The Cleveland Browns organization has been a pretty dysfunctional place over the last two years, whether team owner Jimmy Haslam will admit it or not. The Browns announced another front-office overhaul — the second in two years — on Tuesday, cutting ties with general manager Michael Lombardi and CEO Joe Banner. And New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick appears to have been at the center of the entire fiasco.
Haslam said Lombardi and Banner would be leaving the organization this offseason because the owner wants to “streamline” communication channels and take a more active role in running the franchise. However, it seems the real cause of the tattered relationships was Banner’s handling of the team’s coaching search this offseason, according to themmqb.com’s Peter King.
Haslam and Banner apparently disagreed on firing Rob Chudzinski, who was hired last offseason as the team’s head coach, King writes. Banner’s behavior and attitude in interviews also turned off some coaching candidates, including Ken Whisenhunt, who took the Tennessee Titans’ head coach job, and Bill O’Brien, now with the Houston Texans. The entire month and a half after the end of the 2013 season was a struggle between Haslam and Banner, King says, but the “major rift” happened when interviewing former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano.
Schiano came highly recommended by both Belichick and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, with Belichick even calling twice to promote his friend’s candidacy. The high praise from Belichick led the Browns to fly to Tampa to meet with Schiano. However, Banner was “cold” to the coach during the meeting and didn’t participate much in the interview process, according to King, which didn’t sit well with Haslam.
Haslam acknowledged that the Browns’ front-office instability is a concern for the team’s immediate future, especially considering the team’s talented roster and abundance of draft picks this year, but he insisted a transition is necessary.
“I do know from previous experience how important continuity is,” said Haslam, who worked with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the past. “Right now, we have to make this change and suffer the pain.”
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