith in the analytical side of things when it came to evaluating players that might fit in Cleveland and help the team improve. It was this side of his game that let him down slightly and is why you will constantly hear the hindsight-warriors banging on about Carson Wentz and DeShaun Watson even though they were most likely the same kind of people who wrote those two off, pre-draft, as not very special QB’s.
All-in-all, I’d say that Sashi Brown will prove to have been good for the Browns, but I also think that Jimmy Haslam’s timing with regards to the dismissing of Brown was right. I wouldn’t have liked Sashi Brown in charge of the final decision when it came to who gets picked in this year’s draft.
Front Office Overhaul
With the firing of Sashi Brown, Jimmy Haslam needed to decide what direction he was going to go in with the next round of front office hirings. Should he stick with the more modern analytical approach or go back to the age-old, tried and tested “football guy” route.
Many people are quick to poo-poo the idea of analytics within the sport, but this is ludicrous. Every successful team (and unsuccessful for that matter) uses analytics to some degree to help them make decisions and is probably why Paul DePodesta still has his job within the Cleveland Browns organisation. He was the main analytics guy in Sashi Brown’s front office and has had good success with his ideas in baseball previous to his time in the NFL.
Current Browns GM, John Dorsey, has also stated that he is forward-thinking enough to today’s technology and the use of analytics, but I’d say he’s just not as all-in on it as Sashi Brown perhaps was. Dorsey has said that he’s “85% Atlanta Braves and 15% Oakland A’s”. It was the Oakland A’s who used analytics to turn their fortunes around and become the best team in baseball and created the ‘Moneyball’ term.
Jimmy Haslam has, therefore, decided to go back to a more traditional way of thinking with his front office by bringing in John Dorsey, who has in turn brought in his own football guys such as Alonzo Highsmith and Eliot Wolf.
This, again, seems like a very good and timely move by Jimmy Haslam as we now have a very good and well respected front office in place who should be the perfect people to utilise the assets Sashi Brown has brought in for them. Add to that the sprinkling of analytics and I believe we could be on to a winner, finally, in Cleveland.
I did another post previously about the guys John Dorsey has brought in to his front office.
There have been changes to the front office other than the ones I’ve mentioned, but one that I really like is the hiring of Scot McCloughan for the run-up to and duration of the 2018 NFL draft. This guy is a well-respected talent evaluator and has been a GM in the NFL but now runs his own scouting company that many professional franchises use.
McCloughan is only on a short-term contract perhaps because of his personal issues with alcohol which could very well be linked to stress from his previous jobs. These personal issues have been the reason for his firing from previous high positions within NFL franchises and a short-term contract could, perhaps, be the ideal thing for both himself and the Browns. There is no doubting his talent spotting abilities, though, and his hiring is a move that I really like.
I’ve also done a post on Scot McCloughan previously.
So, after the hiring and firing of Sashi Brown, which has seen a great number of assets added to the team’s arsenal, we now have a very experienced and well respected front office full of “football guys” who really know their stuff and who have all been involved in the building of successful teams in recent times.
These successful teams are the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, both teams that have been regular visitors to the playoffs in recent times.
Do I Like What is Happening in the Browns FO?
Yes, of course I do! How can you not like the fact that we now seem to have a front office in place that appears to have the ability to see the blindingly obvious when it comes to what is needed in the way of improving the roster.
The three worst areas of the Cleveland Browns over recent times has been at QB, WR and DB. This FO has come in and immediately made great moves to address these positions by adding solid players who are all in their mid-twenties and, therefore, their prime. These guys are what the team has been missing and should come in and improve the standard of play whilst helping the youngsters to improve with less responsibility on them.
The combination of Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry improves the passing game countless times over when added to the likes of TE David Njoku, WR Josh Gordon and RB Duke Johnson, who are all great in the passing game already when they’ve got a decent QB throwing to them. Although this isn’t a great draft class for wide receivers, I’m sure the addition of at least one of the top prospects from the second round will suddenly give the team a passing game to fear.
As for the DB’s situation, Dorsey has brought in a few players in their prime to sure up a unit that was painful to watch at times last season. E.J. Gaines and T.J. Carrie could well be the starting CB’s with Damarius Randall at free safety and one of last year’s first-round picks, Jabrill Peppers, finally being able to move to his more natural position of strong safety — this is something I’ve wanted to see for some time.
If E.J. Gaines can get over his injury woes, the Browns suddenly have a formidable defensive secondary as well as passing game and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a CB taken in the second round of the draft.
It’s amazing the difference this front office has had on the team in such a short space of time, and we haven’t even got to the draft yet!
Let’s just hope it’s not going to end up being the same old scenario as we Cleveland Browns fans have had to endure for far too many years. By that, I mean that I hope it’s not another off-season of many changes that gets our hopes up only to come crashing down around us once the real football of the regular-season kicks off.